Fall drives us to seek comfort — both indoors and on our plates. And as far as we’re concerned, there’s no better way to satisfy both cravings than by enjoying the rich, hearty flavours of French cuisine in a warm bistro setting. Especially since this year has seen a fresh surge of great French restaurants — each one of them boasting a casually chic atmosphere and a menu that isn’t afraid to make some modern updates on la tradition. Dare we call this the birth of a distinctly North American version of French flair? Sometimes, there are benefits to a less literal translation.
THE EMPIRE EXPANSION: BEAU MONT, MONTREAL
Dreamed up by the team behind fine-dining institution Toqué, this bistro upholds the commitment to seasonal ingredients and sophisticated cooking techniques of its predecessor but introduces a more laid-back setting, with caramel leather seats encircling green marble tables in a leafy winter refuge.
THE DINNER: Saffron halibut or, to kick-start winter hibernation, rabbit ballotine stuffed with bacon.
THE DRINK: The beer list draws from the best of la belle province, including St-Jérôme’s Dieu du Ciel and Drummondville’s Le BockAle.
THE QUEBECOIS TRANSPLANT: DREYFUS, TORONTO
Spearheaded by a Joe Beef veteran (Zach Kolomeir) and his partner (Carmelina Imola), this Harbord Street hideout marries glam modern details — an elegant marble bar — with charming antique candelabra. Dishes draw from both France’s culinary history and Kolomeir’s personal heritage growing up in Montreal.
THE DINNER: A mean croque cubano, plus bourekas français and other Jewish remixes of classic French fare.
THE DRINK: The natural wine selection spotlights small producers like Prince Edward County’s Hinterland Wine Company.
THE BRASSERIE REVIVAL: PASTIS, NEW YORK
A popular Meatpacking District destination until it closed in 2014, Pastis returned to the once-gritty neighbourhood — now the fashionable home of the High Line and the Whitney Museum — this past summer. Much like the menu, its signature subway tiles and golden glow have shifted from feeling trendy to comfortably timeless.
THE DINNER: The tried-and-true classics: steak tartare followed by duck à l’orange.
THE DRINK: A glass of the restaurant’s namesake beverage — a clear, licorice-flavoured aperitif that turns cloudy when poured over ice.