LE PETIT DEJEUNER (191 King East, at George, 416-703-1560) Once the Radish and briefly the second coming of Triple XXX, this funky, hippie-style diner with sparkly Naugahyde booths delivers first-rate all-day breakfasts and soup 'n' sandwich combos that display considerable skill. This one'll last, honest. Complete meals for $10 per person, including all taxes and tip. Open Tuesday to Saturday 8 am to 3 pm, Sunday 9:30 am to 4 pm. Closed Monday, holidays. Unlicensed. Cash only. Access: barrier-free, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN
Belgian-born johan maes has one snooty resumé. He just finished a stint as daytime sous to Windsor Arms executive chef J.P. Challet and worked alongside Chris Mathias -- now cooking in Paris (France!) -- at Innocenti when it debuted a few years back.But instead of sticking his nose up, Maes and marital unit Tonya Reid have transformed the tall, narrow room formerly known as XXX into Le Petit Dejeuner, one of the best weekday breakfast spots downtown.
Reid greets regulars, newbies, posties and street people personally, while Maes rules from a makeshift kitchen -- just a griddle, a pizza oven and a sandwich press -- set up on the stainless steel trestle tables where Triple X turntabilists used to throw down phat beats. Mercifully, today soft Philly soul and jazzy downtempo replace the previous joint's nosebleed techno.
We slide into the sunny front-window Naugahyde booth, complete with non-functioning antique cigarette machine. We start with hot apple cider ($2.50) from a local farm, served in a tumbler tied with a serviette, and wonderful chocolate banana soy smoothies ($3) sipped through bendy straws.
LPD's Croque Monsieur's ($6.50) no crock. Maes spreads slices of eggy challah with Dijon inside and butter outside, and layers Swiss cheese and deli ham in between. Then he browns the sandwich in the panini press before topping it with cheesy béchamel and broiling till bubbly, like a Parisian Cheese Dream. Superlatives fail, etc. Add a poached egg on top and it becomes a Croque Madame ($7).
Toast Champignon finds a halved poppy seed bagel piled with grilled 'shrooms, bacon and onion and a final runny poached egg. Surprisingly creative sides -- Maes's own lightly pickled zucchini, carrot and celery on a bed of matchstick Mutsu apple, and a near-rosti potato timbale replacing home fries -- also appear along with the daily omelet, today cheddar, goat cheese and diced sweet pepper. Needs toast.
Though all of the menu is available from early morning to mid-afternoon, some of it leans toward lunch. Nicely spiced lamb cannelloni (all $7.50) comes to the table in the white, rectangular casserole it's cooked in, with very good tomato sauce and melted mozzarella on top. A large serving, it could use some contrast -- a smaller portion in a round baking dish plated with the subtle apple slaw on the side, maybe?
There's nothing to fault in LPD's super soup 'n' sandwich special ($5.50), on this day a thickly sliced turkey breast on challah with tissue-thin Bosc pear that caramelizes in the panini press, coupled with a tasty cream of cauliflower. Excellent deal.
Only tomato, Mutsu and red Bermuda onion salad ($6) disappoints, under-ripe tomato sabotaging otherwise interesting ingredients (romaine, radicchio and pickled veggies, too) in a light vinaigrette. Non-leaden carrot cake with citrus icing ($2.50) brings everything to a retro finish.
Friends of the Aunties and Uncles crew, Maes and Reid have delivered a much-needed, casual east-side eatery. Across from George Brown College, it might seem out of the way. But Le Petit Dejeuner's definitely out of the ordinary. And there's not a DJ in sight.