XACUTTI (503 College, at Palmerston, 416-323-3957) Complete brunches for $25 per person, including all taxes, tip and a Masala Mary. Average main $30/$12 at brunch. Open for dinner Monday to Saturday 6:30 pm to midnight. Brunch Saturday 10:30 am to 3 pm, Sunday 10:30 am to 4 pm. No reservations. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
I always notice how solo customers are treated at busy places. At many, they're seen as wasted chairs.
Here I am tucked at the end of a long, high table where a party of eight are celebrating a birthday. I feel like an uninvited guest, but it's preferable to waiting for half an hour by the door, jostled as people come and go.
Fortunately, no one gets seated directly to my right or left, for I need the leg space.
I pull out a book and try to read, but the din of clubby music, loud chatter and the front of house collecting customers makes it hard to concentrate. This is a place for socializing on a Sunday afternoon, not for relaxed, contemplative reading.
Xacutti (pronounced Sha-koo-tee) opened in the spring of 2002 in what was once Ellipsis, and those who loved the former groaned. Clearly, a new niche market has been found, one that feels more Manhattan sophisticate than French country. It's a bright and airy room, with tall, tin-covered ceilings and lots of creamy white. The wait staff use Palm Pilots - discreetly, thankfully - to send in their orders.
The food has an Indian bent. My crepe with fried egg, bacon and Gruyère comes only partially rolled at one end, the rest laid flat to hold the egg and two strips of bacon. The rolled bit contains spiced potatoes and just a hint of cheese. A tiny spoonful of tomato chutney doesn't go quite far enough to moisten it, and it's generally disappointing.
Returning the next weekend, we face another half-hour wait unless we want to sit in the bar area. We choose the fast track and sit down on a long banquette facing low coffee tables. A server comes by with a complimentary smoothie shot, the only substance on offer during our long wait for our orders to be taken.
Clearly, we're meant to relax with a breakfast cocktail, a Masala Mary ($7.50) with Indian spiced tomato juice and pickled onion, or a Prosecco and cranberry juice, called a Poinsetta ($8).
The Bengal chicken curry on cracked-pepper tea biscuits is a huge portion of medium-hot coconut curry ladled over two halved biscuits. Served with spring mix, it works wonderfully, the biscuits somehow managing to retain their crispy edges. I'm thankful there was no preceding bread.
The spiced scrambled eggs and smoked salmon on a croissant is equally well done and plentiful. The egg mixture has quite a kick, and it overflows the very fresh croissant with each bite. It's served with Indian-spiced home fries that are surely one of the reasons people keep lining up.