Love at first bite

Paramour’s menu and ambience are perfect Valentine’s match


PARAMOUR (94 Ossington, at Humbert, 416-953-2356) Complete dinners for $75 per person, including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine. Average main $25. Open for dinner Tuesday to Saturday (and Sunday, February 14) 6 pm till close. Closed Monday, holidays. Licensed. Rating: NNNN


As girly as a bouffant on a poodle, Paramour – the latest Ossington boîte from the LeVack Block’s Adam Baguley and Amber Honor Elson – wears its heart on its sleeve.

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“There’s love in the food,” its website gushes. “Imagine a feeling so unique that you are not able to decipher whether it is your audio or visual sensors, taste buds or a simple euphoria of your collective senses.”

Like some candlelit Moroccan boudoir, the prototypical Oz storefront’s interior has been painted a faux striped satin, a low-slung pillow-tossed banquette ringing the 30-seat room. Fans slowly revolve overhead as an ethno-lounge CD spins at a volume conducive to conversation, the only sour note the trashy photo blow-ups of ladies of questionable repute hung on the bistro’s pale chartreuse walls. Luckily, it’s so dark in here, they’re easy to ignore.

Service is excellent, thanks to staffers like Monique Richard.

David Laurence

Chef Laura Malin’s seasonal and locally sourced carte less unlikely to be disdained. Malin worked alongside an up-and-coming Jamie Kennedy at JKROM long before the organic guru became a brand, and her plates show the influence. They begin with sea-salted wedges of house-baked focaccia elegantly spread with a garlicky roasted eggplant purée.

Starters like a simple but impossibly rich heirloom tomato soup ($9) and a complex farmed sashimi-style Hokkaido scallop ($14), dressed with a truffled remoulade and crispy capers, dazzle the eyes as much as the tongue. A six-pack of jalapeño ‘n’ roasted corn hush puppies ($10) begs to be shared, their doughnut-like texture offset by smoky chipotle mayo.

“Redolent of tarragon” is one way to describe chef’s chicken pot pie ($23), a pastry-domed tureen teeming with free-range breast in a luxurious white wine sauce scented with the licoricey French herb, a sweet braise of caramelized red cabbage on the side.

Chèvre and rainbow beet salad is a star at Paramour.

Slow-stewed in red wine and aromatics, an Ontario lamb shank of Flintstonian proportions, dressed with crispy sage leaves ($30), virtually falls from the bone, its boozy jus lapping a mound of roasted pumpkin polenta, another of Swiss chard and a solitary exquisite carrot.

Pity the lowly Vegetarian Plate at most restaurants, the veggies du jour little more than a cobbled together assortment of whatever’s in the fridge. Not at Paramour where the daily herbivore special – tonight, steak-like slices of balsamic-marinated portobello mushroom in yellow pepper sauce over creamy green pea risotto and oven-roasted plum tomatoes ($20) – get as much attention as the meaty mains.

Since there are three of us and three desserts, we order one of each and rotate a third of the way through. A baked Ontario-grown Gala apple sports a sprig of mint and a stuffing of currant-laced oatmeal crumble and a final drizzle of maple syrup. An extraordinary sticky-topped pumpkin crème caramel brandishes a wafer-thin house-baked biscotto and a squiggle of fleur de sel caramel. The jammy grape galette, though tasty enough, has the look of a failed home ec project (all $9).

As expected, service under former Spendido captain Adly Gawad is consummately professional, neither fawning nor aloof. True, prices might seem expensive to those used to $22 three-course prix fixes. But factor in the expertise – both in the front of the house and in the kitchen – and Paramour has much to love.

stevend@nowtoronto.com

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