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LE TROU NORMAND (90 Yorkville, at Bellair, 416-967-5956, letrounormand.ca) Open for lunch Monday to Saturday noon to 3 pm, dinner Monday to Thursday 6 to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday 6 to 11 pm. Closed Sunday. Licensed. Access: five steps at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NN
The search for the most romantic restaurant in town brings us to Le Trou Normand, Toronto's oldest French bistro.
From the sidewalk, the nearly 40-year-old antique lures prospective clients - and Japanese tourists - with a linen-covered table topped with three (empty) wine bottles. You climb a few short stone steps under a trellis festooned with the resto's coat of arms and follow a patio pathway to the front door, where you're met by a pair of traditionally aproned servers.
The resto's retro carte hasn't changed since day one, nor has the decor, two small, formally attired rooms complete with faux fireplace and Impressionist prints on pale stucco walls. You start with bottles of Perrier ($8.50/750 ml) - quelle surprise! - before moving on to obligatory bowls of Gruyère-crusted French onion soup ($5.95 lunch/$6.95 dinner) and fridge-cold pheasant 'n' pistachio pâté ($10.75).
Le Trou takes its name from the brandy aperitif that's said to act as a palate cleanser and appetite stimulant. You'll need a couple of belts to get through wedding-banquet-style veal medallions à la Normande with Calvados cream ($15.95/$24.95) and blackened (burned?) sweetbreads flambéed - in the kitchen, alas - with Armagnac ($15.75/$26.95) that both look and taste virtually the same, brown meat in brown sauce on mashed potatoes, sided with buttered carrots and broccoli spears.
A chilled wedge of chocolate pâté with strawberry sauce ($8.50) is little improvement. No wonder a young Susur Lee jumped ship here back in 84 to cook burgers at the Peter Pan. The rest, they say, is history. But where else does time travel come this cheap?