MICHELLE'S BRASSERIE (162 Cumberland, at Avenue Rd, 416-944-1504) Complete dinners for $75 per person (lunches $40), including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine. Average main $26/$14. Open Monday to Friday 11 am to 11 pm, Saturday and Sunday 11 am to midnight. Licensed. Rating: NN Rating: NN
Fancy getting up close 'n' personal with Hollywood A-listers during the film fest? Instead of parking yourself in the lobby of the Four Seasons, head around back to the secluded terrace of Renaissance Court, where, surrounded by chi-chi boutiques with names like Cherchez la Femme and Options for Her, visiting celebs have been known to knock back shots of absinthe at Michelle's Brasserie.
Tucked away from the prying eyes of the paparazzi, Michelle Gebhart's five-year-old Parisian café in the former Zola's occupies one of the loveliest patios in town. Inside, the art nouveau dining room is just as atmospheric, looking as if was built at the base of the Eiffel Tower, all soaring glass and girders overhead.
Considering the setting, how can the kitchen go wrong?
Figuring a salad will make a good start to our noontime nosh, we make a shared starter out of an entrée-sized Tuna Nioise ($14.95 lunch/$25.95 dinner). Mistake. Expecting a heap of greens layered with flaked tuna, hard-boiled egg, green beans and anchovy, we get a deconstructed version served on a very long plate, a few slices of barely seared sushi-grade fish on one end, an 80s-style tower of under-dressed veggies with a Dijon mayo so light it might not as well be there at the other.
The quality of the frites that accompany the house burger (a good deal for Yorkville at $9.95, lunch only) and a straightforward 8-ounce steak ($16.95 8-ounce/$26.95 10-ounce) may be nowhere near Jamie Kennedy's down the block, but they do come served in a copy-cat paper cone and get polished off just the same.
The one star, a truly classic tourtière ($11.95 lunch only), finds the traditional Quebec meat pie encased in a rich, buttery crust and sided with organic mixed greens in the pleasant house vinaigrette.
In and out in an hour and with only mineral water ($7) to drink, the three of us leave $90 lighter. But, then, the possibility of catching a fleeting glimpse of Brad Pitt is priceless.