Weezie's ( 354 King East, at Power, 416-777-9339) Complete meals for $45 per person (lunches $25), including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine. Average main $13. Open for lunch Tuesday to Friday 11:30 am to 3 pm, dinner Wednesday to Saturday 6 to 10 pm. Closed Sunday, Monday, holidays. Licensed. Access: two steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Weezie's, a three-month-old bistro at the eastern end of the thriving King East strip, is surely one of the most remarkable dining rooms to open downtown in years.
For starters, Weezie's merely serves lunch and dinner, and only on certain days and not around the clock like most new joints. It also doesn't do organic yoga breakfasts or serve silly genre-defying tapas late into the night. And there's nary a DJ dropping beat science to be heard.
Owner/chef Constance Guitard hasn't dropped a bomb on decor either. Instead, the Corktown Victorian storefront's facade reveals a very adult space decked out in dark wood panelling, matching parquet floors and white-washed walls. Heavy drapes shield a few regulars seated at linen-topped tables from the late afternoon sun streaming through large windows that overlook the leafy park across the way as Brazilian bossa nova gives way to French torch songs over the sound system.
Why, there's even free parking on meter-less Power Street right at Weezie's front door! What's not to love?
Guitard's card could best be described as contemporary continental, a well-executed lineup that can only be faulted when she plays it a little too safe. But then, who expects culinary fireworks all the time? Sometimes subtle can be just as surprising.
See the appetizing proof in the leek and Roquefort tart, a sublime eggy quiche minimally accented with assertive blue cheese baked in a perfect pâte brisée crust and garnished with purple stalks of red cabbage cress. Three delicate panko-coated salt cod fish cakes get a sophisticated kick from their accompanying horseradish mayo (both $9), while a third first course of sweet chili tomato soup ($7) detonated with cumin and cinnamon would be even more impressive on this hot summer's eve served cold and dolloped with thick sour cream or raita.
The kitchen gets points for serving freshly cut pats of unsalted butter with its bread basket but then loses them when their stale slices of baguette ordinaire make a loud clink as they hit the plate.
Here's that bread again, only toasted alongside a generous fillet of low-fat tilapia ($15) covered with gently roasted garlic sauce, squiggled with smoky chorizo essence and plated with oven-roasted Roma tomato. Guitard's cottage pie ($13), a take on shepherd's pie, is classic comfort food, a mini casserole of delicious glutinous red-wine-braised oxtail layered with garlicky whipped potato. Only the macaroni gratin ($12) disappoints, a decidedly non-cheesy noodle baked despite its aged cheddar and double-smoked bacon.
Sides come á la carte: grilled al dente rapini or asparagus, as well as wilted spinach in quality olive oil, the slightest suggestion of garlic and a squeeze of lemon (all $5). To finish, we polish off former Centro pastry chef Carla Digenova's ambrosial lemon curd cake ($7), a fabulously light chiffon soufflé that only makes us want to come back for more.
And so we return for lunch a few days later. A composed salad of thinly shaved prosciutto rides balsamically dressed bitter arugula alongside grilled oyster 'shrooms, roasted red pepper and creamy crumbled chèvre ($8 lunch/$9 dinner). Almost a main, another salad of feathery frissée ($8 lunch) arrives tastily plopped with a runny poached egg and pliable bacon.
Because Weezie's sold out of pan-fried sole in beurre blanc sided with fingerling spuds and spinach ($10), we elevate an Italian-style pasta salad of penne mixed with asparagus, wilted arugula and stoned kalamata ($9) into a satisfying second course.
A trio of baguette toasts act as a sturdy foundation for hand-chopped steak tartare ($10/$13) infused with egg yolk and briny capers, while the sizable 8-ounce house burger on a regulation kaiser comes topped with cheddar, leaf lettuce and ripe field tomato ($9/$12 at dinner with the addition of bacon and red onion). Sided with fabulous parsley-speckled frites, is their a better burger in town for the price?
Service at this easygoing eatery tends to be attentive rather than in-yer-face, and its short, modestly tagged wine list features bottles that range from $29 to $39. All very well, but I can't help but wonder why the restaurant is named after 70s TV sitcom character Louise Jefferson?
"Years ago, I was once introduced to someone who thought my name was Louise for some reason," laughs Guitard, whose name happens to be Constance. "Since then, everyone's called me Weezie!"