Cluny Bistro is the latest addition to Toronto’s historical Distillery District.  It is the proud new member of the Distillery Restaurant Corp, who also owns Archeo, El Catrin, and Pure Spirits.  Being only a few months old, everything is spick-and-span; even the toilets stalls still let off scents of new wood.  As I entered the massive dining room, I was in awe at the extravagance of the décor, from the tiled floors, the marble counter at the bar, to the carved wood paneling; no detail was missed, and no expenses were spared.

I found both the food and the service to be good.  Most of their main courses are priced in the mid-$20’s range.  Considering the locality, this is quite a bargain.  Although I never tried anything from their bakery (which I plan to do very soon), I liked the idea that all baked goods are made in-house.

Even if not for the food, just the restaurant’s interior design alone made this dinner a worthwhile experience.

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The boulangerie bakery close to the entrance, where they sell different types of artisan breads, cakes, crêpes, macarons, ice cream and coffee.

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Bar area in the front.  When I arrived around 6pm on a Friday evening, neither the bar nor the restaurant were full.  However as the night progressed, dining area where I sat started to fill up.

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Gorgeous custom-built wine fridge.

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2008 Jean Bourdy Côtes du Jura ($75).  This region east of Côtes D’Or in Burgundy and below Alsace first caught my attention because of my love for sherry.  Côtes du Jura is famous for its vin jaune (yellow wine), which is easily recognizable in their special 620ml bottles, known as clavelins.  Displaying yeasty and nutty flavor, vin jaune undergoes similar oxidative treatment as fino & manzanilla sherry, under a film of yeast called flor.  I have noted similar nuisances in still wines from Jura before, but unfortunately not in this particular instance.  The Sommelier was kind enough to come and advise me that the wine, being fresh out of the fridge, was too cold to be consumed straight-away.  The only turn-off was that I knew this exact wine was selling for $29 at the LCBO, however they were all sold out.

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French Onion Soup w/ melted Gruyère de Comté, glazed onion, rich beef broth ($16) ~ I got extremely confused by the menu.  The French Onion Soup was mentioned in the small plates section, with “see cheese section” written.  I was under the impression that I had to choose a type of cheese for the soup, so I did.  When both the soup and a cheese plate showed up, I realized that the soup was listed twice on the menu, one as appetizer, one as cheese, so I mistakenly placed an extra order, which I returned.  Being a fan of all types of cheese, I enjoyed the soup a lot.  However, the floating oil made the soup slightly less appetizing.

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Lime and chili marinated black king fish w/ cilantro salsa verde, avocado, jalapeno, crispy shallots ($13) ~ Recommended by our server.  The ceviche was cooked by the lime juice.  The acidity enhanced both the freshness and flavour of the king fish.

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Tiger water marinated prawns w/ caper raisin emulsion, toasted quinoa, basil ($12) ~ As the prawns were marinated (possibly by baking soda), they became crunchy.  Unfortunately, the alkaline compound neutralized the flavour of the prawns, so they tasted bland.  The toasted quinoa were equally disappointing.  Not recommended.

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Table side wellington county beef tartar w/ the works, grilled Cluny baguette ($13) ~ The beef was a bit too mushy.  The amount of baguette given was completely out of proportion.  I had to request for more, but the server gave me some fresh bread instead of toast.  Mushy steak tartar and soft bread made a bad combination.  A friend who had the tartar before warned me that it was very salty, so I requested for less salt in mine.

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Herbed Parisian gnocchi w/ escargot, chili, parmesan ($13) ~ Gnocchi were supposed to be slightly firm on the outside, but soft and fluffy (not chewy) inside.  The ones I had at Cluny were soft throughout, so I think a bit more texture on the outside could improve the gnocchi.  In addition, the dish was slightly over-salted.  On the positive side, the herbed butter was savoury and aromatic.

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French press coffee ~ However, having recently tasted some superb coffee at other French restaurants (refer to my entry at L’Espalier, Boston), the one served at Cluny tasted bland, lacking significant flavour and major quality characteristics such as aroma and acidity.

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Passion fruit soufflé w/ pistachio financier, vanilla crème anglaise ($14) ~ The real reason why I was so keen to try out Cluny, as soufflé has always been my favorite dessert.  Unfortunately the cap collapsed before it made its way to our table.  The butter pound cake beside it stole the show.

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Most recommended: Bread, french onion soup, king fish ceviche, any dessert

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Suggestions for improvements:

1.  Change menu description for the french onion soup to avoid confusion.

2.  Be cautious on salt application.

3.  Improve mixture / temperature / timing to ensure that the soufflé rises properly.

4.  Stay true to authentic French cuisine instead of trying to be all-encompassing, serving gnocchi, marinated tofu, etc.

5.  Source better coffee beans.

Cluny Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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