Café Pleiade

You can be too thin–as demonstrated by this nearly inconspicuous spot squeezed among Mount Pleasant’s bric-a-brac and antique shops. Inside, its Lilliputian dimensions become a virtue: the space is intimate and homey (crisps linens notwithstanding), with an air of casual propriety. An open kitchen at the back adds to the domestic feel. Lights are bright, directed at small framed paintings on off-white stucco. Soft spoken and considerate, the waiter instills a welcome measured pace to the meal.

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Despite a timid appetizer of moules marinères ($8.50) with ouzo and white wine, the chef’s forte lies in sumptuous sauces, as in a starter of seared calamari amid crushed tomatoes ($8.50); red onion and capers add surprising complexity to the olive oil-basil vinaigrette. . Four large seared scallops ($22.50)– one night’s special, in orange-curry-thyme cream sauce, peek through flopping bok choy leaves. Rack of lamb ($27), roasted just pasts the requested medium rare, remains tender and juicy, complemented by a pronounced dijon-madeira sauce, green beans and lightly charred asparagus accompany. A Louis Latour ($41.50) pinot noir– from a wine carte evenly divided between the Old and New Worlds– a choice seconded by the waiter, definitely walks the line between the seafood and meat. To contemplate dessert (a combination of house-made and store-bought from Wanda’s Pie in the Sky and Baker Street), guests step into the kitchen to eye a display case of treats ($4.25 – $6.75); a goblet of not-too-boozy harvest yellow zabaglione and a plain but first-rate cheesecake satisfy sweet tooths. Closed Sunday and Monday. $120, 557 Mount Pleasant Rd. (at Manor Rd.), 416-486-5207

Toronto Life, Restaurants, February 2005

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