It was a close call to the iconic Le Sélect Bistro downtown.
Long a popular spot for business lunches, after-work drinks and weekend brunch, it was closed for more than two years during the pandemic. The combination of lockdowns and a massive increase in the building’s property taxes proved to be a fatal blow.
Summarizing the perfect storm of the time, the bistro posted on Instagram that “Basically, Le Sélect had experienced an earthquake and a tornado, and then Godzilla stomped off Wellington Street.”
Enter the property’s new owners, development firm Allied Properties, along with Scale Hospitality Group (and renowned restorer David Aisenstat, formerly of The Keg), and the way was paved for the beloved boite to come back to life.
The zinc bar, Art Deco fixtures, mosaic floors and vintage French posters all remain in place – and oenophiles will be relieved to know that so is the 1,200-bottle wine cellar. Highlights of the updated menu include old favorites with new twists, including tarte au oignons et chèvre (carmelized onion tart with goat cheese in puff pastry with grapes and figs); loup de mer (seared sea bass in red wine with mushrooms and asparagus); and beef cheek bourguignon.
Le Sélect Bistro opened its original Queen Street West location on the corner of Beverly Street in 1977. In 2006 it moved further west to 432 Wellington St. (just west of Spadina), where the mussels are simmering again.
The new chef is Ted Corrado, whose history includes running the kitchens of the Drake properties, C5 in the ROM and Bar Chica. Here, Toronto-born and trained Corrado talks about the rebirth of a milestone and staying true to tradition, while still adding his own touch.
Regulars want to come back to Le Sélect they know and love, but you want to “put your fingerprints on it,” as you say. How do you find a balance? And how do you decide which dishes are must-haves versus the ones where you might have some room to play?
We stay true to what it is: the classic French bistro in Toronto. So you can come in here and still have all your favorite dishes. We’re just going to put our spin on it. We’re going to make a classic beef tartare – it’s just might look a little different.
I’ve been sitting on the terrace (during the preparations for the reopening) and people walking their dogss stop and say, “Oh my God, you guys are reopening! Can’t wait to come back for the tartare or the duck confit.” We continue with all those things.
All the typical dishes, such as the cassoulet, the charcuterie, seafood towers, oysters, they all remain. All the wines are here in the cellar. We don’t have to reinvent anything. French bistro style food does not need to be redefined. We want to stay true to it, but take it to the next level, get a little “soigne” with some dishes, make things really beautiful.
What is the experience you want to deliver as a chef?
Walking in here is like walking into any random bistro in Paris. There is something special about the color of the paint, the wear and tear on all the tables – it takes you somewhere else. And that’s the experience we want everyone to have when they walk through the doors. You come in for a delicious meal, or a nice glass of wine… and a sense of nostalgia. That’s what we bring back, whether that feeling is reminiscent of a trip to Paris, to (the iconic French bistro in New York City) Balthazar, or to Le Sélect Bistro in 1986 – unfortunately we don’t have the hanging bread baskets anymore – we want that you walk in and feel like you are somewhere familiar, but still new and exciting.
Toronto is gaining international recognition as a foodie dream city. And now Michelin is here for the first time on site to do taste tests for its inaugural Michelin Guide Toronto. How does this city compare to other great eateries?
Michelin will certainly help raise the profile, but you can compare Toronto’s restaurants to any well-known destination and you’d be hard pressed to find a better one. We’ve got it all here, and it’s all very, very good.
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