Although born into a Dutch-Canadian household, I somehow ended up a Francophile. Hey — the Dutch and the French both dip their French fries in homemade mayonnaise and have blue, red and white flags, so I’m not that far off. Before my recent breathtaking trip to Paris I spent a lot of time enjoying movies and books set in Paris and France and collecting French cookbooks. If I was happy about the large number of French dining options in Toronto during my armchair traveling days, I am even more grateful now for the chance to relive the French experience whenever I book a table at Jules.
On our most recent visit, the summer air was the perfect temperature for a light dinner on Jules’ patio, which is filled with de rigeur wooden slatted bistro chairs and tables and protected from the sun by a traditional canvas awning. For less agreeable weather, the restaurant’s dining room is light and airy, with high ceilings, pale yellow walls, and blonde wooden tables and chairs. At the back of the large room is an open kitchen.
Sipping on lemon and water that was delivered to our table along with menus and a wine list, I ordered a Kir ($8); white wine with a dash of crème de cassis, and my husband ordered a less romantic Diet Coke ($1.50), as we made our choices.
Their simple bistro menu consists of salads, sandwiches, crêpes, quiches and French classics like Steak-Frites and Moules-Frites. As their mains come with a choice of mixed greens, soup or frites, we decided not to order appetizers. I did note that for each salad on their menu, Jules offers both an appetizer and a meal-sized option, priced accordingly.
I chose one of Les Crêpes ($13.95). It was fantastic; the impeccably prepared crêpe was filled with generous amounts of tender sautéed grilled chicken, chopped mushrooms, tomatoes and melted mozzerella cheese. The Dijon vinaigrette on the accompanying mixed greens was balanced perfectly to my taste, not too acidic.
My husband’s sandwich, Pan Bagnat ($12.95), was a crusty roll loaded with tuna, tomato, egg, green pepper, onions, olives Dijon mustard and mayonnaise. He chose to have the soup of the day, French Onion, as his side. It was light and delicately flavoured, and not too salty. A small salad of mixed greens also came with his meal.
We ordered a short espresso ($2.50) for him and a cup of orange pekoe tea ($2) for me. Never one to ignore chocolate on a dessert menu, I had the chocolate mousse ($5). The ramekin was just the right size for the mousse’s richness and density. I tasted a hint of coffee, which complemented the dark chocolate nicely.
Service was friendly and understated. Have each just arrived from hectic days in the office, we were slightly tired and dazed, and took longer than usual to make our choices. The server handled our indecision with aplomb, offering suggestions and as much time as we needed to decide.
On a previous visit, I chose to order from their three-course prix fixe menu ($24.95). I had the Chèvre Chaud (warm goat cheese on toasted bread over mixed greens), Steak-Frites, flank steak grilled perfectly to order, with a little bowl of homemade Dijon mayonnaise for frite-dipping and a perfect Crème Brulée. The only downside during that visit was that of our table of six, I was the only one who opted for the three-course menu. As a result I had five dining companions staring hungrily at me as I ate my salad (difficult to eat quickly), with their sides arriving alongside their mains only once my salad plate had been taken away. I’m not sure how they could have handled it differently, but it’s something to keep in mind while contemplating the menu with dinner mates.
If I had any doubts about Jules’ authenticity, on my way to visit the pristine washrooms (located at the back of the restaurant past the open kitchen), I heard the chef and our server chatting in French. I didn’t understand what they were saying, but it made me feel even more like I was on holiday, not just out for dinner. With Paris a transatlantic flight away, it’s nice to know I can always treat the Francophile in me by having a great, affordable bistro meal at Jules.
147 Spadina Avenue
Dinner for two with all taxes, tip and wine: $80
Originally published on Taste T.O.