This story starts back in February, on a snowy long weekend. Celebrating the fact that neither of us had to go to work on Monday, we headed out to a place we had been wanting to try for a while – Tati Bistro.
An unobtrusive storefront leads to a bistro so French you can almost smell the Gauloises! Long and narrow, Tati is dark in an atmospheric, rather than oppressive, way and was an oasis of warmth compared to the cold snow outside. For me it was a true blast from the past and for a quick minute there I was transported back to Paris circa 1997 when I was leading a carefree life as a student and university tutor, yet somehow inexplicably always seemed to have money to enjoy a couple of steack-frites a week at the bistro* located approximately 50 metres from my flat in the 2ième arrondissement.
We were excited to see that our Sunday night our qualified for the $25 prix fixe:
(and yes, the pictures were altered, in keeping with my Paris nostalgia!)
The meal that night was a joyous combination of flavours and memories. This is real French bistro food. Not fancy. Not haute-cuisine. Just simple, well-cooked, beautifully plated meals. Our service was friendly without being overbearing and we enjoyed a good bottle of wine from the extensive wine list. You know, cos we were having the prix fixe (and were saving all that money on food!).
We recently returned with a large group of about 25 people and whilst it was a fun night, the service (one server working the whole second floor?) and food were less impressive than our previous visit. I ate the exact same food but somehow it didn’t quite have the “wow factor” that it did in February. The green salad was a few simple leaves on a plate with an (albeit delicious!) dressing. Back in February, we had been bowled over by not only the size of the salad but also the variety of leaves included, we felt very spoiled back then for such an eclectic salad in the middle of winter.
To be fair, our group was large and the restaurant was pretty busy so getting all that food out at once is quite a feat. However, they did accept the booking well in advance so I would have expected a few more wait staff which would have expedited the ordering and serving process. In any case, people ate and drank and were merry and left replete and content. I am hopeful many of them will return for a more intimate dinner where they might be able to better appreciate this little corner of French authenticity. I know I will be back. Just not with 25 friends!
124 Harbord Street
Toronto, ON M5S 1G8
* this restaurant is now known as La Grille Montorgueil and is located at 50, rue Montorgueil 75002 Paris. Well worth a visit if you are ever in Paris…