O’ by Claude Le Tohic

Dinner – Thursday, June 20, 2019

Folks who’ve dined with us in the right setting know that we really enjoy two things – good bread and good cheese. Really, this is what drew us to Claude Le Tohic’s new restaurant in the city, just two weeks after it opened. O’ came out of the gates swinging with a pricy tasting menu, but the risk was mitigated somewhat by Le Tohic’s pedigree.

The restaurant is interestingly situated on the top two levels of a multi-concept space, with a bar/lounge, bistro and patisserie occupying the four floors below. Fortunately, O’ does feel like a space of its own, completely separated from the others.

“Quiche” tartlet, avocado mousse

Cauliflower panna cotta, red cabbage jus, essential oils

Carabineros shrimp tartare, strawberry gazpacho
The first of a triptych of chilled and warm caviar compositions. The brine of the caviar, with the sweetness of shrimp and acidity of the gazpacho, were a remarkably good combination. Very impressive.

Unagi and farm egg sabayon, lemongrass, toast melba
The sabayon was deliciously rich, but cut with just enough lemongrass on the nose to balance it out. Another favourite.

Langoustine, lobster gelee, geranium, corn veloute

Zucchini cannelloni
Lemon confit, tempura flowers, piquillo pepper

The cannelloni enrobed a texturally varied filling of olives and pepitas. An interesting component to the sauce was a note of vanilla, which actually heightened the savoriness of the olives. On the side, we were served a canelé of parmesan and tapioca – bursting with umami and quite delicious.

“Seafood Royale”
Uni, scallop, Kumamoto oyster, wild fennel emulsion

The shellfish were really outstanding – top-notch quality. The emulsion, sprinkled with espelette, hid a flan of (I think) lobster and uni – this, too, was great. Many soft, creamy textures throughout, yet none of it felt boring. In fact, I kept wishing for more as I dug in. A 3* dish and my favourite of the evening.

Feuille de bric, tomato confit, rosemary, fennel

Roasted French turbot
Shitake dashi, seaweed butter, ginger

Liberty Farms duck breast, spicy lavender, honey
Turnip, porcini, natural jus, pommes purée

Nicely cooked duck, studded with coriander and perfumed with lavender. I quite enjoyed the turnip that was filled with a mix of porcini and duck farce. Of course, the Robuchon-inspired mashed potatoes on the side were an easy win as well.

Cheese

Strawberry sorbet, lemon cream, basil, red bell pepper

Lychee, grapefruit, vanilla mascarpone, rose water
Both desserts exemplified what I enjoy about French sweets done right – clean and beautiful visuals, lightness of body, proper use of herbal and floral notes, and a sweetness that isn’t cloying. These two courses were fantastic and strong highlights of the meal – a tip of the hat to their pastry chef.

Mignardises

An interesting element of herbal, floral, or tropical notes suffused every dish – it evoked memories of our meal at De Leest, which I’d consider a compliment. In some cases, this worked to great effect (e.g. the cauliflower panna cotta, the sabayon, and the desserts) but in others, more calibration was needed to tone it down (e.g. the corn veloute and duck). I did not take pictures of the bread service (five types on offer), but it was generally strong (although the butter was served rock hard – for shame!).

At the end of the day, it’s hard to say whether our dinner quite justified its hefty bill at this early stage, but I certainly see the potential. I expect the restaurant will receive a star in next year’s Red Guide, with a second in the offing.

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