87 Holland Ave.
Dinner and drinks for two: $75
Rooted in its neighbourly Hintonburg setting sits Allium, a casual bistro classically seasoned with French touches. The menu changes regularly, and we had a taste of Chef Arup Jana’s spring dishes.
First up was Scallop Crudo ($12). So many intriguing flavours were sprinkled on this plate that I had to retrieve the menu just to deconstruct it. A crudo means raw fish, and these scallops were freshly flown in from the sea. They were sitting on a bed of smoked sliced potatoes, which were interesting after one bite but overpowering after several.
A classic at any bistro is the Steak Frites ($23), and this one gave the other diners dish envy. The garlic-infused aioli was the condiment of choice for the nicely browned fries and became a dip for another dish, the marginally pleasing Wild Boar Duo ($32) with its large side of uninteresting white beans. The Cast Iron Roasted Halibut ($30) was lightly coated with toasted almonds, but the lemon basil butter sauce was sparse and the garnish of mussels tasted unpleasantly fishy.
Many dishes at Allium, it seems, are sprinkled with shiso, a herb from the mint family. Even dessert. The Lemon Tart ($8) was puckery with a brilliant brûlée on top and a sweet shortbread crust on bottom along with a perfect scoop of Pascale’s homemade vanilla ice cream on the side.
Allium remains a comforting bistro that needs just a dash of consistency.
Correction – April 15, 2010, 1:34 p.m. EST: A previous version of this story incorrectly gave Allium four-and-a-half stars. In fact, our writer gave it three-and-a-half stars. It has since been corrected.