Len, the owner, says he designed this place with his youthful Montreal memories in mind. Depanneurs are shabby main street convenience stores there nowadays, but the name refers to a shop that relieves a pain in the society, and he thinks stressed-out Toronto needs a big dose of pain relief. He also thinks Toronto needs low-budget places where creativity can spill over. In my opinion, he's a philosopher, hiding out in a restaurant.
Lori and I went with two friends, who recently arrived from China; they agreed to guide us, on Thursday, which is pop-up night. The guest chef is Lejen Chen, one among 50 a year who pop by to do something really out of the ordinary -- in this case a Beijing-style meal, cooked by one of the pioneers of alternative food in Beijing, and the founder of the first Chinese organic urban farm dedicated to Community Support Agriculture. We have a heroine cooking in our midst.
What a meal it was, but no use telling you, because every night has a different set-up and every week has a different pop-up. Check the schedule, and don't miss these one-in-a-lifetime opportunities!
The place says community out of every pore. When he opened, Len asked neighbors to donate cooking equipment and furniture, so the neighborhood has always felt totally at home. If you choose a long table in the middle, other people will join you. While they're not in-your- face, why wouldn't you listen in on their conversation and talk with them? I ended up having a great chat with Edmund Rek, one of the founders of Evelyn's Crackers, who joined us as we were into a dessert of millet and maple syrup.
Talk about a night out and about!
I didn't see any white linen. I did not see a maitre d, though Len is extremely hospitable. I had to hop over a backpack to get to the bathroom. I think that if you want white linen, special bathroom and a maitre d, this is not a good place.
But if you want a lively social scene, really special and innovative cooking at great prices, and want to contribute to the place being a happening place -- I can't imagine how it could get any better.
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