Lockdown Dining – Greg Couillard at The Depanneur

The Depanneur
1033 College Street
416- 828-1990
Dinner for 2 – $48 plus tax, pick up only

With the prospect of actually going to a sit-down restaurant for a meal looking to be far, far off in the future, and little else going on in the outside world in the form of entertainment, we’ve been punctuating the weeks of isolation with interesting take-away meals, both as a means of giving ourselves something to look forward to, and as a break from cooking every day.

As long-time fans of Greg Couillard, we were excited at the announcement that The Depanneur was offering a take-away dinner featuring some of his dishes. The supperclub dinners hosted by The Depanneur and owner Len Senator are always a hot ticket when Couillard is at the stoves, and this Persian-inspired dinner was no different, selling out well in advance.

With a long history at Toronto restaurants dating back to the 1980s, Couillard is considered one of the most influential chefs in Toronto’s dining history. He spends part of each year working out of a beachfront resort in Mexico, and typically returns to Toronto each summer where he works with the Depanneur on a variety of events, usually sit-down dinners. This is the first for 2020, and since it’s unlikely he’ll be returning to Mexico any time soon, expect to see more of his menus popping up here in the form of take-out events during lockdown.

Senator has a cute set-up where, masked and gloved, he passes pre-packaged bags of food through a front window at the Depanneur to customers who have ordered and paid in advance, keeping everyone safe as they drop by to pick up their meals. There’s a list of upcoming events, available for pick-up only, that look to be worth leaving the house for.

For this dinner, Couillard created dishes that travelled well and could be easily reheated; both the starter and main were easy to bring up to temperature in the microwave after a trip home on a cold April day.

The kale and leek soup was a well-balanced blend of vegetables in a creamy base, with a flavourful backnote of spices that evolved as we progressed through the dish but never overpowered. No single spice stood out, but the overall effect was savoury and warm.

The Persian chicken for two was a pair of juicy deboned chicken thighs rubbed with a spice blend (Couillard is well-known for both his loves of spices and his deft hand at blending them to create interesting new flavours). Served with golden yellow saffron rice, it was finished with a smooth and velvety saffron sauce featuring raisins, tomatoes and chunks of squash. This was not the traditional Persian chicken we had been expecting — nary a walnut or pomegranate seed in sight — but was a pleasant twist on an old favourite. This was such a generous portion that we ate only half, finishing the remainder off for lunch the next day.

Dessert was a pair of coconut cream tarts topped with French meringue and a drizzle of caramel, with a surprise layer of caramel in the bottom. Perfect, flaky shortcrust with just a hint of sweetness balanced the caramel, and the coconut cream itself was delicate and only slightly sweet but there could have been more of it, as it was overpowered by the other elements of the dessert, the flavour and texture lost in the delicious melee.

Overall, totally worth the price, both for the quality and quantity of food and for the enjoyment and novelty it brought us in trying times. I prefer to eat Couillard meals with the chef in the house — the supperclub dinners at the Dep are always a fun time, often populated with some of the most notorious characters from 1980s Queen West, all gathered to hang out with the chef, sharing stories from back in the day — but these take-away dinners will fill the void until we can all gather around the table together again.