EAT CAFÉ

Breakfast is primordial for everyone I know who equates French toast or croissants with Mom and unconditional love. That's why I think the new Eat Café, with its almost-all-day breakfast, is worthy of some kind of local prize. Stuck way to far west on Dundas near Ciccone Simone’s showroom, Eat is sort of a “Clafouti” for the Dundas West crowd.

A deuce of poached eggs atop croissants or a breakfast special -- two eggs, bacon or Italian sausage & challah toast just might be worth the drive. And the best part - staff listens to you; you want your eggs done some obscure way? Done. And my quest for the oatmeal with honey & fresh fruit of my midwestern childhood is finally - well, almost - satisfied. It is awfully close to lunch, and Eat’s plump exuberant beauty, a now-and-then special or baked custom order, is only a tad too sweet.

The café welcomes diners with contoured chairs, dark wood wainscoting, a three-stool counter a small street patio, and a small retail section for signature products. But even more welcoming is the warm greeting from a youthful floor staff.

First on the agenda: Peruse the blackboard that lists daily specials. They usually include one crepe dish and a daily pasta. Then turn to the menu, where crepes, breakfast options and a list of baked goods reside. These a la carte items are served at both breakfast and lunch.

Back on the a la carte side, there is no better way to start a meal at Eat than with a pear & goat cheese salad and walnut vinaigrette ($6.00) that packs a kick from roasted garlic. An order of cassava (or potato) frites $3.50 for a rich start. Frites are served with red pepper aloli. Daily soups might include a butternut squash version.

Salmon Provencal ($9) wraps a thin, grilled salmon fillet served with French beans topped with cherry tomato & herb compote. Savory crepes ($9) wraps a thin layer of mozzarella & tomatoes served mixed greens ($9). And pollo il diavolo is a hit: Tender pieces of chicken are pan seared with spices, served with French beans, new potatoes and pearl onions.

A ratatouille ($6) makes a fine example of the French way of doing this staple lunch dish. It's eggplant. zucchini, peppers, tomatoes & garlic with melted Swiss cheese served with a side of mixed greens.

Other options include the pedestrian-sounding but flavour-packed paninis, simple desserts - including a free-form bakeless cheesecake (torta di formaggio) cracker crust topped with fresh berries & mint. A crème de pain de chocolat is brioche chocolate bread, surrounded by crème anglaise. And a chocolate brownie topped with French vanilla ice-cream.

Down-home desserts by caterers/owner Anila Dhanji warrants a separate visit -- and you will be back. Shockingly large portions and alarmingly cheap prices leave no mystery as to how the seven-table spot won regulars so quickly. - Aaron Jacobs, martiniboys.com

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