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After Hours: Lapinou Brings a Fresh Spin to French Staples

When deciding where to next wow a client with a memorable meal, it can be challenging to choose between a tried-and-true fine dining joint and a hip hotspot. With its clever approach to classic French fare, Lapinou offers the best of both worlds.

Lapinou’s effortless blending of traditional and contemporary elements is evident the moment you step into the restaurant’s elegant interior. Brass fixtures, flourishes of forest green and handsome bistro chairs give the space a timeless ambience, while lofty ceilings and exposed brick add a modern, industrial touch that makes the restaurant feel right at home on King St. West.

The restaurant recently welcomed new executive chef Ben Heaton, who has curated a series of tasting menus that build on longtime chef de cuisine Jamie Ullrich’s locally-driven core menu. “It’s about sourcing high-quality ingredients that speak for themselves,” says Ullrich of Lapinou’s menu, “and showcasing them without competing components.”

This selective approach to sourcing drives both the food and drink menus at Lapinou. Take the White Alba Truffle Martini, for example, which uses a base of white alba truffle gin sourced from Cambridge Distillery in the U.K.

Lapinou's White Alba Truffle Martini
Lapinou’s White Alba Truffle Martini

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“Typically, with a gin, juniper and any other essences are distilled in one, but they [Cambridge Distillery] actually distil each botanical individually and then combine them in the end,” explains Bre Fedeli, Lapinou’s assistant general manager who oversees the beverage program. “It’s really creating a refined flavour profile.”

Fedeli uses this unconventional gin to update the staple martini, mixing it with Lillet, Tio Pepe sherry and St-Germain elderflower liqueur. The Lillet lends a hint of bitterness and the elderflower liqueur adds a subtle sweetness, which together brings balance to the savoury truffle gin.

Lapinou's White Alba Truffle Martini
Lapinou’s White Alba Truffle Martini

The martini is garnished with a few shavings of white alba truffle from the kitchen, which comes from the same area – Piedmont, Italy – as the truffle that’s infused into the gin. The common truffle source makes the cocktail a natural pairing for a dish of raw scallops, which delicately rest in a pool of truffle ponzu.

Ullrich explains that Hokkaido scallops proved to be a more reliable, high-quality source for Lapinou than the local alternatives. The culinary team decided to double down on the scallops’ origins by serving them with citrus-based Japanese sauce. Beech mushrooms and Jerusalem artichoke chips round out the dish’s earthy flavours.

Lapinou's scallops with truffle ponzu, beech mushroom, sunchoke
Lapinou’s scallops with truffle ponzu, beech mushroom, sunchoke

“It’s very simplistic – but punchy flavours and really clean,” says Ullrich. “It’s kind of a theme that we like doing within the restaurant.”

The scallop and martini pairing is surprisingly understated. The sweetness of the cocktail and notes of citrus in the scallops add a brightness that plays well with the truffle’s umami flavour.

“Everything that we do is very simple to the eye but then, when you eat it, it’s full of flavour,” says Ullrich.