When you walk out of the cold modern interior of First Canadian Place and into the warm and inviting restaurant that is Maman you will think that you took a further trip than a couple of steps. Designed to look like a French boulangerie, the interior is complete with tiled floors, a wraparound wooden bar and old wooden and unevenly surfaced tables. It is immediately apparent that this is a cozy and friendly place, which is good because the entire restaurant sits together, family-style, at two large tables. It is a very European experience in the heart of downtown Toronto.
I was at Maman to attend the biweekly fondue event. The evening begins when you sit down and introduce yourself to those around you and get to know the people at your table. This facilitates a lively banter that engaged me well past the end of the meal.
The meal itself begins with tapas, an assortment of meats and other toppings on crispy bread. I elected for what looked like the tastiest: the salmon with dill cream cheese, the pork and pickle, cured ham, and anchovies with honey mustard and some radish. Each was packed with distinct flavour.
Next were the salads, shared among the table. The first that I had was a green salad with a thick and zesty French dressing, and the second was a kale salad with chickpeas, onions, radishes and oranges. Both were light and refreshing, especially the second. And both make you feel better about the fondue that you are about to eat.
The main event (and it is an event) arrives when the waiter brings you white wine, which is poured into a heated bowl. After the white wine heats up and begins to simmer cheese is added. The selection of cheese proves that Maman is truly is a French restaurant, as they brought tomme de savoie, comte and emmenthal, for an elegant blend of texture and taste. After adding the cheese to the white wine reduction and stirring it you are encouraged to begin with bread before moving to the broccoli and potato. The reason for this is that the bread absorbs the wine, leaving the fondue thicker and cheesier. I found that the best taste was with the bread when I soaked it in the top layer (which was mostly white wine reduction) before plunging to the bottom to scoop up some heavier cheese.
This is fondue done properly. With the cheese, bread and white wine, what’s not to like? And eating fondue with new people helps you get to know them and you will quickly be talking so much that the two hours will float away.
And this cuts to the heart of the matter. Fondue at Maman is more than just a meal; it’s an event. As you quickly get to know the people next to you the restaurant feels less like a restaurant and more like someone’s kitchen. By the time the fresh fruit tart had arrived (fresh berries with powdered sugar, custard and a hard pastry shell—delicious) you are comfortable enough with those around you to be playing each other’s Bumble or Tinder.
Perfect for a weeknight out with friends or a double date, fondue night at Maman is a great way to meet new people and to have a delicious and fulfilling meal.
Just don’t be lactose intolerant.
Fondue nights at Maman, at First Canadian Place (100 King Street West) occurs every second Tuesday and costs $45 per person.