Kyle Croutch at le Diplomate
It’s been barely over three months since chefs Aaron Langille and Kyle Croutch opened le Diplomate, a 25-seat bar-centred restaurant on Beaubien W.
The word “discretion” comes to mind when taking all of the space’s intimate and austere aspects into consideration. “The idea of having a smaller place that’s run by a small team and very comfortable and casual to go to has been the dream since I started cooking,” says Langille.
For Croutch, it seemed a natural fit since working with Langille at Café Sardine, where the idea for le Diplomate
bubbled up. “I’ve always been drawn to smaller places,” he says. “It’s been a long time percolating between the two of us.”
The benefit of this is a focused dining experience, where two chefs simultaneously cook and serve to clients as their induction oven quietly churns out the small, personalized menu they proffer and plan to shift with the seasons. Being still very much in its infancy, an average googling won’t reveal much about their food. After visiting however, I feel this speaks more to the dynamism of these cooks than it does evasiveness, as the menu’s an open book for now.
“In the form that it exists right now where we do the à la carte bar snacks, we do want to change on average one to two items a week. It keeps us entertained, it keeps the clients entertained,” says Langille.
As items are dropped and added, the menu comes off as more exploration than definition, so it comes down to what
they have at their disposal, what they feel like cooking and what clients want. “We’ve had difficulty trying to express in a concise way exactly what we want to do, because we want to avoid stodgy terms like ‘tasting menu’,” says Croutch.
“Menu sur mesure is one that we’ve been thinking about, a custom or tailored menu, where we have a brief dialogue
with the client about how much they want to eat, what sort of thing they’re into, any restrictions… which is often a
failing of tasting menus — it’s not working flexibility into its structure.”
At the time of my mid-March visit, their menu consisted of eight bar snacks working with the season’s offerings, small and delicate meals formed from a combination of eastern and western cuisines, techniques, personal histories and experiments. Croutch and Langille are skilled and amiable hosts who will gladly chat about what’s for dinner as you sip one of their cocktails or wines (go for The Last Word, a fizzling mix of granular ice, maraschino, Broker’s gin and Chartreuse).
The food was approached at surprisingly varied levels, considering the amount of options. Some items were familiar, such as their brussel sprouts fried with salami cotto and laid over a stream of lime crème fraiche ($9) or the half-shell oysters cooked in whiskey ($3 each). Some were novel, like their hot and tangy salad of chrysanthemum leaves mixed with feta and mint wrapped in a tofu skin and steamed ($8), or the dessert of sliced, glutinous mochi served with smoked buttermilk ice cream, cream of roasted lemon and dusted with an earl grey powder that gave a pleasingly smoky aftertaste to each bite ($7).
Lastly, some items were purely comforting, particularly their supple slices of beef served with clams and gai choy, an Asian green whose pungency added depth to the reduction the dish lay in.
I left satisfied and intrigued, as the coming months are sure to yield even more momentum. Le Diplomate is certainly worth a visit for its alternative environment and trade, having shown a lot of promise and possibility in very little time. ■
129 Beaubien W., 514-303-9727