Good living — and eating — on the Avenue

[attach]4953[/attach]The current incarnation of Bon Vivant is apparently the result of the efforts of Glen Peloso and Massimo Capra. After being featured on Restaurant Makeover, the little eatery’s new look is chic and beautifully appointed so we’re keen to sample the new menu.

We’re served some gorgeous multi-grain ciabatta with a homemade roasted sweet potato and carrot spread. This is a tasty change from the usual balsamic or butter, and my guest goes back for more — and more. My glass of wine ($8) proves excellent. R.H. Phillips, despite the lack of an imaginative name, makes a very good Sauvignon Blanc, though you won’t find it in the LCBO. My guest opts for Sleeman’s Honey Brown ($6).

From a list of really creative appetizers, I choose wild mushroom pyramids ($9). Little phyllo tarts are tastefully presented on each of the three little depressions of a presentation plate. Beautiful but hard to cut in situ, so I happily sprinkle phyllo crumbs all over the table; it’s easy to do. The delicate crust melts in the mouth and the tangy mushroom filling has a real bite. We both give this dish the thumbs up.

By way of contrast, my guest chooses a mandarin salad with orange cumin dressing ($10.99), which comes in a little jug on the side — nice touch. Having too often been faced with soggy greens, being able to control the dressing is a treat. The mixed greens are crisp and fresh, tossed with mandarin pieces and walnuts. But the citrus dressing makes it a thing of beauty. If they bottled this, I would buy it.

The stuffed pasta special of the day is wild mushroom and ricotta in a tomato, rosé or Alfredo sauce ($19). When she describes this, the waitress actually tells us the price — now there’s a consideration one appreciates. How often have you been surprised by a ridiculous price for the special? But I digress.

My guest opts for tomato sauce. The little pastas are actually mushroom-shaped — cute — but it’s the flavour of the dish that really sings. The tomato sauce is rich, full-bodied and absolutely delicious. But the pasta filling has an earthy mushroom essence you almost want to appreciate without any sauce at all. Though we both enjoyed the dish, I’d probably take the lighter rosé sauce next time to avoid overpowering the filling.

My main dish is organic tilapia, crusted with enough chunky pecan pieces to fill a good-sized tart, served atop roasted sweet potatoes ($21). The green beans, mange-tout peas and roasted red pepper are colourfully arranged around the fish in a photo-worthy presentation that could grace the pages of Gourmet magazine. Tilapia is a fairly mild fish so the pecans add an interesting crunch as well as flavour and with the sweet potatoes give this dish a slightly Southern accent. It’s very good.

All the desserts are homemade so from a menu that offers a photo of each, we opt — how can we resist? — for crème brulée ($5.99). I am waiting for the fatal flaw to appear — this is an easy dish to botch. But the crème is creamy, smooth and icy cold, with the brulée golden, crisp and still hot from the torch. Heaven.

Good coffee ($2) rounds out a beautiful dinner.

Bon Vivant is the brainchild of Ryan Peers and Ashley Evans. She’s the chef while he serves, though they switch the roles up readily as the need arises. Indeed, Ryan was cooking the night we visited. The restaurant is smart, reasonably priced and the food is wonderful.

There’s also a prix fixe that allows you to choose a four-course meal from the menu starting at just $29. And as they’re currently celebrating their seventh year in business, there are a number of excellent wine-with-appetizer-or-dessert combo specials for $7.77.

As the name suggests, live well and treat yourself to a good meal.

Bon Vivant, 1924 Avenue Rd. Toronto. 416-630-5153. [url][/url]