There are lots of places to eat in Toronto you will never find out about unless someone tells you or it is advertised somewhere. That was the case with La Stella for us. We got a Groupon to go and check it out.
We actually passed La Stella twice before finally figuring out where it was. Not very distinguishable from the outside to be honest, the sign was a bit too high to notice from the street level and, despite having oversized windows, the dimmed light from the inside did not draw attention. The logo itself was generic and suffered lack of color.
We were greeted by a pleasant waitress as we walked in. While the restaurant seemed to have a history, it lacks character. A side glass door opening into the building lobby delivered too much light and felt out of place too. We also did not like the two large screen TVs with CP24 on the walls...creating somewhat of a commuter atmosphere, taking away from the more relaxed ambiance.
We were pleasantly surprised by the reasonable prices. The first choice would have been Chicken liver pate (gherkins, and crostini), but they were out of it so we went straight into mains. New Zealand lamb rack (Fleur de Dijon) and Duck Confit were the items we chose. A 2011 Santa Carolina Chilean Merlot seemed like a good match for our mood and the dishes.
We had some warmed up bread on the table with whipped butter - just a standard baguette. Nonetheless something to nibble on while waiting. The wine arrived first. It was a good value bottle. Aged enough and not overly oaked, we noticed hints of plum, blackberry and some spice notes. The lamb came rosemary crusted and served with a potato gratin. It also had mint-honey sauce, adding some fresh sweetness to the mix. The pieces of lamb themselves were cooked just enough to remain juicy, but not to feel raw. The meat was not too herbaceous or too gamy. It was made in a simple way with red wine sauce (a good compliment), steamed veggies (a refreshing touch) and a potato which was interesting, but felt a bit pre-cooked. It was definitely a treat worthwhile. The duck confit stood up to the competition well: sweet potato mash, and sherry jus accompanied the meat creating a unique flavour mix ideal for a wholesome dinner. The dish was complemented by a salty sweet potato and tender, cooked to perfect softness, steamed veggies. Ma cheri was a big fan of this dish.
For dessert we got their Creme Brûlée which was a bit too thick and heavy for our taste.
We were also recommended Calamari & Tiger Shrimp, Salmon Tartar or Flat Iron Steak. La Stella has a relatively low rating online, we enjoyed the food and would see it as underappreciated overall. The dishes are very good value for the money. The biggest issue for us was a cockroach we saw in the washroom... We let the waitress know and she promised to pass the information to management. We are confident that will get addressed, La Stella is worth coming back to for good food.