The Depanneur (Drop In Dinner)
Did you ever wonder where would chefs with tons of enthusiasm and talent, but no desire (or funds) to open a restaurant, showcase their culinary arts? Depanneur offers a neighbourhood solution for that. Foodies, watch out!
As the name suggests, Depanneur appears unpretentious as a smallish, royal blue-framed corner store. The wordmark is in a friendly script font with a human angle, splashed/spanning across the large front windows. A red door between the two brick columns led us inside.
All windows were used to display posters for the upcoming events – all for the passersby to see. With a curious twist, the printed sheets and clothing pins were hanging across off a wire, covering the glass and rather nicely diffusing the evening summer sun.. The sold-out events were tastefully crossed out with red writing. This formed an engaging experience for people inside and outside the space, as many glances met at this promotional element. From the inside, we spent some time looking at the past and future events below the vintage bulbs in the window pendants.
Besides the curious window arrangement, Depanneur is also a square open room with an open kitchen of many pots, pans, little condiment bottles, and knives creating a bit of a chaotic display. With homey coat hangers by the front and some bench seating, it all felt like a small community gathering. Space was bustling with a buzzing crowd, chefs behind the kitchen aisle, and a friendly lady at the cash.To get things going, one must walk to the back area to check in and pick from the daily menu.
Our choice that day was a caramelized carrot soup with organic farmers market slaw to start. For the main, we had a grain and bean bowl topped with mushrooms, kale, croutons, garlic chips, chilly, and, most interestingly, an optional cricket protein. We also asked for Elderflower and Cherry Blackcurrant homemade sodas. Jumping ahead, Elderflower Soda was rather light in flavour, while the cherry blackcurrant turned out to be a great treat!
Our meals were prepared by the owner himself - Len Senater, who ran the kitchen that evening. Ma Chérie requested her meal to be vegan and gluten free; it was no problem and just as much flavour.
With an upbeat Cuban music playing, we settled at a small table. Our soups arrived first slightly sweet, this light puree was a great starter: simple, healthy, and light; it came topped with buttery sage leaves: what a treat! As Mon Cheri is a no cream soup enthusiast, his request was resolved with an organic market coleslaw.
The focus on the menu tonight was sustainability, so it was plants-centered. The event included a presentation by a social innovator and OCAD masters grad - Patrick Robinson. Learning about supporting local food systems, Depanneur was the ideal set.
Our main dish was presented in a white bowl with that array of ingredients topping the rice like grain. It was a beautiful combination of zesty and pickled flavours. As for the cricket protein, it tasted like fibrous, whole wheat crumbles with cumin spices. We rather enjoyed these sustainable and environmentally-friendly proteins. We also met the man behind See Fu - company specializing in bringing crickets to the mainstream market.
We enjoyed our experience at Dépanneur immensely. This human space was filled with life and enthusiasm. Len’s goal is to showcase the diversity of the city through food.He has been doing so since he opened Depanneur six years ago. We say kudos to his mission and attitude.
PS: the programming at Depanneur is relevant to the news; at the time we were there, he had weekly Syrian culture evenings - opening his doors to Syrian chefs and sharing the richness of the culture with the rest of us, Torontonians.