01 March 2019 Posted By : Amy Pataki

Go savoury or sweet at Yorkville’s Dessert Lady Café

Dessert Lady Café & Bakery

3/4 stars

Address: 1 Sultan St. (at St. Thomas St.), 416-513-1118, dessertlady.ca

Chef: Styven Bonilla

Hours: Monday to Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Reservations: Yes

Wheelchair access: Yes

Price: Lunch for two with wine, tax and tip: $65

The good news about Dessert Lady Bakery & Cafe is that the Yorkville spot is adept at both sweet and savoury.

The bad news is Dessert Lady is hard to find.

The café sits on Sultan St., a stone’s throw from the pricey shops along Bloor St. W. Head south from Cole Haan towards the Windsor Arms Hotel, then turn left towards the orange brick 1880s Romanesque houses recently turned into an office building. You’ll see a sandwich board outside.

This is the second Dessert Lady. Mandy Kan, a former Ritz-Carlton pastry chef, opened the original retail bakery in 2005 on nearby Cumberland St. The Sultan St. location, open since May, not only secures her a spot in the neighbourhood in case condo development pushes her out of Cumberland St., it lets Kan live her dream of going beyond sweets. She no longer wants to be just “the dessert lady” anymore.

“The part for me unfulfilled was the savoury,” says Kan, 41.

The cafe was a project two years in the making. After losing 20 location bids in the Yorkville and Yonge-Eglinton areas, Kan secured the Sultan St. space. She hired Alicia Sass of Harrison Fae Design to execute her vision of a classic, peaceful room for 22 diners.

It starts with soaring ceilings and colourful floor tiles. Corrugated white marble lines the bar; white subway tiles gloss the walls. A sinuous orange banquette curves through the main eating area.

The mood is chic and cosy, with a space heater to cut any chill from the front door. Fresh gerbera daises brighten up the tables. Electrical outlets under the banquette let us charge our phones and laptops. Pretty and practical.

Oh, and Dessert Lady is licensed.

“For me, you need a good glass of wine with dessert,” says Kan of her offerings of moscato rosés and cabernet franc ice wines.

Which brings us to the cakes.

As you would expect from a place called Dessert Lady, cakes big and small fill the counter display case. There is dense mango cheesecake ($8), which Kan recommends pairing with a glass of off-dry Relax Model Riesling ($12). For my taste, the barely sweetened Japanese-style black sesame mousse cake ($8) goes best with a matcha latte ($4.75). But the excellent ube cake ($8) — virtuoso layers of coconut cake sandwiching jammy purple yam and buttercream — stands alone.

But Dessert Lady strives to go beyond the sweet.

Clipboard menus lay out the all-day savoury offerings. Order at the counter; staff bring the food to your table.

The all-day classic breakfast ($14.50) is nicely done: Two eggs; four slices of extra crisp bacon; rosemary home fries; cherry tomatoes sautéed into sweet pulp; and toast with jam and butter.

The fact that the butter and jam come not in packets but in small elegant dishes is one of Dessert Lady’s grace notes. So, too, is the abundance of sliced lemons in the chilled water and the attractive spinach chiffonade dressing up a meal-size bowl of curried coconut chickpea soup ($10). Even homey chili ($12.50) gets ready for its close-up with a garnish of fanned sliced avocado.

Grilled cheese with turkey ($16) is a fine sandwich. The moist shredded turkey is heads above the usual deli counter sliced breast. As it is griddled, some of the Oka escapes to crisp up wonderfully on the outside of the bread.

Faultless raw tuna ($22) is another pleasant surprise. It is chopped and mounded onto baguette slices like pink mountains, with fried shallots and mashed avocado. Too bad about the heavy hand with chili oil that overwhelms the fresh fish.

Kan is a first-time restaurateur, and it shows in the sometimes wobbly service. Here’s what else Dessert Lady could do better:

• Lose the supermarket sliced bread and source a better product.

• Amp up the Cajun flavours in the jambalaya-stuffed bell peppers ($11).

• Switch from Boom FM to commercial-free music, preferably something as classy as the decor.

But I wouldn’t change a thing about the way Dessert Lady serves its coffee. Each cup of decent drip ($2.50) or latte ($4.25) arrives with a small cookie nestled on the saucer. On my last visit, it was a ball of crumbly walnut shortbread so rich and golden.

It made me think: If you stumbled across a café like Dessert Lady while travelling in Europe, it would be a trip highlight.

Here, it hides in plain sight.

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