"Charming" is an adjective I long to use more often. Sometimes it seems like the only things you can depend on as consistently charming are vintage hats, France Gall songs and Colin Firth. So when I walk into Chez Tess Crêperie, I am pleased. It is, in a word, charming.
A small, sweet space, it really does feel like it is chez Tess. It's like an extra-large dining room that your mom set up in case her 30 kids drop by for pancakes.
I arrive after the lunch rush, before my companion. Greeted warmly, I opt for a cozy table nestled by a window. The server is very attentive, quickly bringing menus and describing the daily specials. My companion arrives shortly, greeted with the same enthusiasm.
The small lunch menu features a handful of appetizers and a host of savory crepes, ranging from vegetarian to ham and chicken to seafood. (There is a wider array of sweet crepes on the weekend brunch menu.)
To start, we order the warm brie ($8.95) and the daily appetizer special, prosciutto-wrapped scallops with a maple glaze. For entrees, ratatouille ($10.95) and crepe cordon bleu ($12.95), plus Tideview cider ($7) and a glass of champagne ($7).
The melting brie is flanked by rows of toasted baguette and thinly sliced crispy green apple. Lush kalamata olives and what must be half a head of roasted garlic finish the enormous plate. The creamy cheese is delicious with the sweet smokiness of earthy garlic and tart apple. The olives are a bit of a mismatch, but it's a small misstep.
On the other plate, five small scallops are simply presented atop an arugula leaf, drizzled with a maple reduction. The scallops are tasty, with nice caramelization, but a tad over-cooked. The sauce has a nice zip of acidity, though doesn't pop with maple flavour. The biggest problem here is the absence of prosciutto.
Our server apologizes and quickly insists that the dish will be removed from our bill. (It isn't until I get home that I realize it wasn't, but I can't work myself into an indignant frenzy since I did eat and enjoy what was there.)
The light, golden buckwheat crepes arrive next. Both crepes are served with a salad of mixed leafy greens. The tangy vinaigrette is deliciously set off with a swipe through the decorative drizzles of balsamic on the plate.
Generous, meaty portions of honey ham and roasted chicken are rolled into the cordon bleu with bright cherry tomatoes. Grated Swiss cheese sits on top, spilling into a puddle of creamy Dijon dressing. It's rich and satisfying without being heavy.
The ratatouille crepe is folded like a little gift, packed with tender slices of marinated eggplant and zucchini, topped with caramelized onions. Tomato appears absent; most of the flavour comes from the sweetness of the feathery roasted red pepper sauce and the wonderful browned sugar of the onions.
Not content with exploring just the savoury crepes, we sample the sweet by splitting the Euro ($10.95) for dessert, with a coffee each ($1.85). Filled with a classic combination of banana and Nutella, the vanilla crepe is beautifully presented after being halved on two plates by our thoughtful server. Nutella fans around a little crepe mountain, which is covered with a light maple-bourbon whipped cream and a sprinkle of toasted almonds. It's nutty and chocolatey without being oversweet.
It's not just the delicious food that will bring me back to Chez Tess. The exceptional service really made this restaurant live up to the hopes I had walking through the door. I am charmed, I'm sure.
Chez Tess Crêperie
5687 Charles Street
Tue-Thur 11:30-8:30 Fri-Sat 11:30-10pm Sun 9am-3pm