EPICURE ON THE MOVE QUEEN WEST CAFE REPLICATES ITS DECOR AND ABLE MENU FIVE DOORS DOWN

Le Select isn't the only long-running Queen West bistro making a move. That francophone spot famous for its hanging bread baskets will shortly relocate to new digs on Wellington West.

Another - Epicure - has recently packed up and shifted five doors east after two decades at Queen and Portland. Not that you'd notice. The three-storey space is virtually a replica of the previous rooms, right down to the posters and paintings hung on exposed brick and deep burgundy walls and the chairs now ringing a row of partitioned-off semi-private tables lining the long, dimly lit first floor.

Up a long flight of white-painted stairs, there's a second dining area and a recreation of Epicure's breezy rooftop deck. Even the storefront's identical: red paint and gold letters that spell out the resto's name above French doors that open to the street.

The menu - helmed by 15-year vet S. Sri - hasn't changed a bit either. But while it might read like the same old same old of pasta, pizza and panini, the card is consistently competent, and good value, too.

Witness a starter of mussels Provencale ($6), a prodigious portion of 27 (!) bivalves in the shell steamed in a superbly garlicky tomato sauce flecked with sweet onion and basil. Sadly, the mussels themselves are some of the smallest I've ever encountered. A baby species, perhaps?

That same marvellously pulpy sauce beefed up with ground chuck to morph into a Bolognese reappears liberally ladled over Epicure's Old World lasagna ($13), its several layers of pasta peppered with more minced hamburger and another tier of creamy ricotta.

At first, Epicure's Italiano pizza ($12) appears unpromising. But closer inspection reveals unexpectedly choice toppings evenly spread over a delightfully thin cracker crust: shaved prosciutto, whole cloves of roasted garlic, sun-dried tomato and sliced artichoke hearts that taste remarkably free of the tin.

Chef Sri's assured take on steak frites ($18) is another keeper. This triple-A black Angus 10-ouncer comes to table unabashedly untrimmed of fat (it adds flavour, but you're not required to eat the stuff) and sauced with a rich demi-glaze thick with black peppercorns. A nice touch, a spoonful of spicy chimichurri adds unpredictable punch. Correctly steamed broccoli and a more than passable passel of skinny double-fried fritescomplete the plate.

We also love his pumpkin ravioli ($14), a dozen or so wonton-like packets plump with pureed fruit nipped with ginger and nutmeg in a Parmesan cream littered with button 'shrooms, spinach strands and roasted kernels of corn. Bravo!

But we're unable to applaud the view from the rooftop terrace of the restaurant's dumpster full of garbage.

Not only does the trash give off a distinctively ripe odour, but it's also attracted a swarm of kamikaze wasps who do their best to re-enact Pearl Harbor by dive-bombing non-stop into ou r drinks during dinner.

But insect invasion or no, the new Epicure still has a buzz.  

What the Critic's Say...

"For French and funky there's Queen West's answer to Paris in Toronto. The Epicure Cafe.Framed posters and prints clutter the walls. To start, we split a Caesar salad, a large portion of fresh romaine in a tangy yet delicate lemon dressing. I know we're all familiar with the taste of a Caesar, but this one was especially good.

For his main course, my companion had a dark and richly sauced roast chicken leg with curried vegetables. Served piping hot, this was a perfect antidote to a damp evening. My choice was the Bouillabaisse brimming with mussels, oysters, clams and shrimps cooked in their shells in a saffron wine broth full of healthy chunks of salmon, squid and scallops. The textures were simmered to melt in your mouth perfection. Served with toasts and the mayonnaise sauce,rouille, this dish is a rollicking success.

I'm not sure if it's Paris, but my belly assures me. The Epicure Cafe is serving up a little bit of heaven. And that is just fine with me."

"The Epicure Cafe reminds us of those cozy little Italian restaurants in New York's Greenwich Village; after all, Queen Street West is the Village of Toronto. Intimate and friendly, the Epicure is a terrific place to relax and refuel after traversing this fascinating district. Take in the restaurant's contemporary yet comfortable ambience and menu, and begin with an order ofbruschetta, toasted bread slices rubbed with garlic and served here with olives, and the salads are quite good. We like the tender, fresh tortellini in a mushroom herb cream sauce, the surprisingly good cold poached salmon, and the zippy provencal-style chicken with crispy roast potatoes."

"Where's there's smoke...a basic utilitarian chicken can be transformed into a gourmet entree by a few hours in the smoker plus imaginative presentation. The Executive Chef of the Epicure Cafe,Toronto, lays boned chicken legs on the racks of his chubby, cylindrical Weber Smoker - affectionately nicknamed R2D2 - for five hours of hot smoking over coals, wood chips and a water pan which keeps the meat moist. When the meat has cooked and takes on the flavor of mesquite or hickory, he combines it with sweet peppers, mushrooms and reduced chicken broth to create his Spaghettini with Smoked Chicken entree."