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Actinolite - One of my best meals in T.O.

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Actinolite now offers a chef's pick for $75. This was a seven course tasting menu which the chef came out to the table and discussed with us if we had any preferences. There were 3 dishes we were keen on trying and they were worked into the tasting. The dishes in order were:
-buttermilk soup with hedgehog mushrooms
-italian leafy green salad with grapes, cheese and pine nuts
-seared shrimp with lamb tripe hache and smoked red pepper sauce
-trout with cauliflower and honey mushrooms
-gnocchi with porcini mushrooms and arugula
-ontario lamb chop and saddle with roasted vegetables
-grapefruit pavlova
These descriptions are brief and many dishes had a few more elements. All dishes were good to very good , and the trout, gnocchi, lamb and pavlova were outstanding. All the dishes came out hot, showcased a variety of textures, were cleaning presented, and offered a substantial portion of the focal ingredient. The dishes were lightly seasoned but never under seasoned and none of the dishes relied on the big flavours of garlic, onion or spices for impact. Overall there was a sense of delicacy without lacking depth.
I can't offer much in the way of criticism, granted some ingredients were repeated and artichoke was used on a couple of dishes, which can be a wine killer, but execution was flawless. Every dish seemed unique and independent of current trends.
Service was efficient and warm without being overly chatty or chummy. The wine pairing were generally good, with no duds, and served at the correct temperature, reds were slightly chilled. The room is beautiful and music was at an appropriate volume. The bill for two with wine pairings was $240 without tip. This meal is up there with the best I've had at George and the time Colborne Lane got things right.

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  1. Thank you for the review. Sounds like a delightful place. Amazing value for $75.
    How's the wine list?

    1 Reply
    1. re: happycamper

      The wine list is short, my guess is 40 bottles. By the glass probably 5 whites, 5 reds. Since we chose to do a pairing, I didn't spend much time with the list.

    2. Seven courses! Wow! Sounds amazing. What part of the meal was your favourite?

      1 Reply
      1. re: TeacherFoodie

        There were some outstanding dishes which were very memorable like the gnocchi or the lamb. But it was the experience as a whole which I enjoyed. Some dishes which at the moment seemed good but not memorable made more sense within the context of the whole meal.
        I should have mentioned one other thing. The room was about 80-90% full on a Tuesday in January. This is a good sign, it also means make a reso.

      2. I've been dying to try this place!

        1. I ate at Actinolite in December and had the same experience - one of the best meals I've ever had in Toronto.

          1. Nice review. Hope to try Actinolite this spring.

            1. That grapefruit pavlova is outstanding. Any idea whether they'd do a veg version of the menu?

              1 Reply
              1. re: katyenka

                If veg version includes fish, then I imagine they could do it. I guess the best thing to do is call and ask.

              2. Glad to have come across this - I've been looking for a tasting menu (have done both George and Colbourne Lane). Sounds great. Can you tell me what the ambience is like? I'm looking for a special occassion, so my preference would be something not TOO casual.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Meggers12

                  They've done a lovely job creating a decor that feels classy but not stuffy. I would call it the higher end of casual chic. It's a really nice space that adds to the neighbourhood even when you're just walking or driving by.

                  1. re: katyenka

                    Thanks! Sounds lovely!

                    1. re: Meggers12

                      I actually found it a Jekyll & Hyde situation.
                      Early evening was exactly as you describe with mainly 'mature' diners. But as the evening wore on it became more casual - jeans and louder conversation, and a much younger crowd.
                      Having said that, it was a superb tasting menu and I just recommended it to someone in his mid-80's who wanted a recommendation for out-of-towners that was not too high -end.

                2. I have booked the chef's picks menu for Tuesday. Looking forward to it. Thanks for the write up

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: ylsf

                    Let us know what you think. I have booked the same for my husband's birthday in a couple of weeks.

                    1. re: ylsf

                      Our meal ended up getting delayed but I did go recently.

                      It was a good meal, I was full after the meal, I am trying to think how many courses there were, I think we had less courses. I was hoping for the gnocchi but we didn't get this served. Had soup, salad, fish, lamb, dessert (different versions than listed above, sounds like it changes up). I am trying to remember if there was something else.

                      There were 4 of us and they did something that I haven't seen before with a portioned out tasting menu. They served 2 of us one salad and 2 of us another salad. They did the same with the dessert. It was good to be able to try more of the menu that way but I wasn't expecting that.

                      I thought the service was great. We didn't do the wine pairing but ordered a wine that was recommended to go well with the tasting menu. Sorry I forget the name of it.

                      There was a large table reserved that didn't get seated until we were leaving so the sound levels were okay but I could see it being pretty loud if the restaurant is full.

                      Nice spot, I would definitely go back and order off the normal menu. In reality I don't have much reason to be in that area though so not sure when/if I will go back. I would definitely recommend it to people though.

                      The only thing I can't answer is the "value" of the tasting menu at $75. If we had received the same number of courses as OP I would have said yes but I am pretty sure we received less (we didn't receive a listing of the dishes and I now it isn't fresh in my memory). If you have a big appetite you will probably leave feeling hungry. That is in comparison to some other tasting/chef menus where I have felt way too stuffed... so, maybe it is a good thing that it is portioned out such that most people will feel "just right".

                      Meggers12, did you end up going?

                      Thanks for the OP and other recs. Was a nice find, my guests were wondering how I came across this place :)
                      My little secret!

                      EDIT - I just remembered that they served an in house prepared ham as well. Was on a bed of pickeled fennel/raddichio I think and with "Shaved" egg and there was a thinly slice peice of celeriac root as well.

                      And, the grapefruit pavlova was indeed excellent. I tried to make pavlova once but didn't turn out that great at all. Definitely makes me want to re-try making it!

                      1. re: ylsf

                        I'm glad you enjoyed things. I'm always afraid someone else may not like it or that the restaurant is having an off night.
                        They also did some different course for us, specifically the salad.

                        1. re: ylsf

                          Yes - we did go, and I meant to write about it. We did the tasting menu for two of us, and did the wine pairing as well. We absolutely loved it - we have done tasting menus at Colborne Lane and George, and both agreed that this was one of the best meals we've had. The chef was fantastic - he came out to greet us beforehand and to talk about what we liked, didn't like, etc. and was great about answering any questions or explaining any of the dishes and how they were made along the way. We also were served the same dish for some courses, and different dishes for other courses. Six courses in total - two different salads for the first (kale/cheddar and blood orange), raw trout with sumac vinegar and oil for the second, a plate of smoked ham and potato for the third, oysters very lightly baked with farro and red currants and bacon for the fourth, a braised beef dish (delicious) for the fifth and then dessert - grapefruit pavlova (which was amazing) and brioche. The pairings were excellent as well - very diverse, which we really enjoyed but might not be for everyone. I think If you would prefer to stick to wines, though, they would be very accommodating. All went with the dish very well - we had some white, some red, an aperitif, a cider, and champagne. Most were from France, and were all very good. The service was great, the atmosphere was lovely...definitely would recommend!

                      2. Just an update - Actinolite has been getting even better (if that's possible).
                        My meal last night was the best yet - a foraged 'High Park' soup was sensational. And the Perch was one of the best (and simplest) preparations I've had in years.
                        Great ingredients expertly prepared (for the most part).
                        At the top of its game right now with the fresh Spring ingredients.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: estufarian

                          We've been twice in the past week or so. I have to agree that this is a strong menu. The idea behind the soup is simple, "I want to put spring in a bowl", but when was the last time you've seen a similar dish, something that every chef should obviously be doing all the time? As mentioned above the perch was dead simple. We had it as part of the tasting menu. The skin was crispy, the flesh moist, and it sat on some spring vegetables with brown butter, nothing else. The beauty of the dish is that there is nothing to hide behind, it had what was needed and nothing else. There is no coloured oil, flavoured puree, crispy leeks, or multiple pools of flavours to distract from the main focus. If it was not expertly executed, the flaws would clearly stand out. This is the strength of his cooking, the confidence of knowing that he can pull off simplicity.
                          My only complaint is that three reds and three whites by the glass is a little limited.
                          Fair warning it was packed both nights we were there.

                        2. I need to go!

                          1. does anyone know if they will do a vegetarian menu as well?

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: helenhelen

                              Yes they do! I went with some friends this past week and it seemed like everyone had some sort of dietary need; vegetarian, gluten free, no diary, etc. I emailed the list of needs in advance of our reservation and the chef was very accommodating. Our meals were delicious- I can't stop thinking about the rye berry with yogurt and roasted plums, that was the start of the yummy meal.

                              1. re: aragon

                                ooh, good to know! am looking for a nice place to take a friend for dinner so this sounds like a good option.