The Guild - 1442 Dundas West @ Dufferin
Had dinner last night at this new place on what was, I think, their second dinner service. They've been doing brunch for a couple of weekends (and possibly lunch during the week? I'm not really sure).
It wasn't busy and we chatted a ton with our server, who is the chef's girlfriend or wife (I wasn't there at the beginning of the conversation, so I wasn't totally clear on that detail) and I'm assuming the front of house manager for the business. The restaurant seems to be a labor of love, as she described how they had reclaimed the wood used in the tables from an old barn themselves, and fashioned the host stand out of a stump from her parents' farm, and covered the chairs with burlap taken from coffee bags they received from their coffee supplier. The decor is eclectic without being overly filled with tchotchkes. Huge picture window into the kitchen at the back, and a bar of seats looking into it that she said they plan to use for chef's table tasting menus. I also appreciated that, while they are in the basement, like every other restaurant bathroom in the city, the bathrooms had been done up to not look scuzzy. The walls are covered in pages from a culinary encyclopedia (Larousse, maybe?).
It's a pretty big space, I think she said about 90 seats, and she was very adamant about them taking reservations always and forever. Even for brunch. So I might need to check that out, because a decent brunch that takes reservations is like the holy bloody grail of Toronto dining.
Tight menu -- maybe half a dozen apps and a similar number of mains. A nice cocktail list advertising house-made bitters and infusions and whatnot. I had one of their house cocktails, a Homeboy or a Homebody or something like that (I am just rocking the details here, aren't I?) and it was very good. Drinkable without being excessively sweet. Also, a wine list, which had, uh, wine on it. I drank some. It was wine. I liked it. (I do not know anything about wine.) Everything on the list was available by either the bottle or the glass.
We started with a charcuterie board, which came with fairly generous portions (I'd guess 8 slices of each) of four types of meat, a bit of grainy mustard, some pickled beans and a basket of bread for $12. There wasn't anything wildly exciting about any of the items on the plate, but it was competent and generous and we were waiting for someone who was late arriving, so it filled the gap nicely. The pickled beans were also quite nicely done -- snappy and tart but not puckeringly so.
I ordered a pork belly app that was served with a bit of spicy cabbage (kimchi-esque) a couple of the pickled beans (which I was more than happy to see again) and three cubes of tender, tasty pork belly. Someone else ordered the soup and said they liked it, but I didn't try it.
The mains were mainly on a base of pasta, though they weren't all "pasta dishes", some of them were meat-focused entrees that were using pasta as the carb. The restaurant was originally going to be a pasta bar, and they have a fancy pasta extruding machine, so they're obviously going to want to use it, but our server did say that the menu would not always be as pasta based as it was the day we were there. They're doing a lot of pastas that are flavored and colored using beets, carrots, etc.
I ordered the gnocchi with boar in a cream sauce, and my feeling was that it had been wildly over-salted, but 2 other people who ordered the same dish felt completely differently, so it's possible that it was just an accident that lead to my dish being extra salty for some reason. (I didn't try theirs for comparison, so I can't be sure.) My dish was otherwise good -- gnocchi were a tiny bit on the chewy side, but they weren't a rubbery mess or anything, and the boar was tender and generous.
I did try the dish of the person who ordered the sous vide duck on a bed of carrot capellini and while I'd have really enjoyed my dish if it weren't for the salt, I did have a strong case of order envy when I tried that. In particular, the pasta was interesting and in an unusual tart sauce that just really, really worked. The duck was also nicely done.
Portions were pretty generous -- several people took half their mains home.
I don't know if they have a full dessert program. We weren't offered a dessert menu, but they did bring out a plate of hot beignets for us to share.
Prices seemed really reasonable, especially given the generousness of the portions. A cocktail, a glass of wine, an app and a main for $45 before tip. Actually, now that I'm reading that, I'm finding that somewhat hard to believe. I didn't look at the bill all that carefully, I wonder if they left something off it. But she did originally have a couple of the cocktails on the wrong bill (she *offered* to do separate bills, we didn't even ask) and she corrected that without us noticing it first, so it seems unlikely she screwed up the bill even more than that without noticing. So, I guess, yeah, prices are really reasonable!
My overall assessment is that the place has the potential to be very good. If it weren't for the salt thing, which could well have been just a mistake, I would say they are already very good. Mostly I just want to have more than a single bite of that duck dish.
1442 Dundas St West (Between Dufferin and Gladstone)
http://guildresto.com/ (almost completely useless website at this time, but for future reference)
I tried going here for brunch today... but got turned down as their brunch service ends at 2 pm, which I find kind of early (they're not even giving us a chance!!).
The girl I was with said it struck her as a bit hoity toity... but I still want to eat there. I want some Boar Gnocci! For Brunch (as per Yelp review)!
For which the hostess suggested we make reservations - which kind of blew my mind.
Not sure if that meant that we needed to make reservations in order to have a hope of eating brunch there... or she was just point out that they do it - which again, is mind-blowing.
If your hostess was the same person as our server (and I'm betting it was), we talked with her at length about the reservation thing. She is extremely passionate about the idea that restaurants should take reservations, even for brunch. I would strongly suspect she meant the latter.
Our server said they plan to change the menus frequently, since they're doing the seasonal/local thing, but hopefully they'll at least get some sample menus up so people can get a sense of the offerings.
The chef has been instagramming a lot of photos: http://instagram.com/manibchef/ so you can get a bit of a sense from there of some of the techniques and whatnot they're using.
Other than the dishes I described, here's what I can recall from them menu:
There was a vegetarian pasta dish. Someone at our table even ordered it, though I didn't really try enough of it to have an opinion, so I didn't mention it in my report. It was one of the housemade pastas with a bunch of things like eggplant and I think beans in a tomato sauce.
There was a steak dish, that I suspect worked out to being steak frites, but I didn't look that carefully, because I was sort of fixated on the gnocchi and the duck.
I think there was one other main, but I'll be damned if I can remember what it was.
There was an app we had to ask about that turned out to be oysters, and the thing we were not recognizing was the name of a type of oyster.
There was a cheese plate option along with the charcuterie. I think there might have been a bread, butter and pickles option.
I imagine there was a salad on there, but I kind of fixated on the pork belly app early on.