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Jul 25, 2014 07:55 AM

Actinolite: earnest or pretentious?

Party of eight last night, all of us at Actinolite for the first time. Cozy and pleasant room, but almost studied in its variety of unfinished and finished surfaces.

Even though we were, when we arrived, the only table in the place, it still took almost five minutes before any of the four wait staff came over to pour water and take drink orders. It took another ten minutes, and we had to ask before bread was brought to the table. If the place was hopping, I can understand these delays, but it was empty. The bread, when it arrived, was warm and tasty, although I prefer Canadian butter to the imported olive oil.

We had previously decided on the $85 menu, which I'll go through course by course.

1 - Potato with Carrot/Soil/Grass Two new potatoes with two little stumps of carrot. We received an explanation of the 'soil', although I couldn't hear it (I understand from other posts that it's breadcrumbs with other ingredients). The potatoes were very good, and some of the accompanying elements were fine, but the 'soil' was so hard that I -and others at the table - feared for our dental work. It was tasteless and detracted from the rest of the dish.

2 - Oyster with Enoki/Seaweed. Two oysters in a bowl with greens and a few enoki mushrooms. The servers came around and poured a luke-warm broth in a bowl. The broth was bland, and the seaweed unpleasant; I felt like I was eating twigs. The two smallish oysters were OK, but the whole dish was a complete miss. Most of us didn't finish it.

3 - Beet with Plum/Mulberry/Hyssop A few small halves of quite tasty beets with an almost sour cream emulsion (the hyssop?). This was a pleasant dish, and I remarked to my companions "It's deconstructed borscht!".

4 - Halibut with Peas/Gooseberry/Spruce This was the best dish of the night, IMHO, although some thought the halibut was overcooked (mine was perfect). It was served in a bowl in a buttery sauce that complemented the fish, and the peas were fantastic - plump, cooked but firm, bursting with flavour. Really enjoyed it.

5 - Cucumber with Currant/Lemon Balm/Fennel A four-inch quarter of a cucumber, adorned with berries and herbs. The fennel added a very nice touch. If they doubled the portion size, it would be a nice side dish in many restaurants.

6 - Sweetbreads with Chanterelle/Lettuce/Turnip The turnip was just a few tiny slices hiding beneath everything else, and I don't recall the lettuce, but the sweetbreads were the other highlight of the night. The chef has a deft hand with his roasting pan, because the exterior was just crisp while the interior was still moist and flavourful. The chantarelles were a bit bland, but the sweetbreads were so good, I didn't care. I ate all mine and my girlfriend's as well.

7 - Strawberry with Curd/Elderflower/Hay It's hard to mess up strawberries, and they didn't. Beautiful berries, and hay ice cream(?!) that was a nice cool counterpoint to the berries' sweet-tart flavour.

A few overall comments: After the initial pause, the service was fine, although the multiplicity of people covering the table was a bit confusing. However - and this is where the title comes in - the staff interrupted conversation 12 times to deliver set pieces about the ingredients, their provenance, the cooking method, etc. While some of it was interesting, I couldn't hear half the time, and was still talking to my companions the rest, so in the distraction, I barely heard any of the details. The exception was the wine pairings, where the young lady stationed herself right next to me, and then went on to tell us how crisp/dry/whatever the wine would be, what notes (cherry/oak/etc) we would notice, and so on.

(rant on) First off, to me, this is like going to a play and being told the plot and twists beforehand. If the wine's any good, we're going to figure those things out on our own. Second, to be lectured about the wine by a young woman obviously in her early 20's when we're all 50+ world travellers is either amusing, as if an 8-year old was explaining Shakespeare, or irritating, as it again interrupted our conversations. Please leave these dissertations to the name, year, origin, and possibly the grape. The final irony was only 3 out of eight people were drinking the wine, so all the non-drinkers had to sit back and listen even though we had zero interest. (rant off)

Bottom line: we left hungry. As soon as we got in the car, we turned to each other and said "Where are we going to eat?". I've gone to many Chinese banquets for $80/head, and left stuffed to the gills with very good food with lots of leftovers! Every single dish we were served would have been an 'amuse bouche' at the late and lamented Bistro 192. If not for the excellent bread, I might have gone into insulin shock, as I'd taken my usual dose before the meal, expecting a reasonable amount of food.

Which again leads back to the title: Are they being earnest, or pretentious? I'm going to be charitable, and say it's the former, although I suspect it won't be too long before it slides into the latter. Every dish had a "look at me! I'm special!!" quality that, unfortunately, wasn't backed up by the flavour most of the time. The dish introductions were so detailed that I nearly wondered if there were to be questions afterward. (Yet, with so much emphasis on 'local' ingredients, they don't serve local butter with the bread.) In the end, it felt like I was being forced to enjoy it (like New Year's Eve parties) rather than getting swept up in it (as I was at K-Paul's in New Orleans, for example).

I know there are some who truly appreciate this type of dinner theatre; my elder daughter is one. To those, I say: you will most likely enjoy Actinolite a great deal.To people who go out to eat with the idea of enjoying their friends' company over good food (and to whom half the fun is swapping a bit of your duckling for a bit of your friend's tournedo), you will find too many interruptions, not enough food, and no choices.

Just be sure which of the two groups above you belong to!

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  1. "To people who go out to eat with the idea of enjoying their friends' company over good food (and to whom half the fun is swapping a bit of your duckling for a bit of your friend's tournedo), you will find too many interruptions, not enough food, and no choices."

    - If this is what you wanted then you do not order an 8 course tasting menu with wine pairing.. where you know you will be interupted at least 24 times during the course of the dinner - 8 delivery of plates, 8 delivery of wine & 8 clearing of plates...

    11 Replies
    1. re: pourboi

      It was picked by the birthday girl, not me. I'm just letting others know how I feel. Hope that's not an issue for you.

      1. re: FrankD

        ... but you should also know that this selection wasn't conducive to what you were looking for, and this type of service would normally be expected.

        1. re: justxpete

          "This type of service would normally be expected"

          May I ask clarification on that statement? I've enjoyed many beautiful meals that did not require a lecture on the provenance of the food or drink. I feel it insults the intelligence of the customer.

          1. re: BlackMambaSommelier

            I have never had a multi course tasting menu with wine pairings where they did not explain each dish and each wine.

            1. re: pourboi

              There is "explain" and there is "lecture" and there can be a fine line between the two. One of my otherwise fave restaurants has a nasty habit of training their wine servers to assume every customer is a wine neophyte, I don't need to be told that "Brut means dry" or be told in breathless terms about a "little known" winemaker I went to high school with...

              1. re: pourboi

                I've eaten at a number of Michelin starred restaurants around the world. I've never been lectured about the food or wine in any of them.

                If I ask a question however, they answer graciously.

                1. re: BlackMambaSommelier

                  Lectured and informed are two different things. I'm not insecure about myself, so I don't really mind. Recent meals at Saison, Coi, Alinea, Grace and Per Se all attempted to inform.

                  However, I was more referring to the constant interruptions one experiences when having a tasting menu as opposed to an a la carte menu. Considering Actinolites' menu is strictly chef menus, one would expect constant interruptions when dining there.

                  It's not like they're going to drop food or wine without explanation... That would be odd. And hilarious. And if any place is "lecturing" then perhaps you should be dining elsewhere. I didn't find anything of the sort at Actinolite.

                  1. re: justxpete

                    Ok thanks. Once again you've made my day!

                    1. re: BlackMambaSommelier

                      That's ok - "I've eaten at a number of Michelin starred restaurants around the world" had me laughing out loud! ;)

                      1. re: justxpete

                        I knew you would! I love living in Belgium. I say truce over a Belgian beer?

                        1. re: BlackMambaSommelier

                          Sure. Ask our mutual friend Matt to facilitate.

      2. One thing I don't like is leaving a restaurant hungry, it's happened a few times. Did any of the others in your group also feel like they needed to eat after leaving?

        You mentioned " late and lamented Bistro 192" - did you mean Bistro 92? It appears to still be open, after looking at the Facebook page.

        And they appear to have a new menu:

        1 Reply
        1. re: foodyDudey

          You are right, that's what I meant.. we stopped by a few months ago, and saw a sign saying "Closed"; glad to hear they've reopened, my anniversary's coming up.

          1. I can definitely see that Actinolite wasn't perhaps the best match for the experience you would have preferred for the evening. We recently went for a similar tasting menu, but our focus was the tasting menu itself. We actually didn't talk much except about the food itself. We really appreciated the details about the wine and food and extended the conversations to find out even more detail.

            That said, it sounds like you had more misses than hits in your dishes. We had only one out of 8. We didn't leave hungry but we also weren't overfull and appreciated the fact - many times we stagger out of a restaurant feeling a bit sick and riched-out. However, the first time we ate at Hashimoto, we had to have some noodles afterwards, so I understand the frustration of not being sated by a meal.

            45 Replies
            1. re: Dr. John

              To be fair, I think I would only rate 2 of the 7 as "misses" - the oysters and potato (and the potato wasn't bad itself - just the accompanying 'soil'). The halibut, sweetbreads, and the beets were very good, and the cucumber and strawberries were fine, just too tiny a portion.

              And I agree with you that eating too much is just as bad as not getting enough. We were at a place in New Hampshire last week, and though I only had a burger and onion rings, I walked out feeling like a lead balloon was in my stomach (too much grease, I suspect).

              I knew going in that it was a special menu, but I wasn't expecting the dinner theatre aspect. I appreciate that for many, that's exactly what they want and are paying for, but it's not what I personally would choose for a birthday party. Different strokes for different folks!

              1. re: FrankD

                Just an FYI - the 'soil' was exactly that - SOIL. That's why it was 'mixed' with the potatoes.

                Clearly (or perhaps not!), you didn't hear the explanation - as this was the first course, that confuses me - you also stated you were the first table in the place (and occupied maybe 25% of the available space - it's a small restaurant).

                While not diminishing your experience - you seem to have made an excellent effort to record your experiences, it's not clear to me why this communication didn't occur, as you comment on the numerous times your conversation was interrupted to explain these dishes.

                Certainly, an experienced server should pick up on cues as to whether to give speeches (on food wine, or even weather) - it's conceivable that the multiple servers were all relatively inexperienced.

                I'm one of those who would rather have smaller portions of top ingredients, than potentially overeat because large portions are served. But I've also heard from others that the quantity of food (and lack of red meat) is a disappointment - so I don't think you're alone.

                I have been there on several occasions when the restaurant was almost empty. But NOT anymore (thank goodness) - even then they stuck to their 'extreme local' cuisine. I admit, I go there for the food - not to party, and it is rewarding for me.

                But, as always, different strokes!

                1. re: estufarian

                  From my review: "We received an explanation of the 'soil', although I couldn't hear it " One of my other peeves was that a server would position him/her self at one of the table, and then launch into their dissertation without waiting for conversation to die down, or ensuring they had people's attention. That's why I missed a good half of what was being said.

                  I'm not a fan of huge portions, either, but when I leave a restaurant HUNGRY after a 7-course dinner plus nearly half a loaf of bread, I think they could up their portion size a tad.

                  1. re: FrankD

                    That makes sense. Your party was more interested in each others' conversation than the servers' comments. And servers' presumably had other tables to service, so couldn't stand around waiting for a lull without impacting other tables.
                    That's also why you also considered those visits as 'interruptions' (rather than 'service').

                    I suspect that smart servers would have just left you alone, and not bothered with explanations. Although maybe they kept switching severs to try and find one that was 'sympatico' with your group.

                    But I also suspect that most other attendees that night (as most nights), were interested in, and wanted, those explanations.

                    1. re: estufarian

                      Actually, I think my GF stated it perfectly: "If they didn't have the explanations, who would eat this food?". And I quite agree - if they just plunked down those plates in silence, no one would be patronizing this restaurant. (And, as an ex-restaurant guy, I can't help but look at the plate, and figure the food cost for most plates was under $1, well under the normal 25% of $15/plate. If the chef has to, as he said in another article, get down on his hands and knees to sort out soil that's 'near maples and pines but not too near the pines', my sincere advice is "Don't bother".)

                      So, my final advice to would-be diners is "Be prepared. You are paying for the explanations, and not the food. If that's what you're looking for, you'll enjoy Actinolite."

                      1. re: FrankD

                        Your statement about the food costs at Actinolite is incorrect. I know for a fact that the economics aren't high margin and that they're spending a lot on ingredients.

                        You might not think there's tremendous value in the kind of food - I've been to restaurants like Actinolite but not Actinolite yet so I can't say how well they do it - but those restaurants aren't skimping on costs and are often running well over 25%. And I have pretty good knowledge that Actinolite is not running fat margins.

                        1. re: FrankD

                          At the risk of prolonging this - I was regularly eating this food before he adopted the current tasting menu only format. So I would eat this food without explanation.

                          What convinced me that this was 'something worth following' was a dish 'High Park Soup' which consisted of a broth containing only ingredients that had been foraged in High Park (this was last year). I'm sure the ingredient cost on that was virtually zero, but shouldn't one take into account the 'value' of time spent actually searching for those ingredients? My economics background learnings suggest that it is the market that determines prices (of almost everything). Cost is mostly relevant if it exceeds the price (or more accurately doesn't allow an appropriate return). Corporations need to concern themselves with 'cost ratios' - small independents less so (it's usually cash flow), although I don't question that overall profitability needs to be achieved.

                          1. re: FrankD

                            I have to agree with FrankD. Who wants to eat this food? Just because it doesn't taste bad and it doesn't kill you doesn't mean it's good. I'm have trouble convincing myself to pay money to eat dirt and yes, I have done it. But won't again.


                            Not a great article but somewhat true.

                              1. re: justxpete

                                The real question I have is have we reached "Peak Wente"?

                                  1. re: bytepusher

                                    I'll never understand the Globe's hiring practices. I can't bring myself to read at least 3 of their columnists.

                                  2. re: justxpete

                                    Sure did haha. I can't say I disagree with her opinion on this.

                                    1. re: brushfire

                                      Her thesis is essentially "If I don't get it, it must be terrible. Why waste time with all this fancy-schmancy stuff, it all turns into poop anyway." And you agree with this??

                                        1. re: Michael N

                                          Well I agree specifically to eating dirt being stupid and just outrageous. I happen to enjoy molecular gastronomy but I do find excessive use of chemicals unappealing and unneccessary. Having eaten at places like wd50, grace in chicago, noma, el bulli etc I find the food to be more interesting than tasty. Noma was really the only tasty one to my palette. I use to love interesting food but these days I prefer tasty and if it's interesting and satisfying then even better. And yes, I prefer a burger over Actinolite anyday. Would I prefer a meal at Noma over a burger? Maybe, depending on mood. Actinolite is such a Noma copy, just without the purity, focus, power and intensity of flavour. The dishes may look like they belong in some modern scandinavian restaurant but it certainly doesn't taste like it.

                                          1. re: brushfire

                                            Oh okay, fair enough -- you actually know what you're talking about and have a nuanced point of view, whereas Wente was just being blithely dismissive. I get the sense that she's never tried anything even remotely resembling molecular gastronomy, and that her idea of a good night out is going to the neighbourhood Kelsey's.

                                            I actually wasn't even familiar with her, but I'm looking at some of her stuff right now and I see that she's basically just a third-rate Canadian version of Ann Coulter.

                                            1. re: Michael N

                                              Margaret Wente is nothing more than click-bait for the G&M.

                                            2. re: brushfire

                                              " I happen to enjoy molecular gastronomy "

                                              "Having eaten at places like wd50, grace in chicago, noma, el bulli etc I find the food to be more interesting than tasty"

                                              Then, please tell us where you've enjoyed molecular gastronomy.

                                              1. re: estufarian

                                                I found, for example, much of the food at wd-50 to be more interesting than tasty, but still enjoyed it.

                                                I disagree with much of brushfire post - pushing traditional taste boundaries, even through dirt, isn't stupid or outrageous - but his critique is pretty reasonable and informed.

                                                Personally, I think many places have become a bit too infatuated with modern methods (sous vide, stabilizers) and would do well to focus more on traditional techniques.

                                                1. re: BigBabyYeezuS

                                                  I can respect that. And also, it's "her critique".

                                                2. re: estufarian

                                                  I've always found Sam Mason's food to be delicious. Too bad his restaurant didn't work out. Alex Stupak, another wd50 alumni always made incredible desserts but now cooks food with a much more traditional approach. And lastly, one of the more memorable meal I've had in North America was when Claudio Aprile first started experimenting with molecular gastronomy at Senses. He was just dabbling in it so it wasn't over the top and I enjoyed it very much.

                                                  We get that you like Actinolite estufarian, no one is saying you're wrong. I just happen to agree with FrankD.

                                                  1. re: brushfire

                                                    I followed Sam Mason to Tailor. Thought it was pretty good – best (IMO) of the wd-50 alumni restaurants, none of which bettered the original.

                                                    Alex Stupak ‘wasn’t my thing’. Not overly impressed at Tru (only went twice as I always preferred Trio); several visits to wd-50 (OK) and didn’t follow him to his Mexican adventures post-wd-50. And, to my embarrassment, I was totally unaware of Rosio, although it seems likely that I’ve had some of her work at both Noma and wd-50. But will get back to wd-50 (next week) for a last hurrah.

                                                    But, back to Toronto places, as this is the Ontario Board.

                                                    I thought that Claudio Aprile‘s work at Senses was ‘confusing’. Specifically (but maybe 7 years ago) a dish called ‘Breakfast for Dinner (or similar) which was quite good – except there were ‘extra ingredients’ in the dish that I didn’t understand. I asked the server for an explanation, who said he’d ask chef. Two courses later I asked again. Finally I left an email address. Absolutely no response (of course this could have been a service issue – I’m sure I wrote it up on Chowhound, but can’t find it with a simple search). And Claudio, to my taste anyway, has regularly added extra ingredients that muddy the purer flavours - I’m not sure why.

                                                    In my list of top restos on Chowhound (last January) I had Actinolite in my top 5, so clearly I have been following the evolution there (although I don’t recall anything ground-breakingly molecular – only occasional use of those techniques as appropriate). After half-a-dozen visits I believe I am qualified to critique the restaurant, or a review by a one-time visitor. I’m not claiming any superiority in my review, merely commenting on my multiple experiences. And, if you’re not aware, I have a personal philosophy (mentioned on Chowhound several times) of NOT reviewing any restaurant which I haven’t visited at least twice – everyone has off-nights (including reviewers). The key is to communicate as fairly as possible what to expect. If you check the main Actinolite thread, you’ll find warnings I’ve posted, about the limitations of the longer tasting menu in some seasons – my assessments of Actinolite are (I think) balanced. Anyone starting a new thread leaves themselves open to repetition of points already made on other threads. And, to avoid miscommunication, I will ‘comment on’ a restaurant I’ve visited once if someone else has reviewed it – I just don’t initiate threads after one visit.

                                                    For ‘molecular’ cuisine in Toronto – I miss L.A.B. – IMO the best we had here (and in my Chowhound top 10 in Jan 2011 voting). And before that, the 2006-8 incarnation of Czehoski (with Nathan Isberg).

                                                    And to throw in my favourites, so you can assess my tastes. Best place this year (so far) Akelare. Last year Bras (Laguiole). And in 2012, 41°. All are generally considered to be modernist in approach (to various extents). And the best modernist dish I’ve had in many years (as you seem to favour desserts) was the Botrytis Cinerea dish at Fat Duck (although the rest of the meal seemed to be gimmicky, rather than satisfying).

                                                    1. re: estufarian

                                                      As a note - I think it's important to distinguish "molecular" cooking of the sort that el Bulli and WD-50 did and do from the kind of New Nordic cooking - which is influenced by molecular technique but also hyper-local ingredients and minimalist presentations and techniques - that you see at places like Noma and, I presume, Actinolite.

                                                      Both cuisines can be polarizing, but they're somewhat different.

                                                      To throw in my favourites - best meal of 2013 was Manresa (Schwa was surprisingly close), best meal this year so far is harder but probably Club Chasse et Peche (nipping out Del Posto and Luksus).

                                                      Best Toronto meals have been at Bar Isabel and Edulis and a special dinner that's not really relevant.

                                                      1. re: BigBabyYeezuS

                                                        Manresa was also an extremely memorable meal for me. What an incredible restaurant. I have yet to visit Luksus but am looking forward to it in September. I havn't spent much time in Toronto this year but best Toronto meal this year has been surprisingly, Starfish and not so surprisingly the tasting menu at Chantecler. I enjoyed Bar Isabel in the past but have found food quality to have declined but still good.

                                                        1. re: brushfire

                                                          Funny, I think that Isabel is better than ever. I've basically stopped ordering the "classics" and only order the new and seasonal dishes. I go on about the Iberico, but I think it's the best dish I've had in Toronto in recent memory.

                                                          All of this is reminding me that I really need to get over to Actinolite. We tend to eat more spontaneously, and Actinolite is not a place you just pop into.

                                                          Estu - shame about your last Manresa meal. Schwa surprised me - such clear, aggressive flavours, such a great atmosphere. Not the "best", I agree, but incredibly enjoyable.

                                                        2. re: BigBabyYeezuS

                                                          Manresa (last year) was very disappointing - my third visit and by far the worst. Schwa is fantastic - it's possibly my favourite place in North America (but not the 'Best'). Replaced wd-50 in my heart.
                                                          I nearly didn't write this - but why censor myself - best meal in Toronto was ....... Actinolite!

                                                        3. re: estufarian

                                                          My meal at Senses was my first foray into molecular gastronomy which probably made it especially memorable. But even now I sometimes think about the bread course that was served that night. It was so good. Hollow bread with smoked tomato, cheddar foam, basil and dried black olives. A delicious bite. The desserts were also incredible. A chocolate dessert with chocolate snow and a vanilla parfait with shiso.

                                                          My meal at LAB however was totally unmemorable. The only thing I recall from the meal was the terrible citrus dessert. Hollowed out orange rind filled with citrus jelly and cut into wedges to resemble wedges of orange. The texture of all wrong. The jelly was too stiff. Anyway, this is getting off topic.

                                                          Actinolite's white chocolate and porcini dessert was delicious. The only dish in my meal that I thought was worth eating again.

                                                      2. re: estufarian

                                                        I also didn't say I didn't enjoy wd50 or any of those other restaurants. In fact, some of the most interesting desserts I've ever had was a dessert tasting at wd50 by their ex pastry chef Rosio Sanchez. Sure, I've had tastier but I enjoyed my experience. And then once again, when I got the pleasure to taste Rosio's work again at noma, and that time it was DELICIOUS!

                                                        So estufarian, should I name a few more restaurant that I've enjoyed but found the food to be not that satisfying?

                                                        1. re: estufarian

                                                          Oh, what the hell. I'll name one more because it's so good.

                                                          Bo Innovation, Alvin Leung's infamous "sex on the beach" dish. Definitely enjoyable, definitely not to my taste.

                                              2. re: FrankD

                                                "You are paying for the explanations, and not the food. If that's what you're looking for, you'll enjoy Actinolite"

                                                That may be the most ridiculous statement I've ever read on Chowhound, ever.

                                                1. re: justxpete

                                                  I disagree,I feel like that is the most valid statement to explain the current Toronto foodie culture...

                                                  1. re: pourboi

                                                    Glad I don't consider myself a "Foodie", then.

                                                    And really? You don't think the food at Actinolite is worth more than the verbal descriptions when given the dish?

                                                    Maybe food isn't your thing.

                                                    1. re: justxpete

                                                      How much would you pay for a "four-inch quarter of a cucumber, adorned with berries and herbs" how "well" can that be prepared that it is worth $10 unless you are in a setting where you get the eloquent chefs description of the dish?

                                                      If you were to walk down the street and someone popped out of a new unknown (to you) restaurant door and offered that to you and you had no clue who the chef was or what went into that dish and you could not see if the restaurant was a greasy spoon or fine dining you just saw the cucumber and herbs on a paper plate. Would you hand over $10 to try it?

                                                      And PS this is a "Foodie" website that you post so much on.. You may not consider yourself a Foodie but I bet many other people you know would call you that..

                                                      1. re: pourboi

                                                        There are lots of restaurants in this city that I would go after for their concept - the cynical and dishonest Playa Cabana restaurants, flashy restaurants that knock off much better places in other cities, etc. - but knocking a chef-owned place serving challenging, ambitious and modern food for serving challenging, ambitious and modern food is a bit odd.

                                                        It's fair to criticize the restaurant's execution, but of all the restaurants to criticize as a concept, Actinolite is an odd target.

                                                        1. re: BigBabyYeezuS

                                                          So is it the food or the thought of the food that you like? What if it was not chef owned? what if it was a dish at a SirCorp restaurant where the waiter just plopped down the same 1/4 cucumber and walked away? is it still worth $10?

                                                          1. re: pourboi

                                                            Do you think that the only thing they did for that dish was cut some cucumber and put it on a plate????????????

                                                            1. re: pourboi

                                                              I think restaurants like Actinolite that attempt to earnestly serve personal, ambitious and modern food are restaurants that are worth supporting as a concept. Call me when The Chase group starts serving original and ambitious food.

                                                              Actinolite - from everything I've read - is cooking in a modern style that is very popular right now. If you're dismissing Actinolite as a concept, you're also dismissing Noma, Luksus and even places like Manresa or Blue Hill. I guess it's fair to dismiss that kind of food, and it's definitely fair to dismiss a restaurant that you don't think executes that kind of food well, but realize that your criticisms of Actinolite's concept represent criticisms of some of the world's most acclaimed restaurants. Don't confuse your personal dislike of a style of cooking with valid criticisms of a restaurant's concept. If I don't like fried food of any kind, I'm not going to like a tempura restaurant, but that doesn't mean that tempura is a bad idea.

                                                            2. re: BigBabyYeezuS

                                                              "but knocking a chef-owned place serving challenging, ambitious and modern food for serving challenging, ambitious and modern food is a bit odd."

                                                              Forgive me if I didn't make myself clear. I was invited to this restaurant for a party. No one informed me that this was a temple to 'challenging, ambitious, and modern food'; I thought it was a restaurant. I thought the primary reason for a restaurant was to serve tasty food. I found a few of the dishes at Actinolite very good, and I said so specifically in my review. I found a few of the dishes virtually inedible, and I said so specifically in my review. I found all the portion sizes ridiculously small, and I don't consider myself a big eater (i.e. I order 8 or 10 oz steaks, not 16 or 24 oz, usually have an appetizer or dessert but not both, etc.), and said so specifically in my review. I found the explanations poorly delivered (I couldn't hear half of them), poorly timed, and dare I say "precious". And I'm going to quote my penultimate paragraph:

                                                              "I know there are some who truly appreciate this type of dinner theatre; my elder daughter is one. To those, I say: you will most likely enjoy Actinolite a great deal. To people who go out to eat with the idea of enjoying their friends' company over good food (and to whom half the fun is swapping a bit of your duckling for a bit of your friend's tournedo), you will find too many interruptions, not enough food, and no choices."

                                                              I stand by that. It's a fair assessment, and it's clearly directed at the hundreds of people here who belong to the second group I described. You uber-foodies should be glad that I'm helping people who won't enjoy it avoid Actinolite; it will help you get reservations when you want.

                                                              1. re: FrankD

                                                                I am reviving this thread because I ate at Actinoline for the first time last weekend. I am not the best person for tasting menus because there are many foods I do not eat. But I was invited to go along and was happy to spend the evening with good people. And while I understand the concept of tasting menus it would be nice if there was an alternative available for courses where the food is not eaten by the diner.

                                                                I am replying to this particular post because I too found the courses to be unbelievably small in size. My main course, the lamb, was extremely tasty and gone in about four bites. Sorry to those who think that serving miniscule portions of tasty food is acceptable, but for the prices charged, it is not! Good thing we stopped on the way home after dinner for more food, which was eaten by the entire table of six people, who were all still hungry.

                                                                The service was excellent. The advice re the wine was good. The explanations were clear and audible. But I left hungry. Surely there must be a balance between the tasting menu concept and having those partaking leaving the restaurant satiated...and I hope Actinolite finds it.

                                                                1. re: Attknee

                                                                  Thank you for posting and I do empathize with some of your concern pertaining to portion sizes. I too was left pseudo-hungry after the meal!
                                                                  However, I found out a while back, in this day and age of funky nouveau cuisine, molecular gastronomy and multi-course tasting menu, the formula and relationship that normally correlates price with portion size no longer works. Chefs tend to emphasize and charge accordingly for complexity of preparation, exotic and rarity of ingredients used rather than quantity.
                                                                  In fact, I recall years ago, my tasting menu at El Bulli left me only partially full and still yearning for food afterwards. Not to mention the meal costs me an arm and a leg at that time!

                                              3. re: estufarian

                                                Now, I am really curious about the "soil" component.

                                                Was it in a small mound, mixed in with the potatoes to a certain extent? What exactly was the server's explanation?

                                          2. That location on the wrong end of Ossington must be killing them. Hallam isn't so much rough as just plain dismal.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Kagemusha

                                              It won't be the 'wrong' end of Ossington for long...