Introducing: Ortolan, a tiny new restaurant in Bloordale
With a name nodding to a notorious old-world culinary delicacy, Ortolan quietly opened its doors two weeks ago in the space formerly occupied by Kathy’s Kitchen in Bloordale Village. Taking a little bit of Ossington with them, chef-owners Damon Clements (Delux) and Daniel Usher (Pizzeria Libretto) have pooled their respective experiences in French and Italian cuisines to branch out on their own on the quickly changing strip between Dufferin and Lansdowne.
Seating a mere 26, Ortolan feels as tiny as its namesake bird, with dark wood and white walls playing off the industrial lighting. Four of the metal bar stools face outward, giving patrons a perch from which to watch the activity on the street. So far, Clements is impressed with the open-minded customers who have, surely by accident, found their way into the unmarked restaurant. “We were tired of cooking for the masses,” he told us. Instead, he intends to serve rustic, “old-school” fare his way. “It’s not going to be clean or pretty if that’s not the way it tastes.” However, gutsy gluttons take note: the restaurant will not be serving its (illegal) namesake avian delicacy.
When we visited, the short chalkboard menu featured sardines done two ways ($8), cicoria and anchovy (7$), and raddichio done “veneto style” (7$). Mains change frequently, but currently include a branzino with lemon butter ($17) and a flat iron steak with salsa verde ($16). Desserts, dubbed “Sweet Nothings,” include well-known staples like chocolate mousse and poached pear tartelette (all $8).
There is equal focus in the wine selections with several local and French options, all served by the glass. An unconventional Bordeaux Blanc ($9 per glass) and Niagara Zweigelt ($8 per glass) stand out on the predominantly French list. Two Mill Street beers on tap and two options by the bottle round out the beverage choices.
When we dropped by, we couldn’t help but spy Guy Rawlings, fresh from his stint as chef at Brockton General, getting ready to wait tables that night (perhaps in preparation for the opening of his own new restaurant? he wouldn’t say). In a move familiar to Black Hoof patrons, Ortolan will not be accepting reservations or credit cards.
Ortolan, 1211 Bloor St. W., 647-348-4500.
24 thoughts on “Introducing: Ortolan, a tiny new restaurant in Bloordale”
I’ve lived in Toronto for almost 50 years and never heard of “Bloordale” before this.
where is the area called Bloordale, pls define?
Neighbourhood names often change as the neighbourhoods themselves change and develop. Bloordale, as stated at the end first paragraph is the “quickly changing strip between Dufferin and Lansdowne.”
If you need to ask where Bloordale is, this restaurant’s probably not for you ;)
Why Vincent I’d say that’s rather cheeky
Guy Rawlings celebrity chef…..only in Bore-onto
Seriously, never heard of Bloordale? I think it’s actually written on the road signs there. I’m with Vincent.
LATIN FOR NOWHERE
I went to this place a couple weeks ago. I’ve lived in the neighbourhood for year and I have to say the service was pretentious at best. I had the feeling I wasn’t cool enough. I miss Kathy’s Kitchen.
And by the way, we’ve always called “Bloordale”, Emerson-Wallace. It comes from the two streets that intersect the neighbourhood.
People, come on. Why are you so focused on the neighborhood name. Let’s just say the restaurant is on Bloor Street between Dufferin and Landsdowne. I’d like to actually read a comment about the food.
Has anyone seen the review of Ortolon at Blogto? It is a real eye-opener.
Who cares what to call the area. The main thing is the restaurant.I went there and found the food to be superb!! The service was friendly and very helpful. I saw that other post at Blogto and think there must be something wrong with the person who wrote. The food is amazing but so was the service.Our server was very welcoming, informative and very patient answering any questions we had. So I think people should go and see for themselves how wonderful this place is.
@Torrey: totally agree, we had a similar experience when we went a couple of weeks ago. I’m really surprised by the scathing review at BlogTO. Go for yourselves and see!
Resto sounds lovely. But I thought the area was called Blandsdown ;-)
I had the chance to eat at Orlotan recently and loved it. Great food and reasonable prices. Also, some very interesting wine options. Reminds me of some the amazing small places in the West Village, NYC.
Why name the restaurant after such a bizarre and cruel practice- eating a rare bird without any concern for sustainability or compassion? There are lots of other restaurants that don’t try so hard to be cool that i will give my money to.
some of us call that ‘hood “blansdowne”…
(really, only about eight people call it that, but i think it’s got a certain ring to it – i’d settle for wallace-emerson or bloordale, i guess).
I stumbled into this little place and had a great dinner at the bar…super friendly staff here….not sure how one could have such a negative opinion of this very welcomed addition to our neighborhood (which is more known for being spooky to outsiders).
Paula’s hatred of names likely stems from her parents decision to feminize a male name for her…such actions by parents are clearly not sustainable, renewable, positively outcome based or collaborative (feel free to add any other cutesy “feel good” words you learned last year).
The restaurant is a real treasure.
First, there young chefs are taking a gamble in a neighbourhood that, while gentrifying, is still very much run-down commercially.
Second, the space is quite beautiful, warm and inviting. A far cry from the demon of Cathy’s Kitchen that was exorcised.
Third, and most importantly, the food is utterly fantastic and presented in a constantly evolving menu that appears to reflect seasonal selections. Few restaurants boast such creative, intriguing offers on a night to night basis. Plus, everything I tried was delicious and if, in one or two instances, it was not delicious to my palette, it was certainly interesting and worthwhile to explore new flavours.
Four, the wine selection is refined and exceptional.
Five, the people are friendly and enjoy what they are doing.
The best thing about these editorials are reading the comments. They make every piece worth reading
After reading several reviews of Ortolan I made my way there last night. My first impression was that of surprise at the hairy maitre d’ standing outside the entrance. He was wearing a mint green sleeveless shirt, his look more apt for a bar than that of a fine restaurant. My second impression was of being disrespected as a party of only two since he was unwilling to seat the two of us at a table rather than at bar stools even though it was early in the evening and half the restaurant ended up remaining empty for the duration of our stay.
I wouldn’t call the establishment pretentious as in other reviews since the quality is there. Portions are very small and prices quite high but definitely worth it! There is an arrogance though in such things as the chalkboard only menu, listing many dishes without descriptions that very few customers would recognize as well as the efficient but unfriendly wait staff.
Looking past that there was a comfortable atmosphere with a simple, elegant decor and Motown and Dire Straits on the stereo.The food and wine were all that I expected and more. The Bordeaux blanc and the Rose were unusual and lovely, the gnocchi with mushrooms was delicate, the radish salad with dill and cumin was fresh and tasty, and the skirt steak was tasty with lemon and garlic although a bit stringy as it is known to be.
The dessert wine, Kracher Beerenauslese Cuvee was excellent as was the raspberry, almond Fool and the chocolate, hazelnut Torte served with whip crème and red currant puree.
I highly recommend a trip to “Bloordale” for a taste sensation!
Just had a delicious meal at Ortolan the other night. The food was what like the article described, rustic and flavourful. The service was great too—very nice and welcoming server who seemed genuinely almost excited to share the food with us. On paper the concept of no reservations, limited menu may sound pretentious but get over it and enjoy the goodness! Great meal at a reasonable price point without having to dress up.
Bloordale’s coming around…
I have been to Ortolan at least three times now. Food is always great and I appreciate that the portions are smallish — it means i can sample and actually order an app and main and think about desert too and not feel like a glutton. I’d call the sizing “elegant”. Service is just fine. Wish it were a bit bigger so there wasn’t that moment of awkwardness while they try to decide where to seat you (a place this small has to maximize). But on the other hand, you get to dine in a place that’s intimate. Gnocchi is superb and they do fine things with vegetables. Great wines by glass.
If you dont’ know where my ‘hood is or are afreaid, that’s ok. Keep away. I love it the way it is.
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