Just Opened: we review O&B Canteen and Brockton General
1321 Dundas St. W., 647-342-6104
The usual rules of running a restaurant don’t apply at this tiny former sports bar on Dundas West: the only decorative item of note is a decrepit poster of a Portuguese soccer team, the plates are mismatched china (the best of them are decorated with fluffy baby animals), and the daily menu of just three or four small-portioned entrées is written on butcher paper hanging from the wall.
And yet the place, which is run by plucky first-time restaurateurs Brie Read and Pam Thomson, is also one of the most enjoyable openings of this past year, in no small part because of the cooking. Chef Guy Rawlings (the former chef de cuisine at Cowbell) does country food, for lack of a better term, with urban panache: puckery pickled white turnips that show a blush of pink in their middles; beguiling anchovy- and garlic-enriched white bean mash with smoky grilled bread; house-made lamb sausage grilled to medium and topped with charred scallions.
Excellent fresh maltagliati (like pappardelle, but irregularly shaped) is tossed with chopped tomato, roasted hot and sweet peppers, mint and shiso—it’s cucina povera by way of Japan. A crostino Rawlings made this summer, with toasted walnuts, Cape Vessey cheese, tender sultanas, anchovy and walnut purée, and a soft poached egg, was so good it was impossible to stop at just one order.
The chef recently completed a month-long pastry stage at WD50, a cutting-edge restaurant in NYC, and his desserts—including a pear and rosemary tart made with fruit from a friend’s backyard tree and fried brioche with kefir and Rosewood Estates honey—taste like a super-sophisticated fall fair. The cocktails are good (the crabapple and Zubrówka vodka is genius), and the playlist (Coeur de Pirate, Arcade Fire, Carla Bruni) will make you want to run to Soundscapes for a nightcap. Limited wine list. Closed Monday and Tuesday. Mains $13–$19.
330 King St. W., 647-288-4710
The name Canteen feels a bit regimental, especially considering Oliver and Bonacini’s new spot in the Bell Lightbox is bright, casual and airy with almost prodigally high ceilings. It has a large and beautifully stocked takeout counter, though it’s certain to become the go-to sit-down lunch place in a neighbourhood that’s thronged with office workers desperate for better dining options.
Executive chef Jason Bangerter, brought in from O&B’s Auberge du Pommier, has created an all-day menu that runs from egg wraps to braised meats, daily pastas and thin-crust pizzas. Everything is fresh, fast and light—comforting without leaning too heavily on comfort food clichés.
The house-smoked salmon sandwich on Alsatian pretzel bread suffers from too much bread, too little taste. But salads are dynamite: tender chickpeas with marinated artichokes and mellow garlic, for example, or roasted beets with toasted hazelnuts, tarragon and superb rice wine and hazelnut oil vinaigrette. Mussels in a basic white wine and herb broth are excellent, served in a flame orange Le Creuset pot (the outlay on gentrified cast iron here must have been substantial; Le Creuset dishes, pots and tajines form a key decorative element). Short, affordable wine list and decent caffeine options, including excellent house iced tea.