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.