What’s on the menu at Astoria, a new French-American bistro inside the Great Hall

What’s on the menu at Astoria, a new French-American bistro inside the Great Hall

It replaces Otto’s Bierhalle

A neon sign advertises Astoria, a French bistro in Toronto

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Name: Astoria
Contact: 1087 Queen St. W., 416-538-9090, astoriagreathall.com, @astoriagreathall
Neighbourhood: Queen West
Previously: Otto’s Bierhalle
Owners: Adrian Montes de Oca (Milou), Rob Dyer and Spencer McMahon
Chef: Shivam Munjal (Bar Poet)
Accessibility: Not fully accessible

When Adrian Montes de Oca, Rob Dyer and Spencer McMahaon took over the former Otto’s Bierhalle space on Queen West, they wanted to create a concept that celebrated the building’s historical roots. The restaurant is on the main floor of the Great Hall, which was originally built in 1889 as a meeting space for the Toronto West End YMCA.

Three men stand next to each other in a tavern
From left: Adrian Montes de Oca, manager and operating partner Ian Kennedy, and head chef Shivam Munjal.

Related: Six of the city’s best new bistros and brasseries

“We had a strong vision,” says Montes de Oca, who partnered with Dyer and McMahon of Bar Poet, which is located right across the street, for the project. “We came together to create a space we felt belonged in the Great Hall.” This meant stripping back the minimalist makeover the restaurant had been given during its time as Otto’s. “It was about working with its age, working with its history and enhancing it,” says Montes de Oca.

The inspiration for Astoria’s soul-warming cuisine came from a desire to echo the building’s timeless aesthetic. “The place feels nostalgic, and we wanted the food to match that,” says Montes de Oca. “We weren’t trying to reinvent the wheel—just revisit the idea of a historic place with classic food and do it well.”

A spread of dishes and cocktails on a table at a French restaurant

The food

Astoria’s self-described “French-American bistro” fare leans heavily on French staples with occasional comfort-food influence from other cuisines. “We stayed away from reinterpreting dishes or making them current,” says Montes de Oca. “They’re all classic dishes.”

A loaf of pull-apart bread served with a pat of butter and Maldon salt
This brioche pull-apart bread is a show-stopping starter. It’s served with some Maldon salt and a pat of house-cultured butter stamped with an “A” for Astoria. $9.50

 

A half-dozen oysters with mignonette, hot sauce and horseradish
These Bijou oysters from New Brunswick come with a Merlot mignonette, fresh horseradish, a mini bottle of Tabasco and a lemon wedge. $19

 

Caesar salad topped with candied guanciale, white anchovies and garlic croutons
Munjal favours the crunchier texture of baby gem lettuce over romaine for his riff on caesar salad. The greens get a boost of umami from his anchovy-laden dressing. The salad is crowned with candied guanciale, white anchovies and garlic croutons. $22

 

Charred broccolini served with horseradish cream and lemon
A side of charred broccolini is served with a dollop of horseradish cream, a lemon wedge and sunflower seeds. $12

 

French onion soup topped with chives
Astoria’s French onion soup stays true to tradition. It’s made with a 48-hour beef broth, sweet Vidalia onions, crostini and Gruyère; baked; and finished with a sprinkle of chives. $17

 

An order of moules frites at a French restaurant
Moules frites is a tried-and-true bistro favourite, but Munjal deviates from the traditional preparation here, presenting the PEI mussels in a tomato-based sauce spiked with chilies to impart a bit of heat. $26

 

Duck confit served with creamed potatoes and charred broccolini and corn on the cob
Another French classic: duck confit. It’s dry-brined and cured for 24 to 36 hours, then confited in duck fat. It’s served swimming in a 48-hour jus along with creamed potatoes, roasted pearl onions, and charred broccolini and corn on the cob. $30

 

Steak frites
No frilly flourishes for this steak frites, just perfectly grilled USDA Prime flank steak topped with a quenelle of café de Paris butter. On the side: sautéed spinach, house-made fries and Maldon salt. $35

 

Chocolate mousse topped with whipped cream
This creamy, dreamy chocolate mousse is made with whipping cream, sugar, dark chocolate and egg whites. It’s finished with a generous swirl of whipped cream, then dusted with toasted pistachios and cocoa powder. $14

 

The drinks

The cocktail menu stays grounded in the familiar while introducing a few subtle twists to the usual standards. Wines are primarily easy-drinking French bottles that play well with the menu’s hearty bistro fare. There’s also a well-stocked back bar with a wide selection of tequila and whiskey, plus $10 martini Happy Hours every day of the week.

A cocktail made with Chambord raspberry liqueur, passionfruit juice, lemon juice, egg whites and simple syrup
The Passionfruit Sour is a fruit-forward play on a gin sour, made with Chambord raspberry liqueur, passionfruit and lemon juices, simple syrup, and egg whites. $14

 

A purple-hued margarita made with Empress gin, mezcal, Cointreau and lavender syrup
This Lavender Mezcal Margarita is another soft spin on a classic. It features purple-hued Empress Gin, mezcal, Cointreau, house-made lavender syrup, lavender-citrus bitters, and grapefruit and lime juices. $18

 

A pear martini
The fruit focus continues with the Pear Martini, a mellower version of the straight-up tipple made with pear-infused vodka, brandy, dry vermouth, vanilla syrup and orange bitters. $18

 

A glass of beer sits on a table surrounded by plates of food
Astoria also has a strong seasonal beer program, including local and European brews that pair naturally with French food

 

The space

The team’s transformation of Astoria’s interior was about uncovering its remarkable original features. Drywall was torn down to reveal original wallpaper, and the whitewash paint was stripped from the walls and ceiling to unveil their historic details.

The dining room and bar of a French bistro

The bar inside a French restaurant

Shelves above the bar at a restaurant are stocked with liquor bottles and glassware

The dining room of a French restaurant is outfitted with leather banquettes, mirrors and a tin ceiling

Leather banquette seating inside a moodily lit French restaurant

A closeup of a table setting at French bistro

A painting hangs on a wall over banquette seating at a French restaurant

A mural of a tree painted on a brick wall inside a restaurant

Guests dine at two tables and in booths at a French restaurant

A restaurant dining room is lit by wall sconces and candles

A rainy street scene lit by the glow of a neon sign