What’s on the menu at The Wood Owl, a new Danforth wine bar from the team behind The Wren

What’s on the menu at The Wood Owl, a new Danforth wine bar from the team behind The Wren

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Name: The Wood Owl
Contact: 1380 Danforth Ave., @thewoodowlto
Neighbourhood: Danforth
Owners: Dennis Kimeda and Rhonda Wade-Kimeda (The Wren)
Chef: Tabitha Cranney (The Wren)
Seating: 45
Covid-19 safety measures: Frequent sanitization, physically distanced tables, contact tracing
Accessibility: Fully accessible

The food

Wood Owl’s tight food menu is designed to complement its wine list. Ingredients are locally sourced when possible (purveyors are listed on a mirror in the dining room) and incorporates a wide range of culinary influences: French, Spanish, Korean and South American, among others. Whether you want a snack with a quick glass of wine—the regularly updated cheese or charcuterie plates are good choices for nibbling—or a three-course meal complete with steak and chocolate cake, you’ll find something to fit the bill. All around, the plates are lighter and more refined than what you’ll find next door at The Wren, but retain this team’s signature focus on big flavours and thoughtful details.

The corn-flour-dredged, za’atar-spiced eggplant frites are lighter than their potato cousins, but delightfully crisp straight out of the fryer and a good complement to verdant herbed tahini and sweet, addictive red onion jam. $12.

 

Here we have a mid-assembly Provençal summer squash salad.

 

And the finished dish. Roasted zucchini and pattypan squash sit on smoky charred cabbage and a pool of cashew green goddess dressing. It’s finished with puffed wild rice, capers, and panisse—a fried chickpea paste popular in the south of France. Mint, chives and pea shoots give the salad an herbal note. $16.

 

Some of the charcuterie options are cured in house.

 

Check out the charming mirror menu for the day’s offerings.

 

The rockfish crudo gets a hit of lime before it goes out.

 

It’s an umami bomb—the fish has a fresh, neutral flavour, perfect for showcasing its punchy companions: namely nori-infused oil, furikake, bonito, lime and chili. Creamy chunks of avocado and crunchy toasted sesame seeds finish it off. $15.

 

Charred slivers of rainbow trout are smoky as it comes without being overwhelming, tempered by local cucumbers marinated in buttermilk, chive oil, chives and pickled shallots. Those tiny, adorable green things are cucamelons—also known as mouse melons—which taste a bit like cucumber dipped in lime. $22.

A cut of skirt steak grilling to perfection. Cranney favours skirt steak for its deep flavour—cooked right, it also practically falls apart when you cut it across the grain.

 

Here we have the steak with pommes allumettes: a take on steak frites, and Wood Owl’s heartiest entrée. Grilled skirt steak, seasoned simply with salt and pepper, is smothered in a demi-glace infused with roasted mushrooms, which are also served on the meat. It comes with crispy matchstick potatoes and a dollop of zingy house-made horseradish. $23.

 

And a whole spread.

 

Chef Tabitha Cranney.

 

Co-owner Dennis Kimeda, at the bar.
The drinks

For the wine program, relatively under-appreciated regions are sommelier Darryl Crawford’s raison d’etre. “I like to showcase producers who punch way above their weight for the region,” he says. “In general, I lean towards minerality over fruit, and texture over intensity.” One standout is the organic 2018 Iroulèguy Domaine Ilarria “Rouge”—probably the closest thing to a Bordeaux outside of Bordeaux, and at a more accessible price point. There’s also a small selection of local beer and a few wine-based cocktails.

Part of Wood Owl’s small selection of wine cocktails, the Adonis is a lightly sweet, boozy mix of Oloroso sherry, sweet vermouth, and orange bitters. $14.

 

Sommelier Darryl Crawford
The space

There is, unsurprisingly, a lot of hardwood in this restaurant—floor, bar, wall panelling—giving the room an approachably upscale feel. The space is flooded with warm light (think fun lamps and antique chandeliers); it’s a cozy vibe perfect for sipping a glass of good wine (or three).