With Acadia, Scott Selland and Matt Blondin aim to shake up conservative Toronto palates

With Acadia, Scott Selland and Matt Blondin aim to shake up conservative Toronto palates

Blondin and Selland, fomenting revolution (Image: Will Fournier)

Despite the ethnic diversity of cuisine in Toronto, the city’s dining scene sometimes comes under fire for its lack of innovation. Acadia, a new venture by first-time owner Scott Selland (Splendido, Colborne Lane, Susur) and chef Matt Blondin (Colborne Lane, Senses, Rain), hopes to change that by bringing the unique flavour profiles of the east coast—from Louisiana and both Carolinas all the way up to the Maritimes—to Toronto’s sometimes conservative palate. We caught up with the pair to find out just what they’re up to.

Selland, who assisted Claudio Aprile with the launch of Origin, will act as Acadia’s general manager, while Blondin will take the reins as the restaurant’s chef de cuisine. The pair came together because of a shared interest in expanding what they see as the city’s complacent culinary scene. “The last thing we wanted to do was to open up another restaurant that people are already doing,” Selland told us. “We were looking for the next wave.”

For that they looked south, namely to Lowcountry and southern cuisine. In particular, they noticed the growing interest in New Orleans places like Donald Link’s Cochon and John Besh’s Restaurant August, as well as Emeril Lagasse and Paul Prudhomme’s championing of Cajun flavours more generally. Referencing Charleston’s Sean Brock (McCrady’s, Husk) as a source of inspiration, Blondin explains, “We’re trying to make it so much larger than just fried chicken—we feel that southern influences in style and culture could transfer well into Canada, but we’ll be putting our own touches on it. I’m of French-Canadian heritage so I have some influences with the Canadian side of it.” Think andouille sausage, alongside sustainable east coast aquaculture including crawfish, New England shellfish, crab roe and meats from Snake River Farms and cereal grains from Anson Mills.

While they maintain that Acadia will be a food-focused establishment, they’ll also be serving carefully selected brews and craft cocktails similar to the 1907 Chatham Artillery Punch experienced by diners at this past weekend’s Charlie’s Burgers.

The restaurant, which is slated to open this July, will be located in the vacated Langolino space on Clinton north of College. Selland explains that the location was ideal for its ample summer foot traffic as well as the enthusiastic locals. It’s also been undergoing something of a dining revolution with businesses such as Frank’s Kitchen and Woodlot. While the building frame will remain the same, the space has been gutted, and new kitchen and bar equipment will be installed. Large windows allow for ample natural light into the 42-seat dining room, which will be opened for dinner service six days of the week (including Sundays). Despite having a patio, the pair will focus on the dining room first and launch the patio next year.

“Opening any place is a challenge,” says Blondin, “but we’re putting faith in the hands of Torontonians, hoping that they’ll have an open mind. I think the concept we have will be received very well.” Selland adds, “In no way are we trying to play up the novelty of it. This is cuisine that’s well founded; it’s not a trick or a flash in the pan. I’m sure there’s going to be a learning curve, but someone’s got to do it first.”

Acadia, 50C Clinton St., acadiarestaurant.com.