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Restaurants

Actinolite

Posted by Anna Rose Kowalski / Reviewed on April 17, 2012 / review policy

Actinolite RestaurantActinolite has been in the works for a long time. Finally opening at the end of March, the neighbourhood bistro at Ossington and Hallam has been packed most nights since the garbage bags formerly covering its floor-to-ceiling windows were mercifully removed to reveal the airy and minimalist space. The work of Justin Cournoyer and wife Claudia Bianchi, their respective backgrounds as a chef and food stylist make for a formidable ownership team.

Actinolite RestaurantActinolite is named after the quaint mining town where Cournoyer spent his youth falling in love with food in the most natural ways — he grew it, fished it, and hunted it. This deep-rooted appreciation for food at its most basic level is quickly apparent on the menu, which puts fresh ingredients at the forefront without much by way of pretension or forced fussiness.

Actinolite RestaurantWe start the meal with the artichoke, sunchoke salad ($12) and the sautéed shrimp brandade ($14). The salad is composed of pickled artichokes, steamed sunchokes, pan fried confit shiitake mushrooms, romaine lettuce, canola aioli, broiled asparagus and is dressed ever so lightly with a shiitake, radish and black olive vinaigrette. The salad is next level - served noticeably cold and offering fresh, crisp satisfaction with each bite.

Actinolite RestaurantAs good as the salad is, the shrimp brandade is a show-stopper. Brandade is a salt cod puree that has the consistency of mashed potatoes. Here it's paired with a basil, black olive, and red pepper sauce, which gives the dish is given a welcome kick. Marinated with orange and basil, the shrimp's subtle diversity on the palate brings the dish together perfectly.

The appetizers are a home run, and the mains look equally as inviting. The roast chicken breast and red wine braised leg ($22, lead photo) is coated in a romesco, sunchoke, sweet garlic and black olive sauce. The meat is coupled with roasted sunchokes and spring onion. The dish is homey but not particularly exciting — nevertheless the chicken is cooked flawlessly, holding a moist texture that's enhanced by the wine-based sauce.

Actinolite RestaurantThe grilled grass fed veal T-bone ($26) is more exciting on paper, but the dish doesn't quite deliver on my excitement. The aged veal has a charred fat characteristic and the asparagus is overcooked. The panko-crusted onion and creamed spinach, however, is delectable.

Actinolite RestaurantThe steamed Georgian Bay white fish ($24) is the hot ticket item tonight. The meat is juicy and flakes onto my fork. The black lentils and spring leeks make for just enough food to make you satisfied but not stuffed. Topped with a black trumpet morel paste and lemon carrot sauce, the flavours are invigorating.

Actinolite RestaurantConcluding the meal we order the pavlova with grapefruit ($9) and the olive oil cake ($9). Hello sour town, the pavlova is made with grapefruit cream, grapefruit confit, fresh grapefruit segments and pink peppercorns. Whisked to perfection, the crunchy outer layer of the pavlova melts in my mouth.

Actinolite RestaurantThe olive oil cake is matched with roasted rhubarb, homemade strawberry ice cream and lavender syrup. This slice of heaven will have dessert naysayers biting their tongues. The cake is thick with a slight olive oil taste while the rhubarb is tart and the ice cream is sweet.

Actinolite is still working out a few of the kinks that come along with a new restaurant, but this spot is obviously a star in the making. If you are in the market for a wholesome meal, Actinolite is a must-try.

Actinolite RestaurantActinolite Restaurant

Discussion

29 Comments

foodie k. / March 30, 2012 at 10:15 am
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There is an actual full review by Jessie Allen here:
http://www2.macleans.ca/2012/03/29/animal-vegetable-and-mineral/
cosmosuave / April 17, 2012 at 11:37 am
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Looks great... Do they take reservations?
Cosgrove / April 17, 2012 at 04:11 pm
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Is this restaurant kid-friendly?
gr1 replying to a comment from cosmosuave / April 17, 2012 at 04:16 pm
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Accordingly to their FB about page, linked above, they 'Take Reservations' and 'Walk-Ins Welcome'.
samantha / April 17, 2012 at 06:13 pm
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Thanks foodie for posting a real review..This "reviewer" needs to read a real example of one
TG replying to a comment from samantha / April 17, 2012 at 07:36 pm
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Am I missing something? The Maclean's article is just an interview and background info, not even close to a review. Anna's post is exactly what a review should be... "Look/Eat/Critique".
Steph replying to a comment from TG / April 17, 2012 at 07:50 pm
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I'm with you on that one, TG! The food looks fantastic-- can't wait to get there!
Chris / April 17, 2012 at 07:51 pm
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When I saw the Twitter link for this, I thought for a second you had reviewed the restaurant the Greyhound buses always stop at, half-way to Ottawa.

That makes it an odd name for a trendy place on Ossington ...
Brooke / April 17, 2012 at 08:59 pm
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great article. Lovely photos. Extremely attractive couple in that last photo.
Brooke / April 17, 2012 at 09:00 pm
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Great article. Lovely photos. Extremely attractive couple in the last picture.
wow / April 18, 2012 at 05:18 am
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Its mind boggling how many new restaurants have been opening up isn't it!
Nevets replying to a comment from Cosgrove / April 18, 2012 at 09:17 am
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Kid Friendly? NO!
WTF replying to a comment from Brooke / April 19, 2012 at 03:19 pm
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Me thinks you need some glasses... just sayin'
WTF replying to a comment from Brooke / April 19, 2012 at 03:20 pm
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last comment was for Brooke.
Magnus Bane / June 12, 2012 at 06:31 pm
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I think that people get overly worked up about things that dont matter. relax people. The food looks great, the staff is great, what else do you want?
Johnny Johnny / June 29, 2012 at 06:18 pm
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"The shrimp's subtle diversity"? What the hell does that mean? Plus, you tease us with the fact this restaurant is working out kinks, yet you give us none of the dirt. What's negative about this place? Did they buy you off?

PS -- Your editor (if you have one) missed a pretty bad typo when you described the shrimp brandade: "which gives the dish is given a welcome kick."
Ad / August 20, 2012 at 10:42 pm
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Chef thinks too much of himself. He scolded our table for requesting a medium rare steak that had pink inside, stating "this is how i cook medium rare". He stared down my friend and was rude and dismissed our tables concerns about his meal. We obviously didn't deserve his food. The owners are better than everyone and we are lucky they bless us with their existence. Here are two restaurant owners who do not appreciate their customers. You are better off going anywhere else for a meal, and will probably be treated better at MacDonalds.
mayor dodge replying to a comment from Ad / August 21, 2012 at 11:53 am
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Maybe you should have looked the fool in the eye and said that "this is how I like my steak, go and cook it, that's what you are paid for."
If he gave you any guff, throw the menu down and walk out. There are too many good places in T.O. to tolerate his kind of crap. Oh, and thanks for the warning - I've crossed this dump off my list for sure.
Ad replying to a comment from mayor dodge / August 22, 2012 at 05:20 pm
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The Chef is the owner and has a bit too much chutzpah. Our table of six was honestly just shocked. Nothing was done to remedy the situation. You are right, there are too many good places in T.O. to tolerate this crap.
Pkm / January 5, 2013 at 10:35 am
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Did the place go out of business. Closed for 2 weeks now
Pkm replying to a comment from Ad / January 5, 2013 at 10:37 am
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Looks like place is closed
anon / April 8, 2013 at 02:14 am
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http://toronto.en.craigslist.ca/tor/fbh/3727478896.html

It's open, or re-opening.
party gyros grill / April 27, 2013 at 11:34 am
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Older Ladies In Pattaya / May 2, 2013 at 01:38 pm
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There's definately a lot to learn about this subject. I like all of the points you made.
Yossarian / September 21, 2013 at 12:39 am
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I had dinner at Actinolite tonight and I really thought it was a great experience. I ate dinner with two people who are vegetarians, and the chef came out to our table and spoke to them about what they would like to eat and made a menu specifically for them. They both thought their meal was delicious. My meal was delicious too. I think this is a great spot and among Toronto's best. I thought the owner/chef seemed like a really nice guy too. Highly recommended.
Underwhelmed & Hungry / October 20, 2013 at 04:58 pm
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I’d like to describe my first and only visit to Actinolite and you can judge for yourself.
Actinolite was suggested as a good restaurant to take my girlfriend for her birthday. I called to speak to the restaurant to inform them it was for a birthday and that I would like something special for the dessert. For example; for my birthday we went to Ici Bistro and my girlfriend mentioned it was my birthday and dessert came out with candles and “Happy Birthday” written in chocolate. Chef Justin called me back quickly and we spoke about the possibility of a candle. He told me that he has worked really hard to create the textures and food experience and that he doesn’t really like the idea of putting a candle in it. I was open to any sort of special birthday acknowledgement. Chef Justin was friendly and said that they have candles and that he would do that for us. I was happy, excited for dinner, and looking forward to the surprise at the end of the meal.
• Arrival – Friendly greeting and told we can sit anywhere
• Seated and selected the 7 course meal ($75/pp) and a glass of red (server appeared knowledgeable)
• Staff member came over and introduced himself (“Cal”) welcoming experience. (servers alternated)
• Dishes arrived quickly and the server introduced each item.
• Some portions of the menu are served without silverware for patrons to eat with fingers.
• Towards the end of the meal a glass or cup fell off the bar counter and struck my girlfriends chair and broke. Accidents happen. However, at no point did any staff member acknowledge or apologize.
• At one point background music could be heard - It sounded like classic rock music (maybe to keep with the trading post type atmosphere..)
• As each meal came I was impressed with the effort that went into it but left underwhelmed. The most substantial dish was the carrot dish (served three ways), served without silverware.
• I was impressed by use of local berries.
• Dessert arrived. Plenty of delicious sauce that could have been used to write “Happy Birthday.” Unfortunately all I can say is that it arrived. No birthday candle was in the dessert as agreed upon, and my girlfriend did not have any birthday acknowledgement at all.
• Dessert was finished and then we were asked if we wanted tea or coffee AFTER dessert was finished (odd). We declined the coffee/tea. I paid over $200 including the 15% tip and left.
• It is important to note: we returned home and had pizza. The bottom line is that Chef Justin has created very different and unique tasting dishes. However, the portions are small. In my experience it is not normal to spend over $200, eat 7 courses, and leave a restaurant hungry.
A+ for Actinolite / April 2, 2014 at 10:01 pm
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Last night was my bf's first time at Actinolite, it was my second. We both agreed that it was one of the best meals we have ever had in Toronto. The flavours, textures and use of ingredients left us "WOW"-ing after every bite. The chef, in my opinion, is a creative genius' when it comes to food...and it's a nice touch for him to come to the table and explain what you're about to eat. Highly recommended A+ food experience. We will definitely be back!
garneau / May 25, 2014 at 07:54 am
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The Globe has given a review of the re-opened Actinolite. Have yet to go, now hoping I'll be able to get in sometime in the next year.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/food-and-wine/restaurant-reviews/actinolite-one-of-the-most-essential-places-to-eat-in-ontario-if-not-in-canada/article18825829/
steve van Egmond / September 23, 2014 at 09:56 pm
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As inventive and original as the food was, the defining characteristic of my meal there was that for the first time in forever, I actually
feel I got a genuinely nutritious meal. The chef works with what's good, and with Ontario harvest underway he had a ton to work with. Amazing place. The wine pairings were fantastic. Forget any whines about growing pains, pink medium-rare steak (?!) and writing messages in sauce. These people are doing great work.

These days they are selling a prix fixe menu. You have two choices, 4 or 7 courses and with or without wine. 7 would probably leave you stuffed; 4 pleased. The place is not in any way aimed at kids.

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