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Posted by Liora Ipsum / Profiled on August 6, 2014 / review policy

montecito torontoMontecito is a sleek new 400-seat restaurant situated at the base of the Daniels Cinema Tower just behind the TIFF Lightbox. Owned by director Ivan Reitman and chef Jonathan Waxman, the spot draws inspiration from its namesake city in California aspiring to introduce a breezy Southern California vibe to Toronto.

At the front of the restaurant you will find a bar and patio furnished with bistro tables; further inside, there are two floors of dining, with long raw-edged redwood harvest tables and four-tops outfitted with bespoke loveseats. Potted orange trees are growing near windows, and video clips of gently swaying flowers are screened through archways, while high ceilings and a pale colour palette make for an airy, calming atmosphere. It's too bad that the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is staring at me with dead eyes while I eat.

montecito torontoThe room is decorated with Ghostbusters memorabilia, figurines, '80s movie stills and cast portraits. It's a dose of Planet Hollywood in an otherwise elegant room, and it detracts from the whole SoCal concept and what I really came here for, which is chef Waxman's food, renowned for being simple, confident, and always-evolving ... everything the room is not.

montecito torontoThe menu is printed daily, listing the farms that provided the restaurant's directly-sourced produce, meats and seafoods. While the offerings are always in flux, at least a few of Waxman's signature dishes will be menu staples.

montecito torontoThere is a kale salad ($12), the same recipe that won over crowds at New York's Barbuto. Tossed with anchovy dressing, crunchy breadcrumbs and pecorino, the tough greens are chopped to confetti consistency which allows for full saturation of dressing and cheese in the salad.

montecito torontoThe JW Bird ($24) is another signature dish that will be constant on the menu. It is undeniably delicious; the meat is juicy and moist, the skin is crisped and well seasoned, a salsa verde doused over top contributes a brightness of fresh herbs and garlic. The menu description says it's accompanied by a herb salad, though this is not substantial enough to be considered a side.

The dish is priced at a full $5 more than it is in New York, and considering it's just a plate of chicken (add sides like potatoes, succotash or ratatouille for $8 more) I anticipate diners might overlook the dish entirely in favour of other plates with a greater perceived value; the lobster-studded cioppino, for one, comes in at $25.

montecito torontoOne of the more seasonal dishes offered on the day of my visit is a salad ($13) composed of fava beans, peas, heirloom and cherry tomatoes, and little knobs of of goat cheese. Gently dressed with a shallot vinaigrette, this is a showcase of local produce in its prime.

montecito torontoThe Stay Puft Marshmallow Man appears again on the dessert menu in the form of a baked Alaska ($12). Encased in a soft dome of brûlée meringue, the ultra-sweet ending comes layered with vanilla sponge cake and marshmallow ice cream.

montecito torontoThe wine list is expansive, offering a range of new world and old world options starting at $45 per bottle or $12 per glass. On tap you'll find mainly Ontario craft brews offered for $8/pint. The brief cocktail list designed by mixologist James Taylor will change and evolve seasonally, today featuring selections like The Beekeeper ($14) mixed with Irish Whiskey, honey and floral bitters.

montecito torontoMontecito is open weekdays for lunch starting at 11:30am, while weekend brunches will start in the near future at 11am.

montecito torontoPhotos by Jesse Milns.



Todd Toronto / August 7, 2014 at 10:50 am
"It's too bad that the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is staring at me with dead eyes while I eat."

That sounds awesome. I'd want to go JUST for that.
aporia / August 7, 2014 at 10:50 am
The urbanspoon site for Montecito is suspicious already full of glowing reviews by people who just created an urbanspoon account the day of posting their single review, or the day before...
Zuul / August 7, 2014 at 11:10 am
There is no Montecito. Only Zuul.
Craig / August 7, 2014 at 11:34 am
Probably okay but no options for my veg spouse so won't make our list.
Will replying to a comment from Craig / August 7, 2014 at 04:57 pm
Did you not read that the menu changes daily? There very well could be options for them.
Andrew / August 8, 2014 at 11:09 am
If a restaurant doesn't always have vegetarian options, it's usually not worth going to on the hope that it does today, and that the one or two things that are will appeal. Not to say it wouldn't be delicious, but you just can't plan around it.
horsepower / August 8, 2014 at 12:01 pm
I went during the soft open, and the food and service were excellent. The chicken was probably the best item I tried. Was also impressed by the draft selection.
MChow / August 19, 2014 at 04:57 am
Wow. Not impressed. Go to Swiss Chalet if you want chicken. I've been here twice in one week and both times the restaurant was empty. The staff were standing around chatting to each other and the cooks in open kitchen the same. What a pity the food as read on the menu sounded like something I would get on an 22 hour airplane trip. I can't imagine this restaurant with all the hype it got, and is now failing, will survive. I've had the Cioppino twice and both times the seasoning was off bread burnt. The pizza is impossible to eat, pick up a slice and it becomes flaccid- and lets face it, no one likes anything flaccid. I'd like to eat my pizza toppings with the pizza, not scraped off the plate from where it fell. Our charcuterie offered dry cuts and terrine that tasted like flavourless meatloaf. The tuna tartar had the taste it was starting to turn. I was shocked the chef sent it out. I had to apologize to my guests and tell them to try something else instead. Dessert sadly was no better. The stay puft is a martha stewart sweet upon sweet 75% meringue dessert. Nothing to do with an exploding marshmallow as was the hype. The ice cream sandwich is difficult and messy to eat. The platter we got looked like it had been thrown onto the board and took a while to get to our table. Our sorbet was chalky and puddling. And for a restaurant that isn't busy I have no idea why it took so long to get our food. The tomatoe, pea and goat cheese salad is the best dish offered but I think it was Homer Simpson who said it best, "You don't win friends with salad!" And a restaurant like this certainly could not survive on one good dish. Love Reitmans work and Waxman food but this place looks like it will fall short, pity.

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