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Restaurants

Woodlot

Posted by Libby Roach / Reviewed on February 14, 2012 / review policy

Woodlot Restaurant TorontoWoodlot is a charming Canadian-inspired restaurant and bakery on Palmerston on the eastern edge of Little Italy that's gotten quite a bit of buzz since it opened in 2010. The name is a no-brainer — greeting you from the street is a woodshed and chopping block, no doubt to feed the beast that is their beautiful wood burning oven, where most of the kitchen's creations get their heat treatment.

Woodlot TorontoWoodlot is the brainchild of Robyn Donio and David Haman, the latter of whom formerly helmed the kitchens at impressive Toronto institutions such as Noce, Lucien and Senses.

woodlot menuAfter being shot down (as a walk-in) more than once, I booked a table for a Saturday night about a month in advance. Service, much like the oven itself, is warm and engaging. We felt immediately at home upon arriving, and were pleased to find our table in the upstairs-loft waiting for us.

Menus are short and concise. Four starters, four mains, and a couple pastas and sides are offered. Of note, however, is the presence of a specific vegetarian menu, which substitutes ricotta stuffed squash and tofu and mushroom pie for meat courses on the regular menu. Why don't more restaurants do this?

saladCelebrating with friends gave me the opportunity to try the Ember Grilled Hen-o'-the-Woods Mushrooms ($13) as well as the Baked Caramelized Onion Soup ($11). The mushrooms were a glorified carb-rich salad, with wild rice, black walnut, mixed greens and a solid portion of somewhat squeaky mushrooms. It was perfectly seasoned, with just the right amount of balsamic and olive oil. The soup was rich rich rich, with oozy gruyere cheese, salty onions and their in-house made sourdough bread to soak it all up. The couple tastes I had of the soup were satisfying, and I noticed my partner struggle to finish it all before our mains arrived. It might be worth wearing your loose-fitting pants when making this particular trip.

Woodlot SoupI opted for the combo of a whey-fed pork chop ($26, see top photo) with brown bread and walnut sauce, whole prunes and chunks of briny bacon, to which I also added a side of roasted Brussels sprouts ($6) with bacon and juniper. The pork chop was magnificent, bone in, tender and drenched in sauce. The portions were huge, so sharing was easy.

WoodlotI snagged half of my mate's giant Chicken and Porcini Mushroom Pie ($25) in exchange for some of my chop. While the buttery crust was delectable, notably absent in the pie were the aforementioned mushrooms. We took the crust off the whole pie to inspect and were disappointed, not a single fungi in sight. Oh well.

Meanwhile, the fan favourite would have to go to the naturally raised Flat Iron steak ($29). Cooked to a perfect medium rare and accompanied by black trumpet mushrooms (found em!) and drizzled in a creamy green béarnaise sauce, it was superb. This cut of beef deserves more attention than it gets. Pairing it with the Yukon gold potato and porcini gratin ($6) added a touch of sophistication to the comforting dish.

Woodlot SteakFrom the bar, Woodlot offers an extensive and well curated wine list, with selections that span mostly Canada and Italy. There's a heavy focus on "natural wines," — not necessarily organic, but ones in which the growers show respect for the fruit and land. Four beers are featured, three from Neustadt Springs and one Duggan`s IPA.

Woodlot was absolutely worth the wait. The food is solid verging on stellar, and although the service can be slow at times, the team more than makes up for it with their charming and convivial attentiveness.

Wine WoodlotWoodlot exterior

Discussion

23 Comments

John Edgar / February 28, 2011 at 02:51 pm
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A friend and I went for dinner here last week, we didn't have reservations and when we entered the it was packed. I immediately regretted not making the call to book a table. The front of house staff treated us extremely well and informed us that although we didn't have a reservation, if we could be done by 7:30 they could squeeze us in. It was 6 by this point and we figured we could finnish up in the time allocated so we agreed.

The feel of the restaurant is very homely, not in the least pretentious or yuppie. We ordered some wine and they brought a very generous helping of bread to the table. After a few minutes we each ordered a french onion soup and my friend had the gnocchi. Having grown up in the UK I opted for an old favourite; chicken and ham pot pie.

After what felt like a very short time our soup came, it was fantastic! To me the best french onion soup is that with the correct ratio of onion to bread to cheese and this was spot on. Really enjoyed it. Once our mains came, again, we dug in and both agreed that the food was superb.

Having dinned at most of the "hip" places in the city, I highly recommend checking out woodlot, just make sure you have a reservation, even on week night.
Laura / March 1, 2011 at 01:56 am
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Tried to check out woodlotresturant.com and it is nothing but a landing page, what a waste!

Eddie / April 11, 2011 at 06:55 pm
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This review is a late as I went there for dinner in January. Things might have changed since then. Booking is definitely recommended if you intend to dine on Friday/Saturday after 7pm. When my friend and I arrived the place was packed. We booked for 8pm and were lucky to get that. The first thing I noticed is that the tables are far to close together. I know this happens in many restaurants but at Woodlot it was bordering on ridiculous. We had about two inches of space between our table and the couple next to us. Let me put it this way, despite the fact the place was quite loud we could hear their conversation pretty clearly (a first date going so-so). They really need to remove at least one table from each row of tables. The waitress who served us was great. We couldn't decide on a wine so she suggest we try each and brought us a sample. She was very helpful and knowledgeable and above all friendly. She even took the time find out some details about one of the dishes when she heard us talking about it. As for the food it was definitely delicious but there was one problem. It did take a rather long time for it to arrive and when it did it wasn't as hot as it should have been. As a result the food went cold too quickly and it did take away from the enjoyment of the food. I am not sure if this was just a one off but the couple next to us did comment to the waitress regarding their wait for the food. My friend used to work in a restaurant and we agreed that they were possibly understaffed that night. All in all I would give the place 3.5 out of 5. I would have given 4 if it weren't for the lukewarm food. I would recommend it and I'll go back.
shamus replying to a comment from John Edgar / June 5, 2011 at 02:18 pm
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homely?
GetBrainToGoHelp replying to a comment from shamus / September 14, 2011 at 07:20 pm
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Almost certainly he meant "homey".
WoodLot Lover! / February 14, 2012 at 05:01 pm
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Have been there twice in the past year and always made a reservation, so no problems there.

Everything about this place is perfect! Every dish is made so well with interesting flavours that clash in an amazingly delicious way. Everything they make is made their fresh including the pasta. The service is always amazing.

I suggest trying their cocktails, 2 oz of deliciousness.

I am not rich by any means but I would pay any amount for their food and drinks. 110% recommend.
andrew / February 14, 2012 at 09:15 pm
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what's with the editing of these photos. the contrast is so harsh.
Greg replying to a comment from andrew / February 14, 2012 at 10:20 pm
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You've never been to Woodlot, have you? It's darkness and candlelight. No tripod = lots o' contrast.
M / February 14, 2012 at 10:59 pm
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Surprised there's no mention of the mixed drinks. They're pretty phenomenal -- the kind that made me want to go home and try to recreate them.

And I believe they also make their own pop?
Dan Egan / February 15, 2012 at 09:08 am
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Pretty amazed that you could get any pictures at all... Ditto to Greg. I took my wife there for our anniversary and our pictures look like something that you'd get from a coin-op picture booth. Can i steal your photo of the beef dish?
karinak replying to a comment from Greg / February 15, 2012 at 02:25 pm
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ahahaah
Diana. / February 15, 2012 at 04:29 pm
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Words cannot even begin to describe the way I feel about the Hen o' the Woods Mushroom salad at Woodlot. I have gone back to Woodlot JUST for this dish.

The food here is unpretentious in its simplicity, but god damn delicious. Seriously, make a reservation well in advance and try it for yourself.
Conn Burke / February 15, 2012 at 09:52 pm
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we had a reservation and the bread service and food were great-the menu was sparse on choice but food was great-would go back but in no rush to
Jeremy Lin / February 16, 2012 at 01:04 am
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Linsane.
Al / February 16, 2012 at 08:48 am
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It is Lin-tense, one of my Toronto favorites.
agentsmith / February 16, 2012 at 09:19 am
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So the mains come with nothing and sides are extra?
John Edgar replying to a comment from shamus / February 16, 2012 at 02:51 pm
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home·ly/ˈhōmlē/
Adjective:
(of a person) Unattractive in appearance.
**(of a place or surroundings) Simple but cozy and comfortable, as in one's own home.**
Den / February 16, 2012 at 11:49 pm
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"Why don't more restaurants do this?"

Maybe because they don't want the trouble of catering to the 5% of Vegetarian/Vegan/Who the HELL knows special diets of the loony left?
Francois replying to a comment from Den / February 18, 2012 at 01:05 pm
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"Maybe because they don't want the trouble of catering to the 5% of Vegetarian/Vegan/Who the HELL knows special diets of the loony left?"

Dan, the "loony left" isn't responsible for your complete ignorance; I'm afraid that is entirely up to you. Some of us need a "special diet" in order to live. Be thankful you don't have that problem.
CharO / April 18, 2012 at 03:16 pm
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I have never been treated as rudely as the night i ate here.
The waitress from the very start was incredibly condescending to everyone at my table, correcting our wine choices, speaking down to us when we asked how a meal was prepared. We let her know that we did not appreciate her attitude and as we were leaving she told us to "fuck right off".
Not only was the service AWFUL but the food was nothing at all what we expected. we had heard good things about this restaurant but for the prices they were asking the food was truly the pits.
I would not recommend this place to my worst enemy and i will be sure to let all my friends who frequently eat out to avoid this place like the plague!
aggro / August 27, 2012 at 03:37 pm
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Absolutely one of the best meals I've had in the city. Would recommend it to anyone.
Sami K / August 28, 2012 at 10:40 pm
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The vegetarian cannelloni I ordered was so good I was nearly moved to tears. An absolutely perfect meal, start to finish, a delightful server, great music. I'll happily recommend Woodlot to absolutely everyone.
PinceJammy / March 7, 2013 at 06:16 pm
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6/10

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