Greta Solomon's is an intimate spot in Leslieville that was previously Glas Wine Bar . First-time restaurateur Darlene Mitchell named this place after her grandparents (Greta was her grandmother and Solomon her grandfather), and they must've been a classy couple because this space, which Mitchell completely renovated and decorated, is lovely.
With 28 seats, including eight at the bar, the atmosphere is cozy and relaxed, and the French doors can completely open up when the weather's nice so that eating and imbibing here almost feels like an al fresco experience.
I'm thoroughly charmed by the aesthetic touches and attention to detail everywhere - particularly the individual packages of toothbrushes and dental floss for diners found in the bathroom - it seems they've thought of everything!
Mitchell, who lives in the area, felt the neighbourhood needed a good dinner-and-drinks option that offers a modern interpretation of French cuisine. She's worked in the resto biz for over 25 years at places like Coquine , La Societe , Nota Bene and, back in the day, Bouchon, so she knows her stuff.
She's recruited chef James Vigil ( Pangaea , Buona Notte , C5 ) for the kitchen, and his constantly changing menu uses seasonal, local ingredients to create shareable dishes with a French focus that also have influences from Italy and Spain.
Like the food, there is also a French emphasis on the wines (along with a few from Prince Edward County), which come by the glass ($12-$19) or bottle ($54-$180). I opt instead for the signature Greta cocktail ($14), a delightful mix of gin, elderflower liqueur, lemon and mint with a gorgeous fresh flower as garnish.
To start, we get the smoked sardines on toast ($9), topped with a tasty combo of crème fraîche, pickled onions, freshly grated horseradish and dill. It's a promising first dish, and things only get better from here.
Next comes the tartare de boeuf, a.k.a. steak tartare ($16), made with Ontario beef and a quail yolk, accompanied by cornichons, some tart, grainy mustard and toasted bread. The beef tastes very fresh, and although some may have qualms about eating raw meat and egg, the quality here is so top-notch I'm not worried about a thing.
A real highlight is the gnocchi Parisian ($18), soft pillows of gnocchi amidst substantial chunks of lobster, artichokes and courgettes (zucchini) in a lobster and corn bisque. The pièce de résistance is a squash blossom stuffed with a herbed chèvre (goat cheese) mousse, giving the whole dish a creamy, salty tang. In short, this entire plate is delicious.
For dessert, we have beignets ($8) served with a chocolate-coffee dipping sauce. They're warm and puffy and covered in a snowy dusting of powdered sugar. As an ending to the meal, they're pure pleasure.
Since the menu is always being updated to keep up with what's currently in season, the dishes we tried may no longer be available, but that should keep things interesting for regulars (and for Chef Vigil). Tasting menus are offered on Tuesdays (three courses, $35; five courses, $65; seven courses, $90), which are a good way to sample as much as possible.
Diners have been confirming Mitchell's hunch, telling her, "We needed you in the neighbourhood." Greta Solomon's definitely has what it takes to be a Leslieville gem, which must be gratifying for Mitchell. "All the hard work is paying off," she says, with a faint sigh of relief.
Photos by Hector Vasquez.