Saturday, 10 March 2012

Woodlot


Woodlot is a charming Canadian inspired restaurant and bakery on Palmerston in College Street’s Little Italy. Woodlot’s 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 many if not most of their creations get the heat treatment.

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

After 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. Also presented is a vegetarian menu, which is mostly the same as the regular menu, actually, it is the same, except substitute the meat for two other main courses- ricotta stuffed squash or tofu and mushroom pie.


Celebrating with friends gave me 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, wild rice, black walnut and mixed greens with a solid portion of somewhat squeaky mushrooms. It was perfectly seasoned, with only a controlled 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 soaking it all up. I found my taste or two of the soup to be quite satisfying, and I noticed my partner struggle to finish it all before our mains arrived.

I opted for the kosher kombo of Whey fed pork chop ($26) with brown bread and walnut sauce, whole prunes and chunks of briny bacon and a side of roasted Brussels sprouts ($6) with bacon and juniper. The pork chop was magnificent, bone in, tender and sauce dripping. Portions were huge, so sharing was easy. I 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. The fan favourite would have to go to the Naturally Raised Flat Iron Steak ($29). Cooked brilliantly to a perfect medium rare, concealed by black trumpet mushrooms (found em!), drizzled in a green béarnaise sauce and garnished with parsley, it was superb. Pairing it with the Yukon Gold Potato and Porcini Gratin ($6) made it a sophisticated yet comforting meal.


From the bar, Woodlot offers an extensive and well curated list spanning mostly Canada and Italy, with a heavy feature on `Natural` wines, not necessarily  organic; but ones in which the growers show respect for the fruit and land. Four beers are featured, all from Neustadt Springs save for one lonely Duggan`s IPA.

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

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