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Brought to us by the husband-and-wife team Justin Cournoyer (chef) and Claudia Bianchi (a food stylist and producer for the Food Network Canada), this quaint little restaurant prides themselves on using local and seasonal ingredients.

Located on Ossington (between Bloor and Dupont), Actinolite (@actinolitefood) occupies a beautifully decorated 30-seat space with floor-to-ceiling windows which allows for a lot of natural light to fill the restaurant. There’s also a cozy bar which seats four.

The interior

As far as food goes, Actinolite only offers two tasting menu options: the Chef’s menu (seven courses for $85) or the Summary menu (four courses for $55). Wine pairings are available with each tasting menu for an additional $65 and $40 respectively.


We decided to skip the wine pairings and ordered a couple cocktails. I tried the light and refreshing Battlespritz – elderflower liqueur, sparkling wine, grapefruit juice ($11). It was exactly what I was looking for.

The Battlespritz

Mike went with something boozier, the For John, Forever Ago – American rye, olorosso sherry, cynar, chocolate bitters ($13). He described it as a richer Manhattan and enjoyed the hint of chocolate.

For John, Forever Ago

We went for the Chef’s Menu (go big or go home, right?). Here’s a look at what was served this evening:

Course #1: Potato – carrot, soil, grass. It consisted of sous-vide potatoes and onions, soil butter, grass-infused toasted crumbs and young raw carrots. Our server encouraged us to eat with our hands…but I stuck to my fork and knife.

The potatoes were certainly buttery but I didn’t taste any dirt (but perhaps that’s a good thing) and while the crumbs provided a nice crunch, they didn’t taste very grassy (which again, is probably a good thing). The dish certainly gets points for earthiness and creativity but as far as taste goes, it wasn’t anything special for me. It was only memorable for the soil and grass components.

Course #1: Potato – carrot, soil, grass

Course #2: Oyster – enoki, seaweed. The freshly shucked Quebec oysters sat in a light broth with enoki mushrooms and greens. While I really enjoyed the oysters, I didn’t love all the greens in the dish. It tasted like I was eating grass and left most of it. It just wasn’t my cup of tea.

Course #2: Oyster – enoki, seaweed

Course #3: Beet – plum, mulberry, hyssop. As you can probably tell by now, the portions here aren’t exactly generous. This dish consisted of a few pieces of sous-vide beets, fermented plum jelly, mulberries, sour cream and hyssop leaves. The beets were cooked nicely and I was surprised by how intense the beet flavours were. I also enjoyed the sweetness from the plum jelly which complemented the beets well. Nothing revolutionary but all in all, a solid dish.

Course #3: Beet – plum, mulberry, hyssop

Course #4: Halibut – peas, gooseberry, spruce. This was easily my favourite dish of the evening. The halibut was cooked sous-vide (as you can tell, this is probably their cooking method of choice) and topped with dried spruce tips. It’s normally covered with fresh spruce tips but they had run out. But maybe this was a good thing – I’ve had spruce tips before and it tasted like eating Christmas trees.

Anyway, the fish sat in a delicious butter sauce dotted with sweet peas, spruce oil and skinned gooseberries. Halibut is normally a very firm fish but cooking it sous-vide made it melt-in-your-mouth tender. An excellent dish!

Course #4: Halibut – peas, gooseberry, spruce

Course #5: Cucumber – currant, lemon balm. It consisted of a piece of compressed cucumber, charred cucumber sorbet and skinned white currants. I wasn’t a fan of this dish at all. Mike didn’t feel as strongly about this dish – he didn’t mind it. The cucumber sorbet operated as a palate cleanser but flavour-wise, I didn’t love it. I also didn’t enjoy the compressed cucumber but admittedly I’m a little biased about this one since it was flavoured with anise and I don’t like its licorice flavour.

Course #5: Cucumber – currant, lemon balm

Course #6: Sweetbreads lettuce, chanterelle, turnip. The dish consisted of a few pieces of sweetbreads finished in a chicken glaze. It was all accompanied by turnips done three ways, chanterelles and a lettuce sauce. The sweetbreads were perfectly cooked and while the dish was pretty solid, it didn’t wow me either.

Course #6: Sweetbreads – lettuce, chanterelle, turnip

Course #7: Strawberry – curd, elderflower, hay. The meal definitely ended on a high note with this strawberry dessert which was essentially a deconstructed pavlova. The hay ice cream was light, refreshing and perfectly complemented the curd and strawberries while the meringue gave the dessert a nice bit of needed texture. Absolutely delicious!

Course #7: Strawberry – curd, elderflower, hay

Overall, I felt our meal was a little hit and miss. The food also wasn’t very plentiful – the portions were quite small and I didn’t leave feeling full (not a great feeling after spending $85+tax/tip). I feel the word “interesting” sums up our experience pretty well. I appreciated the thought and effort put into each dish but some of the dishes just weren’t doing it for me in terms of taste (which, let’s be honest, is pretty damn important). Mike said “My mind wanted to like it but my heart was saying this isn’t fried chicken!”

There are a lot of people out there who love what Actinolite is doing. So don’t let my personal preferences stop you from going. It’s just not for everybody.

At a glance:
• Focus on seasonal and local ingredients
• Tasting menus only: Chef’s Menu ($85) or the Summary Menu ($55)
• Wine pairing options available
• Located on Ossington between Bloor and Dupont
• The meal was a little hit and miss; portions were on the small side

Ratings (out of 5):
• Food: 2.5 stars
• Service: 3 stars
• Atmosphere: 3 stars

Actinolite on Urbanspoon

  1. Joanne (Reply) on Sunday 21, 2014

    My boyfriend lives near this place and every time we drive past it, I tell him I’d like to try the food. He says it looks a little too ponce-y for him, and after reading this review, I’d have to say he’s right.