What? Woodlot for late-night dinner
Where? 293 Palmerston ave (511 or 509 streetcars—respectively from Bathurst & College stations)
The skinny: Opened over a year ago, Woodlot is still one of “the” places to dine at in Toronto. A bakery during the day, it transforms into a warm, very busy, dining spot perfect for vegetarians and carnivores! Think big portions, big flavour. All centred around their wood-burning oven.
My friend Darian and I have been talking about coming here ever since they opened a year ago! It was only when we turned onto Palmerston that and I saw the sign that I knew where we were headed. YAYYYYY!!!! Woodlot is in the old space of Octapus Lounge. The space was originally a garage. Sorry, that the sign’s not very…visible.
Without reservations, we were both prepared for a long wait (we arrived around 8:30pm). Popped inside (oh the warmth! :D) and were told it’d be a 30-min wait. Not too bad! We decided to walk around for awhile. Outside at that moment = windy & cold.
Getting the phone call from Woodlot that seats were available felt like a little victory. haha Inside, it’s warm (thanks to the wood-burning oven!), homey, and very cozy. Bottom right you see some of their breads that they bake themselves :D
We were seated at the bar. This turned out to be a bonus! Lots of table space, some chatting with the bartender, just being in the middle of some of the action was cool.
Here’s a shot of their other dining area, a long communal table that seats around 10-12 people. In the back is their kitchen. Definitely feels like you’re eating at someone’s home…someone who knows how to cook some really bad-ass food that is. ;)
Bread basket to start us off. There’s rye, sourdough, and caraway. Good range of flavour and density in the breads. Overall, fresh and soft. mmm (Be careful to not eat too much thought!)
As you can see from my very ill-lit photo (sorry about that!), the menu is divided into four sections: starters, middles, mains, and sides. There is a vegetarian menu available as well but we came here for MEAT. Sucks that they don’t have their signature Venison Pie! We went a little crazy, ordering 4 items. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but considering how stuffed we were by the end…maybe not so great.
Baked Caramelized Onion Soup (11)
(w/ aged gruyère and red fife sourdough bread). Level of thoughtfulness: 10/10. We ordered one but knowing that we were sharing everything, they split the order into two so we each got our own bowl! I’m used to bread in the soup having been soaked in there but not so much croutons. Darian liked the toasted, almost burnt taste of it. I can appreciate it as extra flavour but would’ve preferred it sans-burnt croutons.
The soup itself + the cheesy, stringy gruyère?! Bomb. After our own adventure trying to recreate the onion soup from Au Pied de Cochon, we’re able to pick up the red wine in it right off the bat.
Grilled Goats Milk Haloumi Crostini (11)
(w/ chestnut squash, spiced apple compote and basil). This was our second starter. In the words of one of my former co-captains, “it was SHO GUUD”! Seriously though, the thick slab of goat cheese that’s been grilled with the creamy squash purée, so complementary!
And then there’s the teensy kick of flavour from the apple compote and of course the crunch from the crostini! Fresh basil?! I can eat ten of these babies and still want more! It’s pretty awesome how much you can pile onto a slice of crostini…
Buckwheat Tagliatelle (15/21)
(w/ confit duck gizzards, savoy cabbage, calvados and walnuts). As mentioned in previous posts, I do have a deathly food allergy to only two things: pecans & walnuts. So this dish had to lose some of its nuttiness and crunch… :( (however, I think I grew out of my walnut allergy!) However, it was still amazing nonetheless.
I’ve never had gizzards before let alone ones that are confit! Interesting…dense and sort of chewy texture. I liked it! The tagliatelle was perfect. The strips of savoy cabbage matched the tagliatelle which was nice. They were also Darian’s favourite part of the dish. Who knew pasta and cabbage could go so well together?! Odd marriage that somehow works! P.S. Another example of the very much established in-house made pasta movement. :D Like from Enoteca Sociale!
There was a bit of a break before our mains arrived. Good thing because I needed a little breather to take in all the different textures and flavours that we’d experienced already. Ooh! The communal table was empty! Time to take a decent photo of the open-concept kitchen.
And get a closer look at the word-burning oven. I believe I see our skewers of sweetbreads and bacon in there! There’s nothing like food with fire. :) I guarantee that you’ll finish your food with a smug smile and a very satisfied appetite.
Grilled Maple Glazed Sweetbreads and Bacon (25)
(w/ cippolini, pecan, granny smith and celery root remoulade). This dish, second to the crostini, was the highlight of the meal. Who’d have thought up the bright idea of skewering sweetbreads then grilling them?! haha The only other time I had sweetbreads (at globe bistro), they were battered and deep fried! The remoulade had the perfect zing of lemon / acidity to it with a crunch that balances the heaviness of the skewers.
The bacon….holy smacks they were in the form of cubes. Beautiful, hefty chunks of smokey, unrepentant bacon. The sweetbreads had a sort of texture not unlike foie gras in a casing. Not sure how else to describe it!
Roasted Pickerel and Spiced Oxtail (28)
(w/ puy lentils, aubergine, grapefruit and mint). The little accompaniments to the pickerel outshined it. I mean the fish was cooked perfectly! Moist and tender. But it lacked flavour compared to the lentils and the aubergine purée. I liked it! Didn’t love it though. And the spiced oxtail? I’m guessing it was with the lentils. They were a little lost in the dish. :(
Japanese Cheesecake (9)
(w/ caramelized apples and amaretti crumble). Dessert time! At this point, we were both rather stuffed. Yet when the word “dessert” came up, Darian and I somehow found an extra cranny in our stomachs for one more thing! We ended up going for the Japanese cheesecake. By the way, all their desserts are $9!
What came was a sizeable rectangular slice of cake. It seemed like a very light sponge cake with cream cheese filling in it. Every single component of this dessert goes together perfectly. As we were taking turns eating this cake, we were both exchanging comments on how good it was! Another different take on cheesecake I guess? Kinda like at Guu Sakabar.
Our dinner was much more costly than any dinner I’ve had recently. However, it was totally worth it; every single penny. We got excellent service and the food was great!! I was glancing at this candle silhouette the entire night! It’ meant to be an axe right?
Verdict? Why didn’t I come here sooner!? That’s probably the only big negative I’ve got, and it doesn’t even relate to the offerings of Woodlot! The food is amazing and if you come here with an open mind, you will surely leave very satisfied and maybe even a little inspired. I found out grilling + maple syrup = gorgeous combo.
Check ‘em out! (you’re better off looking at the urbanspoon link below) http://www.woodlotrestaurant.com/
***They're closed on Mondays. Also, it's probably a good idea to make reservations! :D
5 out of 5 NOMs