Leslieville is a really cute area of Toronto, reminiscent of the West Village in New York. Once a seedy part of town, now interesting restaurants and stores are popping up everywhere. Another new addition to this area is Greta Solomon’s, located at 1118 Queen Street East.
Owner, Darlene Mitchell, who hails from Newfoundland was there to oversee that things run smoothly in this tiny jewel box of a space. She named the restaurant after her mother Greta, and her grandfather, Solomon. The restaurant is tiny – with only twenty seats and another eight tightly winding around the bar. But what is truly amazing about this quaint and intimate space, is the size of the kitchen. It may even be smaller than Chabrol‘s, or at least very close in size. Chef James Vigil of Pangea, makes everything from scratch, even the bread and butter. He cooks French classics with a modern twist. There are oysters, onion soup with braised oxtail, lamb tartar, braised octopus, roasted duck, filet de boeuf, and fromage. I don’t know how he does it, it is a real achievement, but it does help explain the long waits. Our dinner was a three-hour ordeal, but can be excused when you see the small space they have to work in.
The tiny place has a relaxed atmosphere, with exposed brick, dim lights, and French doors that open in nice weather. I thought the bathrooms were clean and nicely decorated, and I was impressed with the fully stocked containers of toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss and toothpicks. What a thoughtful touch.
The wine list is almost exclusively French, and there are 14 wines available by the glass.
The portions of food are rather small and difficult to share for more than two people. You really need to order quite a few dishes to be satisfied. I wouldn’t call the food superb by any stretch of the imagination. But it is aesthetically appealing, with friendly service, and tasty dishes.
The lamb tartare was a lamb loin with cucumber, mint, harissa, and coriander, with a cumin crisp. This dish had some dynamic flavouring and was quite good. The roasted pumpkin with lentils, goat cheese, arugula, and mint in a Concord grape vinaigrette also had some interesting components to it. The kale and Brussels sprout salad with apples, almonds and blue cheese in a honey dijon vinaigrette was very small and was lacking something. This new sensation of a salad is being made all over New York, and the rest of the States, and so I have tasted much better versions of it. The same goes for the braised octopus (which was tough) with artichoke, fennel, olive, peppers and tomatoes. However, I thought the sourdough served with this dish is delicious. The catch of the day for us was a halibut, and it was cooked to a juicy perfection. The roasted partridge breast and leg is braised in red wine, along with pearl onions, wild mushrooms and lardon, in a red wine jus. Our last dish was a seared Ontario striploin with confit potatoes, and mushrooms in a bearnaise sauce. The meat was a touch chewy. I also found all the dishes came out lukewarm and not hot, but again this could be a function of the minuscule kitchen. I believe there are just a couple of hot plates and a little convection oven in the kitchen. I thought they did a better job with dessert. The warm beignets served with a side of coffee\chocolate cremeux is delightful, and the creme brûlée was stellar. Another dish that was a crowd pleaser was the cheese plate. It came with three types – the blue cheese is outstanding – as well as nuts, preserves and honey.
Overall, the quality of the food is there, as is the presentation. It is an adorable, neighbourhood restaurant. Does it merit a visit if you are coming from afar? I would have to say no, as I was not truly enamored with it. However, I still think it is a great addition to the area.