A recent newcomer to Toronto’s dining landscape is Montgomery’s Restaurant at 996 Queen Street West near Ossington. It opened in August of 2016 and has steadily become known by those “in the know”. It features Canadian dishes using local and seasonal ingredients, many sourced from the Mennonite community, and some from as far away as Quebec. Chef Guy Rawlings tries to elevate humble ingredients with his small, unique and innovative menu.
Be prepared for an ultra casual venue. The nondescript, unfinished (in my opinion) entrance leads you directly into the open kitchen at the front. The small dining room is at the back, which seats about 40ish. The restaurant is very dim, all the better not to see this unassuming place. Perhaps a new paint job would brighten things up?
The windowless decor is bare bones simple, with wooden chairs and tables, some which are communal (we shared with two other people) and a dirty looking shag rug hanging from the wall.
The dishes are meant to be shared and they suggest ordering two to three dishes each. They give you bread size plates for your dishes (another pet peeve of mine) and don’t change them until your main course arrives, so they get pretty messy. The menu is divided into bread, snacks, vegetables, fish and meat, cheese and dessert. The star here is the bread. It just might be the best bread I have ever had in Toronto, or North America for that matter. They source the flour from a Mennonite farm, and bake the hard red wheat sourdough, in house. It is so worth the $2 charge for a small basket or $4 for a large. You can also order butters made in house for an additional charge. We went with the dandelion butter.
From the snack section, we tried the crispy cold water shrimp with an Old Bay mayo. The dish was fine, although a little salty and a little boring. The cooked lettuce in broth, a combination of beef, chicken and pork broths tasted burnt to me and I was hoping for a rich complex combination of flavours, so that was a disappointment. The griddled squid with tomatoes and parsley is a tender, light, enjoyable dish. The trout with rose malt vinegar and fermented leek was also lacking for me. It’s not that it was bad, it just was not memorable.
The vegetables fared a little better. It was nice to see a selection that wasn’t boring for a change. Our favourite was the green beans, topped with a cured egg yolk and crispy bread. The eggplant dish is deep fried, with a crispy topping in a red bread sauce, and topped with some cheese. The mushrooms were our least favourite, done in a buttermilk soubise and topped with a rye levain crisp. The presentations are not beautiful, but the food is pure and simple.
They serve small batch wines, some available by the glass, as well as hard to find beers and seasonal sodas made with cordials. We had a “orange” wine from Spain, that paired well with our dinner.
For dessert, there were a few choices like rhubarb mousse and toasted oats, honey cake with plum and wild ginger or sheep’s milk froyo and strawberry rose syrup and milkweed. We went for the black walnut financiers and cherry coulis.
I am going to get a lot of flack when I say I am personally not a huge fan of Canadian cuisine. Or maybe I feel it doesn’t excite me like other cuisines do. But, the chef does try and celebrate the uniqueness and he tries to execute the humble ingredients of his Canadian inspired menu. I found the restaurant respectable, but nothing to rave about.