For people who are intimidated by trendy restaurants, or menus where they can’t find anything that they would dare try, I visited a place that opened in December 2015, where you can find home-style food in a midtown neighbourhood. Barnsteiner’s is located at 1 Balmoral Avenue, south of St. Clair on Yonge Street. Chef Herbert Barnsteiner and his wife Michelle had a 15-year stint at the Corner House before they opened this corner Summerhill bistro. The large menu is comprised of European comfort dishes.
There are two rooms, a smaller more formal blue hued dining room with plush leather seating, and a Mediterranean tiled floor. The larger teal blue room is more casual and inviting, filled with natural light, it’s lined with a long bar and bar stools in front and features walnut table tops and an open kitchen (which does emit kitchen cooking smells). The two rooms hold about 90 people. There is also an outdoor patio that is used in warmer weather and seats about 22 people. This neighbourhood spot is open for dinner seven nights per week and for lunch Monday through Saturday.
If you are in the mood for some home cooked food, but you don’t feel like cooking, this place is a great alternative.
A lot of the menu has heavy and rich foods like crispy veal schnitzel, the chef’s Käse Spätzle, with fried onions, steak and frites, chops, venison stew, fish stew or fish and chips. But there are also a selection of flatbreads, salads, pastas, tuna tartare and oysters. Not everything is perfect but there are some really pleasing dishes too.
The grilled calamari with tomatoes, anchovies, capers and preserved lemon in a brown butter sauce, is tender and delicious. A standout dish is the breaded veal scallopini schnitzel that is crispy on the outside and tender inside, served with a side of potato, chive and cucumber salad. For lunch, there is a nice daily omelette with ham and gruyere cheese, accompanied by a salad or a small cup of the daily soup. We tried a wonderful salad called The Mix, which is an interesting array of kale, quinoa, hemp hearts, blueberries, black rice, carrots, zucchini, almonds, and mint, in a bell pepper dressing. You can add chicken, salmon, shrimps or lamb chops to any salad and make a complete meal. For dessert, we had a lemon tart, that they call a Dropped Lemon Tart (probably got that idea from Osteria Francescana in Modena). It’s a deconstructed lemon meringue pie, and it was a knockout. The filling has the right balance of sweet and tart.
Michelle runs the front of the house duties while her husband, Chef Herbert, helms the kitchen. They can also accommodate requests for vegetarian and lactose intolerance.
Is the restaurant amazing? No, but they have created a warm, friendly space and elevated home-style European dishes.