First Look: Actinolite, a new restaurant that’s spreading the Ossington strip’s culinary vibe north of Bloor


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As Ossington continues to be a prime culinary destination south of Bloor, its comparatively underwhelming north-of-Bloor side just got a boost with Actinolite. Opened March 28, the new restaurant is the long-awaited project of husband-and-wife duo Claudia Bianchi and Justin Cournoyer.

The two restaurateurs bought the building at Ossington and Hallam six years ago. Right away, they knew they would want to live on the upper storey and run a restaurant on the ground floor. But the place was a dive, Bianchi says, so without the help of investors, the two began a meticulous reconstruction.

In between working behind the scenes at food TV shows (Bianchi is a food stylist and the Culinary Producer for Top Chef Canada) and working numerous cooking gigs throughout the city (Cournoyer trained under chef Lorenzo Lozeto and was part of the opening team at Susur), the pair slowly brought their 30-seat restaurant to life.

For those unversed in obscure Canadian trivia, Actinolite is also the name of a small community in eastern Ontario, pretty much right between Toronto and Ottawa. Cournoyer, who heads up the kitchen, grew up there (fabulous memories, apparently) and insisted that the restaurant bear the name of his hometown.

The décor pays apt tribute to the place: the wood on the ceiling, tables and bar top came from the area, cut and finished at his family’s Actinolite mill. Artwork based on family photos lines the walls.

Food wise, the seasonal menu offers a mishmash of influences: Spanish, Italian and Portuguese; French technique is evident throughout.

“Justin has one foot in another century and one foot in this century,” Bianchi says of her husband’s cooking.

Trout from Kolapore Springs ($14) is cured with caraway oil and served with a dill crème fraîche on top. On the side, slightly pickled artichokes are doused in a lemon-carrot vinaigrette.

A veal T-bone steak ($26) from Vince Gasparro’s Meat Market, aged two weeks, is marinated in garlic, thyme, lemon rind and olive oil. It’s charbroiled to medium and served with broiled asparagus, panko-crusted onion petals, a creamed spinach puree and a lemon-parmesan sauce.

Other options include tagliatelle ($18) with a walnut watercress pesto and porcini mushrooms, a grilled rack of Ontario lamb ($28) or apple cider-glazed pork shoulder ($12).

On opening night, old-school jazz and an antique-heavy ambience complemented Cournoyer’s cooking. The patrons, apparently, were almost all neighbourhood residents. It was exactly what the Actinolite team was hoping for.

Actinolite, 971 Ossington Ave., 416-962-8943

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