August 23, 2014
May 14, 2013
01:05 PM

First Look: Woods, a refined new restaurant from a former Modus chef

Venison carpaccio (Image: Caroline Aksich)

Last November, chef Bruce Woods resigned from Modus Ristorante, the contemporary Italian hotspot frequented by Bay Street suits. He had no fallback, but luckily for him, the transition from being unemployed to accepting reservations at his new restaurant has been seamless.

In March, Woods — along with his two business partners Robin Singh and Byron Messier, both from Pravda Vodka House — took over the space formerly occupied by Colborne Lane.

“We’re hoping people will come here for dinner, and then head over to Pravda to finish their night,” Woods says.

The new restaurant, aptly named Woods, opened yesterday. It’s an homage to contemporary Canadiana, but don’t expect Mason jar chandeliers, plaid backsplashes or the ubiquitous use of decorative antlers. Well, OK, there is one Mason jar, but it’s part of a dessert: the jar is layered with mascarpone mousse and raspberry, while the lid sits upside down, cradling an orb of basil ice cream adorned with a delicate raspberry tuile ($11).

Woods has opted for a minimalist aesthetic punctuated with nature elements, such as the branchelier in the front, the raindrop-shaped lights that hang in clusters over the back dining area and the accent wall reminiscent of sand dunes. Echoes of Colborne Lane are still present (like the over-sized mirrors), but the space has been brightened; the floor has been sanded and the bar has been moved back, allowing greater street presence and more natural light to flood the room.

While the restaurant aims to showcase sustainable, local food, Woods is reticent to label it a farm-to-table venue.

“It’s about being local and sustainable and Canadian without being clichéd about it,” Woods says.

The menu — designed in conjunction with Woods’s chef de cuisine, Anthony Davis (Sidecar) — focuses on reimagined classics, like a tuna tartare ($15) served with saffron-apple purée, baby fennel, lemon balm, a white beet purée and roasted yellow beet.

Expect the menu to stay consistent in its proteins but varied in its accoutrements. Dishes such as the roasted Muscovy duck breast ($28) with micro tatsoi, shallot, sourdough, dried cherries and a duck egg béarnaise aren’t subject to seasonal changes, whereas the venison carpaccio — served with black trumpets, wild leeks and corn nuts ($16) — might see the wild leeks replaced, depending on what can be foraged by Mark Trealout up in the Kawarthas.

Woods, 45 Colborne St., 416-214-9918

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