First Look: Paintbox Bistro, a new social enterprise and restaurant in Regent Park
By Karolyne Ellacott
Celeriac and parsley soup (Images: Karolyne Ellacott)
Paintbox Bistro isn’t your run-of-the-mill restaurant. Situated in Regent Park — a part of the city recognized for its social housing complexes — the bistro aims to bring new life to the ’hood and act as a cornerstone of the area’s revitalization.
“We needed something to attract the people of Toronto to this area, and help the marginalized community,” says owner Chris Klugman. Paintbox is a for-profit social enterprise with a goal of providing training and career opportunities to people in the area and those who are in need. “This is too important to fail,” Klugman says.
After a number of restaurant companies eschewed taking the risk with Regent Park, Klugman decided to give it a shot; his background as a restaurant/catering company owner and as a consultant at the Evergreen Garden Market was an ideal fit. Committing wholeheartedly to a social imperative, Klugman has put together a team that includes 30 employees from marginalized communities.
The kitchen is run by chef Matt Cowan (Simple Bistro, The Rosebud), who is turning out playful dishes spiked with plenty of multicultural elements. Nothing priced over $18, and the menu is divvied up into “splatters,” “primers” and “grand strokes” (and tables are tricked out with paintbrush-filled vases, bringing the point home).
Picks include a celeriac and parsley soup ($8) enhanced with torn pumpernickel bread, a poached egg and shards of crispy parsley. Roasted kabocha squash ($16) is paired with lentils, drizzled in coconut sauce and finished with bok choy, mushrooms and sesame seeds. Meanwhile, the pan-seared Cornish hen ($17) sits on a bed of roasted beets and dandelion and is dotted with house-made horseradish aioli. A takeout window provides street-friendly eats to those on the go.
Having just opened, the place is quickly becoming a main artery of the neighbourhood.
“We’ve been embraced by the community very quickly,” Klugman says. “This was very much needed.”
Paintbox Bistro, 555 Dundas St. E., 647-748-0555