These are the memoirs of a meal I ate at Actinolite a few weeks ago. The restaurant is named after a small farming town in Ontario, which, if one were to infer from the portion sizes at this restaurant, has a starving underfed population. To sum up what is to come, the service was terrible, the food was at times delicious, at times misguided, and the building looks wonderful.
Our server started the evening off this way:
Server: “Hi, is this your first time visiting Actinolite?”
Us: “Yes, it is.”
Server: “Oh…well…I mean…do you know about the food?”
Us: “No, please tell us.”
Server: “Well, what their doing here is really, um, innovative and on the cutting edge.”
Us: ::Realizing he told us nothing about the food:: “Ahh thanks. We’ll order drinks. We’ll have a bottle of [insert name of second cheapest red wine].”
Server: “You know, at that price point I think you can do better, for example, I’d recommend…ummm…can I see the menu? ::we hand the server the menu:: You know you can get, well…I think..no, actually, I think that Red is the best you can do.”
The server couldn’t answer basic questions about the menu (What kind of berries are these in this dish?) and kept interrupting our conversation instead of waiting for natural breaks. All that would be fine if he didn’t have such a pretentious attitude. In fact, if I revisited Actinolite again, and saw him working, I would walk out before being seated. He was that frustrating.
We had a three course menu. The most memorable dish was simply two braised carrots. By far the best carrot I’ve had. And at $6 a carrot, it should be.
The presentation of the food needed work. For some reason, despite spending major money on renovating the building, Actinolite served its food on dark Ikea plates (at least, they match my Ikea plates at home). Not only does it look cheap, the dim lighting in the building combined with the dark plates made it difficult to see the details of what we were eating. Most places use white plates for a reason: it makes the colors and textures of the food visible to the guest.
The food was good. Simple. The portions were amazingly small. The lamb that most of the table ordered was two to three bites of meat for about $24. I ordered trout which was slightly larger in size, but rather bland besides some dill. The people of Actinolite must be a skinny folk if this is their diet, and they must be poor if their food costs this much. There is little value to be found. It’s also unfortunate that the small country style touches that would set Actinolite apart fall completely flat. For example, one dish used a juniper infused oil. No one could taste any juniper – if it was there it was masked by the dill. In fact, the chef’s love of dill became a running joke at the table, since it was appearing strongly in almost every dish. When the time came to order dessert, one person joked that there was probably going to be dill in it. We laughed. We then laughed harder when the server described the savory dill ice cream on the menu.
The location is beautiful. The redesign of the building turned out well, and I love the wine cellar at the bottom of the stairs on the way to the washroom.