I casually stumbled upon an interesting restaurant concept at The Atlantic on Dundas. This restaurant is classically understated, conversationally quiet, and has a casual elegance to the restaurant style. I loved that when Bing and I walked in, there was a piano on our left, and there are only a set number of people who can have dinner for that evening. It’s a 1 shift dinner service, with no turnovers. So you can talk and drink for hours, without music blaring in your ears, and having pushy staff usher you out for the next round of people. That does not happen here. How charming!
What makes this restaurant stand out from the rest (besides the exceptional improvised menu), is that the owner Nathan Isberg goes by a barter or cash system. You can barter massages, artwork, anything or pay what you think the meal is worth. My friends and I found this extremely difficult to calculate at the end of our 6 course meal, because we didn’t want to short change this divine, yet healthy establishment. So we actually sat around for a good 25 minutes averaging how much each course would be worth if we went to a regular restaurant with a price tag.
Nathan Isberg cooks everything himself, and he has minimal staff who help him out with serving or washing the dishes. His menu changes everyday, depending on what is in the market. If you are open minded to trying new things, and enjoy being surprised by a mystery menu, this is the place for you. The dishes come out at the same time with the everyone else, and you get to enjoy some complex and exquisite flavours on your palette. There are so many layers to one dish, that it was hard to pinpoint what is it, exactly. Nothing is wasted in the kitchen. How wonderfully novel.
Our menu consists of:
1. Rose and curry smoky soup. The spice slowly creeps up on you, but doesn’t get too hot.
2. Green French beans, pappadum, squash sliced in spirals. This was clean and fresh.
3. Squash blossom pakoras with Japanese cucumbers. This was saintly.
4. Pickerel smoked in applewood. I think! Since the menu was written down, I know I am missing lots of details per dish.
5. Strawberry grouper with saffron grits, poached egg. WOW, this was my favourite dish. The flavours were light, yet you can taste the saffron and the strawberries. The egg was cooked to perfection, with the right degree of runny-ness.
6. Strawberry frisée with basil. Essentially a dessert so refreshing, I wish I could have asked for more.
It is strongly advised you call ahead of time, because impromptus would be hard to get a table for that night. I would also advise you to block off 4-5 hours for the meal. Like I said, you can sit comfortable and enjoy the ambiance. The night we went, we had a patron who got up and played the piano. I felt like I was in the 1950’s for some reason. Nathan Isberg is such a gracious and humble chef, I know I will be going back for more food. Maybe once every season, because you never know what to expect!
Please excuse my tardy pictures. They don’t do justice to what was served, as it was quite dark.
Visit The Atlantic at:
1597 Dundas St. W, Toronto, ON M6J1H1