We're gearing up for TIFF this week, and thought no better chance than now to get acquainted with the new O&B Canteen at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. We're not expecting it'll be an easy place to get a seat once things get busy down on King Street, although it is unfortunate the rest of the building doesn't appear to be quite ready for the festivities. No worries - Canteen is ready to serve!
Canteen is modern with simple lines for decor and lofty high ceilings. I especially loved the giant blackboards that cover the back wall (kitchen) boasting grab and go items to the left and market cafe dining menu to the right. The half open-kitchen concept has various le Creuset serving pieces sitting along a long stainless steel rack. I was tempted just to order just whatever was served in the Moroccan Tangine! The restaurant offers different specials by day in slightly different variations - Saturday was burger day, a turkey burger. We, however, decided to skip the special.
There was no question what I would have to start, picked easily off the paper menu/placemats - potted shrimp! Tony ordered the chicken liver parfait, which was AMAZING!!
It was probably the best chicken liver parfait we have ever had, incredibly smooth, rich and we just couldn't get enough. It was served with cumberland sauce, which had a bit of kick and was quite complementary, but we loved the parfait just as it was. My potted shrimp was served chilled in a mason jar, and more just like a cold shrimp salad, although it was still quite delicious. For mains, I had mussels in white wine sauce (served in a creuset, yay!). The broth was great, and I only wish it had been served with some French bread rather than the little toasts - didn't soak up the broth as well! It's about a pound of mussels, so not for the super hungry, but was sufficient for me. The mussels were also served with a side green salad, which was probably one of the nicest side salads I've had, including candied peacans. Yum! Tony loved his gnocchi with braised lamb, although I found the gnocchi a little bit crumbly. A really nice touch was the fresh parmesan grated on top. We were quite full after dinner, and the dessert wasn't calling out to me, but next time, maybe I will try the brownie.
When I think about good restaurants vs bad, there are always several elements: food quality, service, efficiency, and ambiance. Overall, O&B Canteen is a solid choice for any meal - I didn't find the food extraordinary but I enjoyed it, the service and ambiance were both good, and most importantly for a theatre district restaurant - it was quick and efficient. It's definitely a great "go to" restaurant, and maybe next time I'll try that burger special and definitely have some more chicken liver parfait!