Chef John Waxman and Ivan Reitman

From co-owners, Hollywood director Ivan Reitman and world-renowned chef Jonathan Waxman, come Montecito – a new restaurant in the heart of the entertainment district. The restaurant takes its cues from its southern California namesake, both in its picturesque setting and its cuisine.

Upper lounge | Photo: Nick Lee

Upper lounge | Photo: Nick Lee

Reitman brings the two-storey space to life. The main floor is decorated with lush earth tones, combined with rich textures in the drapery and upholstery. The digital walls are stunning features. They are comprised of 55″ UHD screens that form arched windows. On these displays play footage shot by Reitman himself from his home in Montecito, California. The second floor offers more dining space, and along the walls are shelves that house memorabilia from Reitman’s movies. Also on the second floor is Montecito’s lounge area, where you’ll find an impressive display of wines, and even orange trees flown in from California.

Before dinner we sampled a few cocktails in the lounge – Shoot the Runner, the Beekeeper, and Gorgeous Gunners, with the latter being my favourite with its lime and strawberry flavours. The cocktails are made with bitters produced in house. If you prefer wines, a large selection is available, carefully selected by Sommelier Stephanie Guth, including four Montecito label house wines. There are also beers on draft, as well as bottles and cans.

On the culinary front, the menu was conceived by Waxman and Executive Chef Matt Robertson, combining the simplicity of California cuisine with local Canadian ingredients. These ingredients include seasonal Ontario fruits and vegetables, cheeses from nearby dairy farms, and shellfish from the Maritimes. During our preview, we were able to sample some items from the menu, which changes daily.

To start we had some appetizers, including a sweet pea fava bean bruschetta, and a chopped salad consisting of poached vegetables, parsley, a light dressing and blue cheese. My personal pick is the kale salad with anchovy dressing and pecorino; a similar item is found at Waxman’s famed New York restaurant, Barbuto. Finally, there were two pizzas – the classic Margherita pizza, and the Chanterelle mushroom pizza. All of these appetizers highlighted the freshness and beautiful flavours of the locally sourced produce.

Chopped salad - poached vegetables, parsley, dressing, blue cheese | Photo: John Tan

Chopped salad – poached vegetables, parsley, dressing, blue cheese | Photo: John Tan

Following these appetizers came the more substantial dishes. These included some of Waxman’s signatures – jw chicken & salsa verde, and jw potatoes. The chicken was flavourful, with the salsa verde and the seasoning working together harmoniously. Other mains included the sea asparagus on striploin, the pan seared sockeye salmon dressed with olive oil, and juicy meatballs on a bed of creamy polenta – my favourite main of the night. Other sides included succotash, and perfectly crisped onion rings.

jw chicken & salsa verde | Photo: Nick Lee

jw chicken & salsa verde | Photo: Nick Lee

Finally came an assortment of desserts presented on a large wooden board. The chocolate chip ice cookie cream sandwiches were delicious, as was the chocolate mousse, and chocolate brownie. If your taste buds are more partial to sour than sweet, there was a key lime tart. The signature dessert is the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man baked Alaska, which of course gets its name from Ghostbusters. The baked Alaska was sweet, but not overly sweet, and a great dessert to finish your Montecito experience.

Assortment of desserts

Assortment of desserts

Montecito is conveniently located at 299 Adelaide St West, just west of John St. Being just steps away from the TIFF Bell Lightbox, Montecito is a prime location for some celebrity sightings during TIFF including Robert Downey Jr. Montecito is open every day until 2AM, with the late night menu running until 1:30AM. Lunch is served from Monday to Friday, and brunch is served on Saturday and Sunday.

For more information:
http://www.montecitorestaurant.ca
Twitter: Montecito_TO #DiscoverMontecito
Instagram: Montecito_TO #DiscoverMontecito
Facebook: MontecitoRestaurant

Also, read about our hard hat tour of Montecito here.

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John Tan

John is an avid traveller, but equally loves being a tourist in his own city. With camera in hand, he enjoys discovering the sights, sounds, tastes, and everything else that Toronto has to offer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram (@iam_johntan) to see what he's been up to lately.