That time I … was Smith-ten

Smith TorontoHere’s the deal — I love the little places. Not the fast food options, not the buffet spreads, and not the big chains (although I will make an exception for the flock of casual dining restos invading our city from out west. Yes, Cactus Club, I’m talking about you). No, it’s the little joints that satisfy my stomach.

So, when a relatively unknown restaurant called Smith popped up on the Winterlicious list this year, I was both intrigued by its name and its inviting menu — and even more tempted upon discovering its association with another little restaurant I visited last year, named Wish.

Smith is located in the colourful Church & Wellesley area of Toronto, and as I arrive at 553 Church St., I’m surprised with the lack of obvious signage (there is a sign, it’s just not obvious). Instead, I spot only a brightly lit door. Already, I’m convinced something magical lies behind it.

Smith TorontoThe restaurant is dimly lit, and already abuzz with eager diners — all the early birds who successfully snagged a hot table on the first day of the annual winter foodie fest. As the hostess tends to the couple before us, we wait in the tiny hallway. This causes our servers to squeeze past us as they race up and down the stairs (oh, apparently there’s 3 levels to this place), and forces my friend to step outside into the cold so that departing patrons could exit. It’s all a bit too cosy and awkward.

Thankfully, once seated, the warmth and friendliness of our server Brigitte thaws our first impressions. Plus, we’re seated at a pretty coveted table by the window.

Smith’s $35 prix fixe Winterlicious menu provides a great preview of it’s regular fare, leaving us a little conflicted for choice. As a hardcore carnivore, I opted for the meatier selections. The tartare appetizer was well-portioned and sinfully good.

Smith Toronto
Open-Faced Beef Tartare Sandwich with egg yolk and herb salad

My dining partners opted for the French Onion Soup…which they could only describe as “good, but very, very oniony”.

Smith Toronto
Steak & Fries with brandy peppercorn sauce and crispy onions

Steak frites is one of my favourite dishes. So two of my biggest pet peeves are when the steak is overcooked and the frites are soggy. Although ordered medium-rare, 40% of my steak was cooked medium. The fries that surrounded the steak were crispy, but the same could not be said for the batch that sat below the juicy piece of meat.

Smith Toronto
One of each – Chocolate Mousse Cake, Warm Apple Crumble (vegetarian option), Crème Caramel, and something with lemon (not on original menu).

While our individual palates might prefer more personalised main courses, fortunately when it comes to desserts, it’s all about sharing the love. I think the clear winner was the Creme Caramel.

Smith Toronto Smith Toronto

With its rustic, vintage-inspired decor, and it’s homely, non-uniformed serving team, Smith is a bit of a no-frills set up. I adored the old door knobs repurposed as mini flower vases; the mismatched tableware straight out of grandma’s kitchen; the glass swing-top bottles; and the odd collection of decorative pieces. It was all very Pinterest-worthy.

However, we found ourselves amused by the potential safety hazards:
  • Miss the low-hanging claw anchor hanging precariously next to the table and that’s a potential spike through your kneecap.
  • Lean in too close to the giant candlelabra and you may set your sweater on file…like our server almost did.
  • Try moving the giant cast iron ladle cupping the two pomegranates and you may pull a muscle…as I almost did.
Yet, all of this just adds to Smith’s quirky charm which, along with the meal, made for a very enjoyable dining experience. As we grabbed the doggie bag to leave, we couldn’t help but notice this:
Smith Toronto
Whether a faux pas or not, the evening couldn’t have ended on a more endearing note.

 


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