For Mack’s belated birthday dinner last Friday, he chose Solstice Seasonal Cuisine, the newest restaurant to open on 124 Street. While it replaced Somerville Wine Room & Bistro, which means the total inventory hasn’t changed in the neighbourhood, it still reinforces the fact that 124 Street still commands attention for those seeking what is new and hot.
The restaurant’s pedigree is strong, with the four partners having trained and honed their skills at the respectable Packrat Louie. Not to mention that Executive Chef Jan Trittenbach has Canadian Culinary Championship and local Gold Medal Plates titles to his name. Solstice opened quietly on December 22, 2014, so though it has only had a few weeks under its belt, we were eager to see what they had to offer.
The interior of the restaurant is recognizable from its previous tenant in terms of the colour scheme and basic layout, but some changes have been made. The banquet has been removed in favour of standalone chairs, and the bar has been remastered, now sharing its space with an urban cultivator. The room as a whole is understated and comfortable.
When we arrived, we were warmly welcomed and immediately ushered to a table. On that Friday night, there were only three other parties that came through during our visit. Although January can be a slower month for restaurants, I’m sure its entrance into the food scene during the holiday season has translated into a more gradual start.
We started with cocktails. Solstice had a number of original cocktail creations, but we decided to choose from drinks that had been inspired by bartenders from elsewhere. Mack’s Mad Man, influenced by Frankie Solarik of Toronto’s Barchef, featured tobacco syrup, while my NYC Si Mamacita was a refreshing combination of grapefruit, tequila, chamomile syrup, aperol and lime.
The food menu contained less than a dozen appetizers and mains, but the selection is varied enough to appeal to different tastes. Given the restaurant’s stated commitment to local producers (and their inclusion on the website), it would have been nice to see some of their names on the physical menu as well. Their motto claims a desire to cook seasonally, so expect menu changes based on the availability of ingredients.
On that night, craving warmth over diversity after our chilly bus ride over, both of us ordered the soup of the week ($9) to start, an enticing potato and bacon. The potato base wasn’t wholly smooth, which was Mack’s preference, but it definitely hit the spot.
Potato and bacon soup
My beef short ribs ($28) were well prepared, though the accompanying baked potato perogies ended up being the stars of the plate. I loved the smoky bacon flavour, and declared them a very close second to RGE RD’s house made bundles.
Beef short ribs
Mack’s halibut and prawns ($32) had no shortage of tastes and textures. He found the halibut slightly overcooked, but no fault with the rest of the dish.
Halibut and prawns
For dessert, the caramel apple crème brulee ($12) caught our eye. While we couldn’t discern the apple flavour in the brulee itself, we appreciated the generous sugar crust and creamy custard. The green apple sorbet was wonderfully tart, and in warmer months, it could be a featured dessert all on its own.
Caramel apple crème brulee
While the food was solid, what set Solstice apart was the service. Sure, it wasn’t a packed house, but our server was attentive, friendly and gave us the space we needed to enjoy each other. We lingered over our coffee and never felt rushed to leave as we relaxed our way into the weekend.
It’ll be interesting to see how Solstice’s menu shifts with the seasons, but hopefully traffic will pick up as their name spreads over the next few weeks.
Solstice Seasonal Cuisine
10723 124 Street