Monday, February 4, 2013

O&B Canteen Market Café & Bakery at TIFF Lightbox

Canteen is the casual Market Café and Bakery of Oliver & Bonacini's ground floor hub at TIFF Bell Lightbox, located in the heart of Toronto’s entertainment district at King and John. The restaurant, as the name suggests, is set out in the canteen style, with a dedicated "grab-and-go" counter for take away meals and all-day casual dining. The sleek open-air, wood and metal space designed by KPMB looks more like a high-end cafeteria, but despite the simple low priced breakfast, lunch and dinner menus, this isn’t regular cafeteria fare. After all, the restaurant’s inspiration comes from the wonderfully creative mind of Executive Chef Jason Bangerter, who heads up both Canteen and Luma, O&B's inviting fine dining mecca located on the second floor. Together, they bring movie nights to a whole new level. 

Jason Bangerter's 2012 Prize-winning 'Grate Canadian Grilled Cheese' made with Niagara Gold, prosciutto, arugula and a thyme mayonnaise - and on the menu at Canteen (photo: Cindy La)

You don’t have to be a Hollywood producer to greenlight this restaurant, which has been described as 'The Queen meets Diner': restrained British classics tweaked with New World boldness. That’s how Executive Chef Jason Bangerter sees it. "It's the kind of place where you pop in for a cup of tea and a bacon buttie," he says. "This location has to be about the people who come through here. You’re going to have film students, movie stars, and regular folks going to the movies, so it has to be something that makes sense. O&B Canteen is what you would make at home on a Sunday with your family, but it’s being made by us, using the best ingredients — it's food you probably recognize but with an unexpected twist," Bangerter says.

Chef Jason Bangerter took home top honours at the 2012 Grate Canadian 
Grilled Cheese Cook-Off for his Niagara Gold Crunch Grilled Cheese Sandwich (photo: Cindy La)

One of the ultimate comfort foods must be the humble grilled cheese sandwich, but at Canteen, it's anything but, having been awarded top honours at the 2012 'Grate Canadian Grilled Cheese Cook-Off' for Bangerter's Niagara Gold Crunch Grilled Cheese Sandwich made with Niagara Gold cheese (made in Jordan Station), prosciutto, arugula and a thyme mayonnaise, available at just $16. Enormous chalkboards run the length of the restaurant highlighting everything from the Market Café's decent wine and beer selection to their tempting Grab-and-Go gourmet treats for those on-the-run. 

An enormous chalkboard, in the style of film clapperboard slate, 
highlights Canteen's wine selection

The menu is set up as a selection of starters, salads, plates, pizzas, noodles, sandwiches and sweets, with most of the dishes sitting around the $8 to $16 mark — the most expensive being Steak Frites at $22. Canteen's delectable offerings include a luscious and enormously flavourful Roasted Pumpkin Soup with savoury spiced granola and maple cream; a generous 'Mac & Cheese' with garganelli pasta, cheddar cheese and smoked ham; Gnocchi with braised lamb, rosemary and Parmesan; Baja Fish Tacos with coriander slaw, pineapple and lime crema, and Flat Iron Steak Frites served with Canteen ketchup, a custom creation made with cinnamon, coriander and celery seed.

Canteen's menu features starters, salads, plates, pizzas, noodles, sandwiches, sweets and 
the Chefs Weekly Special, most of which are affordably priced between $10 to $15 

A glass of chilled Argentinan Pinot Grigio

Arriving for a late lunch before going to see a film upstairs at TIFF Lightbox, we were seated at a lovely bright window table overlooking Queen Street. Always impressed with the service, ambiance and cuisine each and every time we dine at Luma, I was curious to see how Canteen measured up in comparison, and was not disappointed. Canteen was excellent, from the prompt and cheerful service from our server Meghan, to the delicious meal and energetic vibe that envelops the bright modern space, dining at Canteen was a real pleasure. As with most productions, accolades arise from group efforts, and our lunch this afternoon was worthy of a standing ovation, largely due to the unerring vision and culinary direction of Chef Bangerter, with a nod to Canteen's two new stars - Chef de Cuisine Jason Sheardown and General Manger Ari Sefton. 

Roasted Pumpkin Soup with savoury spiced granola and maple cream

Soup of the day - Beet & Vegetable with a Gorgonzola and rice crisp garnish

'Mac & Cheese' with garganelli pasta, cheddar cheese and smoked ham

The Grate Canadian Grilled Cheese with Niagara Gold, prosciutto and thyme mayonnaise 
with homemade ketchup, pickled grapes and a cup of Beet & Vegetable Soup

An excellent Edamame & White Bean Salad tossed in a truffle vinaigrette with avocado purée, boiled eggs and slivered radish served with Seared Albacore Tuna garnished with Salsa Verde

An outstanding dish, the truffle vinaigrette on the perfectly cooked 'al dente' 
edamame and white were beans were absolutely heavenly

A battalion of preserved vegetables in mason jars line the wall at Canteen

A line of Fish Tacos being prepped by the kitchen

The sleek open-air, wood and metal space features large sliding glass doors 
that open onto an outdoor patio during the summer months

The 'grab-and-go' counter sells coffee, soups, salads, baked goods, 
breakfast offerings and gourmet sandwiches

O&B Canteen at TIFF Bell Lightbox in the heart of Toronto’s 
entertainment district at King and John - it's 'haute' stuff!

O&B Canteen also serves a Weekend Brunch from 10am-3pm featuring comfort food favourites such as Eggs Benedict with country ham, Hollandaise sauce and home-fries; Fruit Salad with Greek yogurt, baked granola and honey; Steak and Eggs; Smoked Salmon Croissant; Chef's Omelette and Stone-Cut Oatmeal with apple preserves and cinnamon sugar. The 'grab-and-go' section, which offers coffee, baked goods and gourmet sandwiches, also sells homemade snacks to take into the TIFF Bell Lightbox cinemas. Having just enjoyed a fabulous lunch, we decided not to delve into the sinful sweets, but judging by Canteen's constant lineups, this downtown gem is a box-office success. Dinner and a movie has never been so good!

Jason's Niagara Gold Crunch Grilled Cheese Sandwich 
Serves 2
Recipe courtesy Chef Jason Bangerter

4 oz Niagara Gold cheese, cut into thin slices
1/2 cup  mayonnaise
2 small cloves garlic, finely minced
2 pinches of fresh chopped thyme leaves
2 pinches of fresh cracked black pepper
4 1/4-inch thick slices sour dough or country style bread
2 oz shaved prosciutto
1 cup packed baby arugula 
2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

Pickled Grapes - make 3 weeks ahead
Mild sweet grainy mustard
Potato chips or creamy summer slaw
Fresh pressed grape juice

Bring the cheese to room temperature. In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, garlic, thyme and pepper; spread mixture on one side of each bread slice. Place half of the cheese on one bread slice, top with prosciutto, arugula and remaining cheese. Top with remaining slice of bread, mayonnaise side down. Butter both sides of the sandwich. Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Cook sandwich, turning once, for 5 minutes on each side or until golden brown and cheese is melted, adjusting heat as necessary to prevent burning. Cut the sandwich in half and serve with pickled grapes, sweet grainy mustard, potato chips and fresh pressed grape juice. 

Jason's Cooking Tips: This sandwich is a classic combination of ham and cheese that works well in many applications. You can also use Canadian Alfred Le Fermier, La Tomme de Grosse Île, Provolone, aged Gouda, or aged Cheddar.

Pickled Grapes
Makes 2 cups
Recipe courtesy Chef Jason Bangerter

1 1/2 cups seedless green grapes
4 sprigs tarragon
1 cup good quality white wine or champagne vinegar
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 pinch of salt

Wash and dry the grapes well, and place in a 2-cup sterilized canning jar and add the tarragon. In a small saucepan, bring vinegar and sugar to a boil; add a pinch of salt. Pour liquid over grapes to cover. Seal the jar and refrigerate. The grapes will be ready in 3 weeks.

O&B Canteen Ketchup
Makes 1 litre
Recipe courtesy Chef Jason Bangerter

12 onions, diced 
2 heads garlic, chopped 
1 head celery, diced 
250g olive oil 
4 cinnamon sticks
8 tbsp allspice
150g tomato paste
4 tbsp black pepper
6 tbsp coriander seeds, toasted
10 kg tomatoes, chopped
4 tbsp chili flakes, toasted
500 ml white vinegar
500 ml balsamic vinegar
1 litre sugar
10 bay leaves
20 g salt

Gently sweat onions, garlic and celery in olive oil until tender, about five to 10 minutes. Finely grind the spices together. Add the spices and cook for five minutes. Add tomato paste, cook for another five minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a bubbling simmer. Cook for 60 to 90 minutes, or until tomatoes are cooked out and ketchup has reduced to desired thickness. Remove the cinnamon sticks from the mixture and discard. Using a blender, purée until smooth and pass through a fine sieve.

1 comment:

  1. Hi! Great blog! Would you please credit all grilled cheese photos to Cindy La? Thanks!