Grey Gardens, always a dependable place for great food and wine [Toronto]

Although I have posted about Grey Gardens in other threads, I think it is worthy of its own so that information about it is easier to find. We’ve been going since it opened, with Mitch Bates as chef and Jen Agg as co-owner. The food continues to be interesting fun, and delicious. And the wine list highlights all kinds of off-the-beaten path options.

We dined indoors this time, with a visiting friend (who love it so much, she took her boss back a few nights later). We received a warm greeting and friendly service throughout the night (a handwritten recipe for the Citrus Spritz cocktail that our friend loved, a comped hamachi crudo).

For wine, we would have gone for one of the weirder options, but our friend wanted an Alsatian white and we deferred:
Vincent Fleith '18 Sylvaner Alsace, France - the same one we had from the Grey Gardens wine club - very floral and lovely.

Hamachi, pickled ramps, mustard oil, dill, and sheets of savoury radish, sprouts - fresh, light, lovely.

Bison carpaccio, creme fraîche underneath with juniper, capers, pickled beech mushrooms, crispy sunchoke chips on top - wonderful contrasts of flavours and textures.

Cabbage braised in Maggi sauce, with chili oil, stracciatella, garlic, with crispy (dehydrated?) sheets of cabbage on top - umami and salt in a good way.

Eggplant, cashew, za’atar, lime, parsley, cucumber, pickled onion, dill, green onion and a little tahini - smokey and a nice sour tang.

Pappardelle, celery root, sage, goat cheese (Midnight Moon), and “spices you would roast a chicken with” - amazing and perhaps the best pasta of the night.

Gnocchi Sardi - pork and date sausage crumbled in, rapini, smoked butter, and Parmesan over - smokey, cheesy goodness.

Ravioli with oxtail, harissa, red pepper - Jamaica meets Italy and great.

Beef cheek, sauce bordelaise, rutabaga purée and braised chunks, cipollini - supple, beautifully done.

Pineapple, tapioca, finely chopped macadamia nuts, passion fruit mango ice over buttermilk custard - terrific!

Still no decaf coffee though. I’ll have to bring my own.


We hadn’t been to Grey Gardens for several months, so we had one seating at the chef’s counter and then returned again for the dishes we couldn’t cover. The only thin we missed were the snacks (which we haven’t ordered in years) and the bavette (which is probably very good, but less interesting than the rest of the menu).

Service remains friendly and informed. We had some excellent wine recommendations, from our server on one night and from the sommelier on the other. The chefs also provided additional details about the dishes when we asked. The food remains richly flavoured, with high quality ingredients and lots of interesting contrasts. There were only a couple of missteps (a bit too much salt in both cases).

On one night we had a bottle of Tissot “les graviers “ Jura Chardonnay 2019 - lemon, peach candy, butterscotch (almost whisky-ish), a little mushroom as it opened - overall spectacular. The other night we ordered glasses, including the Uivo 2022 Curtido Moscatel Galego, Douro Portugal (orange) - sour apricot candy with floral notes. We also enjoyed the Tenerife Canary Island, listan negro - medium body, smoky, iron-y, red fruit. Also very good was the Ardoisieres 2022 Silice blanc, Jacquere grape, Savoie, France - mineral, crisp, light but it stood up nicely to the rich pastas.

I’ll cover the dishes in the order they are on the menu, but keep in mind these were two separate meals.

The crudi are usually very good and the current selection are no exception.

Sweet scallops are mixed with watermelon (picked rind and fresh), cashew green curry, thin serrano slices, Thai basil and oil, coconut dollops, and lime juice - fragrant and a little bit of a kick:

Kampachi had lots of umami from kombu, some citrus from yuzu, some pepper from nasturtium, and kick from scotch bonnet. It also had a bit too much salt:

Swordfish carpaccio was graced with some eggplant purée and then showered with fried eggplant strips, sesame seeds, and lovage:

Rich and sweet tomatoes almost needed nothing else but salt. But it was hard to argue with the addition of furikake, chili oil, zucchini and red pepper, tomatoe vinegar, and thin slices of raw onion. The sauce was so good, we ordered the sourdough just to mop it up:

Even more impressive were sublimely smoked and poached leeks with thin slices of sweet cantaloupe, leek mayo, leek oil, balsamic, arugula, and finely grated cheddar:

The pastas are usually excellent. The most popular by far on one night (everyone seemed to order it) was the ricotta gnudi with brown butter, deep fried spinach, pine nuts, and lemon, and parmesan - the lemon is the secret weapon, balancing off what would otherwise be a very rich dish:

My favourite was the crown pasta stuffed with sweet polenta (corn purée), served with pecorino, beech mushroom (pickled and sautéed), green garlic, chicken skin breadcrumbs, and some pecorino, again pulled together with lemon juice:

The cavatelli had a great mix of clams, sausage, fennel, and parmesan. It was one step too salty, which is a shame as it had great flavours otherwise:

The two mains we tried were both superb. Pickerel filets had crisped skin and delicate white flesh, served on a bed of corn cream, golden plum, yuzu kosho, and cabbage (the picture doesn’t do it justice):

Equally delicious was a brined, moist chicken breast, stuffed with sausage and served over chanterelles and peas with an apricot sauce:

In the early years, desserts were not their strength. Then they became quite adventurous and wonderful. Now they are a little less adventurous, but generally pretty enjoyable. The lime panna cotta was delicate and not too sweet, served with blueberries and a coffee crumble:

Also very good was the apple galette (wonderful pastry), served with maple ice cream (could have had more maple), and sumac powder:


I had to book a dinner for 8 for work colleagues. I was surprised and pleased that Grey Gardens offers a set menu for groups for just $89 per person, not including drinks, taxes, and tip. The menu featured 2 snacks, 1 crudo, 2 veggie dishes, 2 pastas, 2 mains, and 2 desserts served family style.

We had 3 bottles of wine. First up was Jeudi 15, Vino di Anna, 2021, a light and citrusy Etna bianco. Next was the 2022 Hermit Ram sauvignon blanc, a gorgeous unfiltered orange wine with lovely floral notes. And we finished with a 2020 Chateau Brown Pessac-Leognan, a more full-bodied white that stood up to our richer mains.

We started with their Red Tail bread, with a nutty crust and a pillowy interior, so good we had a refill.

The other snack was the smoked fish dip with potato chips, which has been on the menu since the early days and remains very enjoyable.

The kanpachi with cabbage, kombu, yuzu, and nasturtium was an improvement from the last time, with a better salt balance.

The vegetable dishes are usually great and these two were no exceptions. The standout was the celeriac with truffle, a truffle butter sauce, hazelnuts, endive instead, and crostini on top.

Nearly as good was the roasted cauliflower with brown sauce and green sauce, maitake, dill, lemon purée, and pickled cauliflower stem.

A new pasta was the tagliatelle with fresh matsutake, egg yolk, pecorino - would have been excellent with a little less salt.

By contrast, the “Surf and turf” cavatelli, with clams, sausage, fennel greens, and shaved parmesan was perfectly balanced (compared to the too salty version in October).

The delicately cooked skate wing came over delicious white beans and chanterelles, and was surrounded by leek foam.

Roasted duck breast was accompanied by roasted baby turnips, pureed sweet potato, and a mustard-accented jus.

The apple galette remains an excellent dessert, with maple notes and a bit of sumac to offset the sweet. The new five-spice cake is wonderful and is served with white chocolate ice cream and pineapple curd inside.


Very nice!

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We went again on a Monday night and focused on dishes that were new since our last visit. The new dishes were all excellent, particularly the pastas.

They still had the Kristinus 2021 Oliver Balatonboglar, Hungary, so we each had a glass - very floral, peach candy, lychee, pineapple. We then ordered a bottle of White Plume 2021 savagnin/chardonnay, Jura - mineral, a little bit of oak, some malolactic. We took the rest of the bottle home as apparently it gets more interesting with time.

We started with two crudos:
Branzino with pickled carrot rounds, sweet pineapple, cilantro, daikon strips - fresh and light.

Albacore came with tomato xo, scapes, black olive crumble - a bit of a heftier fish with an appropriately stronger set of flavours.

On to the three pastas:
Agnolotti filled with sunflower seeds and caramelized onions, with arugula pesto in the centre of the plate, chèvre grated over - nice mix of the smokey/bitter arugula with the nuttiness of the sunflower seeds.

Tagliatelle with a duck sausage Bolognese, poultry seasoning, green olives, and Parmesan - rich and yet well-balanced, with just the right amount of salt.

Hand torn buckwheat pasta with braised lamb, mirepoix, ricotta salata and a little kick - almost hearty and similarly not over-salted.

Smoked pork chop covered with split peas, black trumpet, shredded Brussels sprouts - smokey to the bone, like eating a bacon chop, and again deft salting on the jus. They gave us free bread to mop it all up.

Both desserts were wonderful:
Sea buckthorn parfait, almost like a semifreddo, with pumpkin seed, black sesame, and some kind of sauce that seemed like strawberry but was a weird assortment of things including squash - tangy, not too sweet.

Chocolate cake (moist, rich) over chocolate mousse (nice and dark), with earl grey ice cream.

Since they never have decaf anymore, I brought some from home with a filter and they happy supplied me with a mug and boiling water.


What I find with Grey Gardens is they’ve been consistently great through the years. From the first time going there when they first opened to the last time recently, they haven’t missed a step. And their prices are reasonable (especially at through the roof restaurant pricing these days that seems to be the norm). IMO, they epitomize the meaning of Michelin Bib Gourmand, to which they are rightful members.


A friend was in town and we took her to Grey Gardens one evening. Some dishes were repeats (so no pix for those) and some dishes were new.

For wine we ordered a bottle of blanc de noir LE PUY DE L’OURS '22 Côte de Beaune ‘Les Monsnières’, Burgundy - very nice, mineral with some malolactic fermentation, no oak, some green apricot. We needed a little more, so had a glass of Plot 2021 ‘Haze’, Okanagan (Kelowna) - super floral, Kerner plus three other grapes.

The branzino crudo, with carrot, clarified pineapple juice, cilantro remains refreshing and light. A new crudo featured Arctic char, watercress, horseradish, crème fraiche, pickled cauliflower stems - lots of tangy acid for the richness of the char.

One of the new vegetable dishes featured green tomato, stracciatella, puntarelle, fennel, breadcrumbs, rosemary, garlic, and chili - also very tangy and refreshing.

The other new vegetable dish was exceptional, with maitakes and black garlic over a savoury barley risotto and spinach.

The three pastas remain the same (see above for more description and pix) and were all excellent: 1) agnolotti with arugula, chèvre, sunflower seed, 2) tagliatelle with duck sausage, poultry seasoning, olives, and 3) hand-torn pasta with lamb, buckwheat, ricotta salata and chili.

Striped bass was perfectly cooked, with crispy skin and supple moist flesh, accompanied by lime leaf, mustard greens, and vadouvan curry.

The one new dessert was cinnamon ice cream on thin slices of toast, with miso, poached pear, maple - beautiful and not too sweet.

The chocolate cake with mousse and Earl Grey ice cream remains really good.