Just north of Avenue and Bloor, you’ll find a restaurant and patio tucked away near a row of residential homes. What was once the Asian-inspired steak house NAO, is now a Mediterranean escape named Estia.
The restaurant, located at 90 Avenue Rd., is the latest launch from hospitality group ICONINK, with Executive Chef Ben Heaton leading the kitchen. A small neon sign spells out Estia in the window and inside, dark booths and Asian prints are swapped out for jewel-toned upholstery and female-centric art. Lights are dim and along the left hand side, visitors are greeted by an impressive bar. At the back, an open window gives a peek at the kitchen’s charcoal grill and wood burning oven.
The mantra at Estia is to serve well thought out, yet simple dishes, using only the freshest of ingredients to ensure quality plates that family and friends can linger over. The menu boasts a variety of shareable dishes such as halloumi ($16) made with cow’s milk, drizzled with Greek truffle-infused honey and balsamic, and served with oven roasted grapes; carefully thought out salads like the shaved fennel and radicchio ($9/$17); and sides like wood oven potatoes ($12) and grilled broccolini ($14).
Downstairs lies the prep kitchen where much of Estia’s magic happens. The restaurant makes almost everything in house, from the cured meats and cheeses, to breads and spreads, and even yogurt.
The lower kitchen is also where staff prepare the meat and fish, the latter of which is shipped in daily. Priced by the pound and served by the half or whole, visitors can choose from four different seasonings. Here a Madai snapper is seasoned with olive oil, sea salt and caper leaves imported from Santorini. Perfectly grilled for just four minutes over a fire, the dish is simple and rustic, each bite flaking away perfectly and packing a flavourful punch.
As with many Mediterranean menus, Estia’s is one that fits a pescatarian diet. While dishes like the juicy wood oven chicken ($28/$55), steak ($65), lamb cutlets ($45/$90) and a fresh beef tartar ($19) appease meat eaters, their stand-out dishes come from the sea. Take, for instance, my favourite dish on the menu: the charcoal grilled octopus ($19) with n’duja. Brined for 24-hours before hitting the plate, each bite is tender and married harmoniously with a bright romesco sauce.
Pastas also take up a small portion of the menu. With noodles made fresh in-house daily, the quality is something diners will taste with each forkful. Here the seafood linguini ($16/$29) is served in a broth made out of shellfish and served with calamari shipped in from the Mediterranean and BC-imported mussels, clams and shrimp.
And last but not least are the desserts. Offerings include house made ice creams and sorbets ($5 per scoop), a dense chocolate torta ($10) and yogurt cake ($10), none of which are overly sweet, and like the rest of the menu, are kept simple. The nest-like Kataifi Tart ($10) is one of the top picks, made with semolina custard, pistachio, almonds, walnuts and cardamom.
Estia is open daily for dinner service Monday to Saturday starting at 5pm and Sundays from 3pm.
Have you tried Estia yet? What was your favourite dish? Let us know in the comment section or tweet us at @ViewtheVibe.