Ivan Reitman Sets the Scene for New Toronto Hot Spot

We know where we’ll be when TIFF rolls in. 

Earlier today we told you about the soon-to-open hotspot Montecito, currently taking over a massive space right smack in the middle of the Entertainment District. Located inside the Cinema Tower condos on Adelaide, if you’ve driven by the not-yet-completed restaurant, you couldn’t have missed it.

Like a Hollywood movie poster, the names of famed Canadian director Ivan Reitman and renowned Chef Jonathan Waxman of New York’s Barbuto are plastered all over it. 

We caught up with Reitman and Waxman during Friday’s sneak peek hardhat tour to pick up a few extra details on what will surely become one of 2014’s most talked about restaurants… 

The YP appeal.
“I sure hope it appeals to young professionals, because they live all around here – there are thousands of them. We’ve tried to find something that really works for those people. I’m a bit outside of that demo now, but I have to worry about them and their tastes in the movie business,” says Reitman. 

As for Waxman, his New York restaurant Barbuto is already a mainstay among in-the-know YPs. 

“I’m twice as old as a 30-year-old, but I think that I can relate really well and I think I know what that person wants,” he tells us. “It is a forward-looking restaurant, and that demo is looking for that too. It’s not just food, or just a place to drink, but also a lot of different elements working together. We have two bars, a private event area overlooking the dining room and a private entrance for VIP guests. The place will have a fun, social vibe.”

Even in its raw, uncompleted form, we can picture the A-list TIFF parties already.

A simple plan
“I live right over here and realized that there really wasn’t a place for me to go on a regular basis,” said Reitman. “Most of the places around here are too downscale, the food isn’t good enough, and it’s not a fun environment. The better places are too fancy, too expensive and too fussy. They are for, quote unquote, special occasions. Usually you’re disappointed in the food. The chef’s trying too hard.” 

The word “simple” becomes a constant theme throughout the conversation. 

“We wanted to create a fun environment with spectacular food done in a really simple, unfussy way. That’s why I called my friend Jonathan Waxman to really supervise the culinary aspect and become a partner.”

Waxman shares a similar sentiment.

“I think that simple is sometimes over-used, but it is the food that I’ve always done,” says Waxman. He jokes that he’s “not smart enough to do fancy food” and that he “doesn’t know how to use tweezers in a culinary sense.” He tells us that most chefs try to out-do and outthink themselves and the other guy.  

“As I get older, I am very comfortable in my skin and with my food. I’m very happy to serve a piece of fish that is really simple. Or a piece of steak that is just done really well. How often do you get a perfectly grilled steak? That to me is what a chef does. He takes a really fantastic piece and cooks it properly and serves it in a timely fashion. That’s the art. People don’t have time to worship food anymore.” 

Cues from California.  
“It is important to be respectful of your ingredients and I think that is what California is really about,” says Reitman. “It is both really casual and the food is really fine. It means great primary ingredients created in a simple way. That’s why I keep talking about the fussiness that disappoints me. You have the upscale restaurants but you sort of always lose sight of the principal piece of fish or meat on your plate because it has just been worked over so much.” 

As for the actual décor, the Golden Coast will be well reflected there too. 

“Ivan has done an amazing job with the lighting and all of the sort of thematic stuff from California in a Canadian sense,” says Waxman.

New York vs. Toronto.
“I never compare cities, because that is really a bad thing,” says Waxman when asked what the NYC culinary scene has that Toronto lacks. I think that Toronto is really the international city of Canada, and New York is the international city of America. They’re really similar. They’re really sister cities and are an hour and 20 apart. It’s amazing how many friends I have who grew up here and I think there is a lot of cross-purposing. Toronto is a fast growing city. There are cranes everywhere.” 

(For his own part, Reitman admits that he finds the city’s ample construction “a little frightening.”)  

Both Reitman, who grew up here, and newcomer Waxman, are passionate about Toronto.

“I grew up on Avenue Road and I’ve always loved the amazing shifts in environment as you make your way up, from here past the parliament buildings to Bloor Street, then up Avenue to Yorkville and beyond,” said Reitman when asked his favourite spots in the city. 

While Waxman tells us he’s looking forward to discovering his own favourite spots. “There are some of the greatest ethnic restaurants in the world here and I have a long list,” he says. 

The restaurant is coming soon… and apparently so is Ghostbusters 3.
Though tight time restrictions prevented us from asking the long list of film-related questions we had for Reitman, we did manage to ask the most important one – whether we’d be seeing Ghostbusters 3 anytime soon. 

“I sure hope so. I’ve spent enough time on it.”

Hope is all we need, Ivan. Well, that and a hot, new $10 million restaurant.

#LYNL | (Live Your Notable Life)

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