Address: 92 Ossington Ave.
Hours: Tues – Thurs: 6 p.m.-10:30 p.m.; Fri – Sat: 6 p.m. – 11 p.m.; Sun: 6 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Dinner for 2 w/tax & tip: $90
*** 1/2 (out of five)
Each subsequent trip to the strip of Ossington between Queen and Dundas brings a fresh surprise, as yet another former Vietnamese karaoke joint, auto body shop or kitchen cabinetmaker’s storefront has either disappeared to make way for townhouses or shuttered itself, with a liquor license application in the window to serve notice that yet another bar or eatery is opening.
Corrina Mozo opened Delux on Ossington in January, after the street had been crowned the new place to be – a College Street for the new century – and after Tom Thai’s Foxley was acclaimed as the harbinger of fine dining where Portuguese bakeries were once the pinnacle of eateries. Delux was Mozo’s return to Canada after years in the Boston’s kitchens. She had originally planned to marry French bistro with a Cuban touch, but despaired of pulling off this intriguing fusion in the seasonal scarcities of a Toronto winter.
French bistro remained, and Mozo’s dining room opened to glowing reviews, a stark but warm and woody space with the arresting design touches that are so beloved on Ossington, such as the horizontal chandeliers made of dead fluorescent tubing, and the raw stubs of brick walls broken through to expand the antique storefront. General manager Jay McEwen has been there from the beginning, training staff and designing the wine list, and weathering the restaurant’s only bad review – a blistering screed by the Post’s Gina Mallet that focused on his shirt.
“We got a lot of really great press to open up with,” he agrees. “It was remarkably easy and welcoming, as I think the neighbourhood needed another restaurant to the calibre of Foxley. It just made our jobs really easy.”
Mozo’s menu has to be one of the most concise in the city, essentially bistro with few frills or distractions, and full of stalwart items like bouillabaisse, steak frites, and duck confit. Portions are just as concise, but prices are suitably reasonable, and on the night I sit at the bar watching the kitchen and front of house work tidily together, I notice that the appetizer of the night – a trio of charcuterie with an emphasis on rabbit – is selling nicely, a bit of a surprise.
“Younger diners, I find that they learn from chefs and from trying different restaurants,” says McEwen. “Staff in restaurants are smarter now than they were five years ago, and I’m very confident in my staff, that even at their age and experience level they’re much more confident and have much more knowledge, and being able to educate our younger diners is very much something we are able to do.”
The tables feature a representative profile of Ossington diners – fashionably dressed young people and older customers who’ve made the voyage from points more prosperous and suburban to enjoy the city’s latest hot destination. The street is set to change even more in the next year, but McEwen says that, among the veterans, optimism reigns.
“It keeps going and going. There’s buzz all the time about places that are going up – there’s a pizzeria up the street that’s going to open in the next six months, the Ossington down the street – we’re all looking forward to them opening up. It’s going to be stunning. Everyone’s expanding, everyone’s growing, things are changing faster than anyone could have envisioned them.”