all restaurant rats, from dish- washers to maitre d's, dream of the day they'll own their own joint. Amy Fleischman, a former bartender at chaotic Ferro and Eugene Barone's Bar Italia, has had her wish come true at Musa, a just-opened neighbourhood spot on the soon-to-be-hip strip of Dundas west of Bathurst.Together with partner Jason Alexander (the local artist, not Seinfeld's George Costanza) and some kitchen help from her mom, Fleischman is finding that her years working for someone else are now paying off. It's early days yet, but the team is smart to start things simply.
While the current menu's not much more than a scribbled sheet, it'll be expanded in the fall once Musa's inevitable growing pains get sorted.
Belying the building's garish exterior -- a two-storey mural of overblown mud-brown mosaic tiles -- the casual eatery has a cozy, laid-back vibe complete with a leafy curbside patio decked out with wobbly cafe tables and yellow fibreglass stacking chairs. Al fresco noise levels are mellow until dump trucks rumble past. Judging by the CD selection heard wafting through an open door -- nouveau-grunge from Lifehouse and Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon -- it's a good thing no one's hooked up the speakers outside just yet.
Most of Musa's substantial sandwiches come stuffed into Pita Break's super preservative-free spelt pockets. Think of Keftades ($7.95 with fries) as a falafel that substitutes cumin-laced meatballs for chickpea patties. Our friendly server informs us that the meat 'n' salad combo gets sauced with ketchup and Dijon mustard, a combo that I immediately nix.
Could it be spread with mayonnaise instead? No, the kitchen doesn't have mayo.
After muttering to myself something to the effect of "What kind of restaurant doesn't have mayonnaise?", I'm pleasantly surprised when the server returns with our order. The cook's whipped up a small ramekin of mayo -- it's perfect for dipping Musa's first-rate hand-cut fries. The spuds may look a tad anemic, but, despite appearances, are quite tasty. On a second visit, these same fries are golden brown and just as delish.
We split a few sides -- five homemade grape leaves ($3.25) stuffed with rice and dill then topped with cucumber yogurt and an entree-sized salad of sautéed bitter rapini and dandelion greens mixed with white navy beans in a garlicky olive-oil vinaigrette.
At weekend brunch, there's a cheesy frittata ($8.95) loaded with cubed potato and spinach, sided with an arugula salad. Omelettes ($6.95) -- bacon and cheddar or asparagus and Swiss -- come with roasted potatoes and wedges of kugel-like galette layered with sweet onion.
Pints of Amsterdam Natural Blond go for $4.50, and there's a selection of squeezed-to-order juices ($2.50).
For the moment, there's no wine list, but Musa does offer wallet-friendly house plonk (either 99 VQA Pillitteri Merlot or Pinot Grigio, $5 glass/$20 bottle).
"People know how much a bottle of wine costs," muses Musa's Fleischman. "Why rip them off?"
most eateries close because they can't attract customers. Nancy Barone's Ellipsis 505 had the opposite problem -- the adjunct bake shop/take-away to her elegant Ellipsis on College proved so popular she had to shut it down."505 turned into something I hadn't planned," says Barone. "I wanted a bakery, and I got another restaurant."
To zero fanfare, the restaurateur quietly opened Ellipsis in Klein (10499 Islington, north of Major Mackenzie, 905-893-2445) this spring.
Yes, that's Klein as in Kleinburg. Now, don't all rush up there expecting an Ellipsis or 505 clone. But if you're heading up that way for the Frida Kahlo, Emily Carr and Georgia O'Keeffe retrospective at the McMichael Gallery, Ellipsis in Klein is worth checking out.
Located in a beautiful 150-year-old cabin complete with rough-hewn beams and huge hearths, EIK is more of a foodie gift shop. Under a lovely covered veranda, you can sip Faema-brewed lattes ($2.50) and nibble on ham-and-Gruyère sandwiches on house-baked rosemary focaccia ($5.50) and superb weekend-only lemon tarts ($2.50).
Though Ellipsis in Klein isn't the bakery Barone envisioned, that concept hasn't been abandoned. Watch for a fourth Ellipsis -- the real thing this time -- to open this fall somewhere very downtown.
changes at bellevue
kensington market's bellevue Diner (61 Bellevue, at Nassau, 416-597-6912) looks like a hit for owner Vicky Poulakakis. But her Cordon Bleu-trained chef, Craig Dehne, has walked after only two months.
His replacement? Ellipsis 505's former chef, Tony Barone, who, despite the handle, is no relation to Ellipsis's Nancy, Bar Italia's Eugene or Bar One's Aldo.
MUSA (847 Dundas West, at Euclid, 416-368-8484) Low-key neighbourhood noshery offering contemporary takes on casual Greek and Turkish dishes in a funky-fresh al fresco setting. Complete meals for $20 per person, including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine or a pint. Open daily 11 am to 2 am. Fully licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNN