What to Eat This Minute: Mussels on toast from Omaw on Ossington

Matt Blondin’s new restaurant feels like heading south for the winter

Take a trip to the Carolinas via Omaw, Ossington’s ode to southern cooking. The new eatery is a split venture between noted chef Matt Blondin, Adrian Niman and Brent McClenahan of the Food Dudes. 

Blondin first introduced the city to “lowcountry” food at the renowned restaurant Acadia. Part Cajun, part Canadian, chef spun his own modern versions of French-Acadian cooking, focusing on the migration of French colonists and the evolution of cuisine as it traversed from Quebec to the southern U.S.A. Dishes like the Cajun shrimp and grits inspired a glut of Blondin followers — both diners and critics alike.

After leaving Acadia for Momofuku Daishō, Blondin’s now returned to his element at Omaw.

“We got lots of input from people who really missed Acadia,” he says. “The style of cuisine has been really well received in the city.”

Get your grit on
Blondin’s cooking involves layers of contrasting flavours and textures. The reworked shrimp and grits from Acadia is uber popular ($13). Blondin cooks down Anson Mills Antebellum corn (a creamier variety than he’s used in the past) with medium American cheddar, house-made pimento cheese, red pepper and two whole gulf prawns.

Not your average toast
Although the grits are good, Omaw’s show stealer is the mussels on toast ($13). The dish’s star player is the “corn smut,” usually known as huitlacoche, something you’ll rarely see on a menu in T.O. True huitlacoche is a Mexican delicacy, a natural fungus that grows on corn, creating an earthy and umami-like flavour when cooked.

However, Blondin’s version isn’t actually smut: it’s a buttered corn spread similar to one he discovered in Charleston Receipts, a classic cookbook. “It’s taking creamed corn further and making basically a corn butter,” he says.

To make the spread, Blondin lightly steams Baie des Chaleurs mussels from Quebec and mixes their juice with corn, butter, cream and spices. It’s cooked down until the texture coarsens, and the resulting paste, or “smut,” is spread on a fried baguette.

Layered on top are the mussels themselves — pickled in a slightly sweet fennel pickling liquid — and an Acadian relish, or chow chow, made with diced celery, vinegars and spices. The dish is finished with both chervil and celery leaves and dusted with malt vinegar powder.

Omaw is a true fete of down low and delicious southern cooking. 

88 Ossington Ave., 416-477-5450