Sure, chef Nathan Isberg will cook something for your vegan friend, but that’s not the only way he’s flexible. At The Atlantic, there are dining options at every budget: a la carte, prix fixe, a tasting menu—hell, he’ll even make a dish for whatever you want to pay.
Clockwise from top left:
Gnudi in ash and stinging nettle masala
“We’ll basically send out food till they tell us to stop, which is usually after five to six dishes,” says Isberg about the $35 prix-fixe menu. Lately, he’s been featuring these pillowy ricotta dumplings, which are coated in a slightly smoky ash made from roasted onions and a bit of salty coltsfoot, a wild plant that resembles dandelion. A creamy, bright-green sauce of in-season stinging nettles lends a hint of grassy mint: It’s Isberg’s version of saag, the Indian curry made of spinach.
In addition to running The Atlantic, Isberg can be found on weekday afternoons at the nearby St. Francis Table, providing meals to those who can’t afford them. “Instead of there being a place you go to for cheap food and another place for more expensive food, why not have it so that everyone can have something here?” he says. Every night, he keeps a pot of thick chickpea curry bubbling in the kitchen. It’s ladled over a bowl of basmati rice and finished with crisp papadams and bright springs of cilantro for the bargain price of $3. (Isberg also just opened Griffon at 1596 Dundas St. W., an affordable flower and grocery shop across from The Atlantic with produce sourced from Isberg’s farm and his suppliers.)
Isberg loves to experiment with new dishes, so he instituted a deal where he’ll cook what he wants, then diners will pay what they think it’s worth. “It gives me a chance to play around,” he says. “But it’s a trust exercise, for sure.” Here, he makes a flaky, silky filet of roasted trout, served over spears of sweet caramelized parsnip and a side of mustard greens that naturally have some bite to them. We think it’s easily worth $15.
Blackened sole with bread and rose dumplings
Inspired by recent dishes he made for Barbara Hammer, an American filmmaker whose work touches on themes of optimism, Isberg wanted to play with the idea of plants blossoming from the scorched earth. Here, he tops a blackened sole filet with a foam of orris (the root of an iris) and serves it with soft, delicately sweet knödel, an eastern European dumpling made of bread and toasted rose petals. The fish can be found on his tasting menus, which range from $45 to $120, depending on the number and intricacy of the plates.
Salad of seedlings, fruit, nuts, grains, and greens
Ask Isberg to cook anything he wants, at any price, and he’ll return with this $7 salad. Why? He prefers to use ingredients on the lower end of the food chain (no pork, no beef, no tuna) and has a farm in Bradford, Ont., where he’ll forage come September. The salad starts with shredded red cabbage and includes a hodgepodge of whatever’s available: bee pollen, blueberries dried and pulverized into a powder, cherries, blackberries, tendrils from grapevines, beet shoots, spearmint shoots, cabbage seedlings, elderflowers, and milkweed flowers. A light dressing of umeboshi (Japanese pickled plum) vinegar and flaxseed oil adds a sweet tartness.
1597 Dundas St. W., 416-219-3819.