OMAW (Toronto)


While OMAW’s name is not an acronym, for me it summarizes my experience: Oh My! Ah… Well? Let’s start with the “Oh my!”, my initial reaction when I heard Toronto Southern food master, Chef Matt Blondin, was back in a permanent location serving his famed shrimp and grits! Having last eaten the dish almost five years ago during Blondin’s last weeks at Acadia, I still fondly remember the luscious comfort food.

As soon as Omaw’s menu was placed in front of me, I anxiously scanned the one-sheeter, almost missing it as the grits was hidden in the description, rather the dish simply labelled gulf prawns ($15). The grits didn’t arrive until halfway through the meal and when the small bowl was finally presented it looked good, but seemed saucier than I remembered.  



Numerous media outlets report that these are indeed the same shrimp and grits from Acadia. Then why does it taste different? Sadly, dining at Acadia was before I started documenting my food adventures, but this dish didn’t bring back the iconic Blondin cooking I yearned for.  It’s still good with a smooth consistency packed with flavours on account of the pimento cheese, jalapenos and smoky broccoli. It just somehow lacked the hearty grittiness of the grain itself… ah well.

Before our meal began, a bowl of complimentary lightly pickled cucumbers arrived, a refreshing snack to munch on as I marveled over the sabbatical ($15) cocktail. If you’re into not-overly sweet, citrusy (shiso and lime) drinks with a surprising twist (ginger, habanero, and herb saint), do yourself a favour and order the drink. Despite the differing ingredients, they combine together so nicely and the lingering kick from the ginger and habanero leaves me wanting more.



With the restaurant’s small plates menu, sharing is encouraged or you could mix-and-match to create a customized tasting menu. The aged wagyu ($17) is gorgeous and reminiscent to a dish served at Alo



Also incorporating tons of tastes - from the creamy aioli, soft pea relish, and not overly heavy beef fat vinaigrette - the dish is decent but I couldn’t help but crave a crispy element. The crumbles of buttered popcorn could have done it but somehow didn’t. The small hot pancakes the chef suggests rolling thin strips of the beef onto is a good idea, but may work better if served thinner with crispy edges.

Two forgettable dishes include the beef shortrib ($15), wonderfully cooked and tender but lacked interest, and the Kentucky fried squid ($13), which were so thin the dish tastes like cornmeal fries slathered with mayonnaise (in this case an Alabama white sauce that’s a mayonnaise based BBQ). The crunchy slivers or melon rind on the squid were noteworthy, something the dish needs more of.


Nonetheless, the dinner wasn’t a complete disappointment. The crispy jambalaya ($9) was fantastic and a must-try if you love arancini (fried risotto balls). The flavourful rice incorporates diced tasso (a fattier cut of smoked lightly cured pork) and is covered with a prawn powder before being deep fried and served sizzling hot. What I wouldn’t give to pop one into my mouth right now.



The turkey & dumplings ($15) was also satisfying, the fowl itself rather sparse but the dumplings lovely and not unlike a pillowy gnocchi. Drink every last drop of the flavourful broth spiked with black truffle oil, it’s salty but oh so satisfying.



OMAW isn’t where you’ll find low key Southern home cooking, but with Chef Blondin you should expect a spark of pizzazz and opulence. Regrettably, the Matt magic didn’t cast a spell on me this time. Ah well.  

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 88 Ossington Avenue
 Website: http://omaw.ca/

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


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