Showing posts with label tasting menu. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tasting menu. Show all posts

Quatrefoil (Dundas)


For my husband and I, each summer brings a week (at least) of staycation, where we take time off work and spend it exploring Toronto and its surrounding cities. Any locality that’s a 2 hour drive or less is fair game for a visit and after four years there’s still plenty of places to see.

Hamilton and its surrounding neighbours have been a favourite haunt. A typical outing consists of driving for an hour, hiking through beautiful scenery to stretch our legs, changing as discretely as possible in the car, strolling through a quaint town, and having a lovely meal to cap off the day.

August 2019 brought us to Dundas, Ontario and dinner at Quatrefoil. Their town is made for the eco-conscious with numerous stores selling sustainable and earth-friendly products (I found some great reusable produce bags for grocery shopping).  The end of the walk lead us to a quiet side street and a house that’s morphed into a restaurant. While the outside is a historical home, the dining room looks rather modern, complete with Instagram friendly white marble table tops.

On Fridays they offer a five course tasting menu ($72 a person) with wine pairings (additional $55). Like traditional meals, it starts off with an amuse bouche, a portion of braised veal cheek situated on a light tapioca cracker with dollops of crème fraiche. It’s a tasty bite, but a tad salty even with the tangy yoghurt.  


Followed by a great selection of bread including brown sugar pumpernickel (great combination), chewy French bread, oily poppy seed puff pastry, and a decent cheese and chive puff. It’s an enticing place and I had to try a bit of everything.


Quatrefoil presents beautiful plates. The seared sea scallop arrived with a lovely golden crust and while it was starting to split, the centre was cooked perfectly remaining tender and sweet. The buttery sauce was lightened with strawberry vinaigrette and the dish kept fresh with sweet spring peas and crunchy fennel. It paired wonderfully with the Chablis.


For a sweet and savoury course, I rather enjoyed the compressed cantaloupe salad. The melon was squeezed until the juices are removed so you get its sweet essence but it doesn’t overwhelm the other elements. It went nicely with the creamy whipped ricotta and the garlicky pesto and arugula keeps the dish savoury. It’s all topped with slices of summer truffle – eat these with the ricotta as with the strong pesto its mild flavours become lost.


The apex of the night was the Arctic char where the fish’s meat was flakey and tender but the skin could be a touch crispier. Paired with a tomato vinaigrette – a popular choice - at Quatrefoil it’s seasoned beautifully so you get a fresh tomato jus that’s also flavourful. The warm quinoa base acted as a great side.


Sadly, the last half of the meal is where the menu starts to falter. Tenderloin, when left in a longer cut, can be finicky to work with given it’s thicker in the middle and tapers off at the end. This leaves the thickest part of the steak arriving medium rare while the rest of it was really overdone – the heated plate probably didn’t help.


Without a proper steak knife, cutting through the thinner portions was difficult. Yet, the passable beef aside, the rest of the dish was tasty – the red wine and shallot jus lovely and slightly thickened so it clings to the meat. All the accompaniments were also great: meaty maitake mushroom, crispy broccolini, and the scrumptious potato and cheese croquette… it was the highlight of the dish.


The strawberry crémeux looks pretty but is a really sad dessert. Our waitress takes a fairly long time explaining all the individual sorbets (yogurt cheesecake, strawberry, and strawberry cream) and describes the dish as having an olive oil cake. It took me a while to realize that this “cake” was actually the crumb that propped up the decorative leaf.


I’m done with the deconstructed dessert and wish the preparation would just go away. If this is meant to be a trio of sorbets than give a larger scoop of each and call it that. Meanwhile, if this is meant to be a cake than just create a cake. As it stands, the meagre portions and laying each element out on a dish just seems like a lazy excuse to not employ a proper pastry chef.

Sweets are definitely not Quatrefoil’s forte, even the final bites were a letdown: the cappuccino macron too sweet and while the dark chocolate and strawberry truffle had promise (well balanced flavours and good quality chocolate) the shell was too thick.



Nonetheless, the friendly service and easy going pace of the dinner is what makes dining at Quatrefoil a treat. They were also accommodating, allowing me to get half a wine pairing so that I could have a taste with every dish without falling asleep on the hour drive home.

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Dundas, Canada
 Address: 16 Sydenham Street

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
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!


Is That It? I Want More!

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Yukashi Japanese Cuisine (Toronto)


In my youth, all-you-can-eat and chicken teriyaki was what came to mind when thinking of Japanese cuisine. Boy, have things changed. Now, the word that I associate with Japanese food is omakase – the concept of leaving it to the Chef to decide what to eat.

Generally, omakase menus aren’t the most wallet friendly. At Yukashi, while still pricey, they attempt to cater to different price points with 4-course ($75), 9-course ($150), and the one-week advanced notice Yukashi menu ($300+). There’s even a la carte options for those who don’t want to leave their taste buds to chance.


Eight stools flank the bar and kitchen area. These seats around the chef’s table are definitely the ones to try to reserve. Dinner starts with Chef Daisuke Izutsu grating wasabi, a noiseless affair until he breaks the silence and tells us we’re being too quiet. He gets us chatting and warmed up by passing around a miniature version of the grater so we can try to guess what it’s made from (inside out shark skin, if you want to sound knowledgeable).

Meanwhile, Chef Jin Lee tinkers in the kitchen. He doesn’t speak to the group, but is coordinating the staff within to make sure the hot dishes arrive at a well-timed pace.  Like the warm deep-fried sesame tofu appetizer that has a chewy soft consistency like mochi, but nutty and savoury. Flavoured with a thick fish sauce, it’s then topped with yuzu zest and wasabi to give it a fresh element.


Their “soup” course is actually a hearty chawanmushi, the egg custard surrounding slices of charred mochi and sweet clams so you’re greeted with different flavours with every bite. The pea sauce covering everything was a nice spring element but could be saltier, especially when the crab paste dumpling was also fairly neutral. Nonetheless, it was a tasty dish.


If you’ve been to other omakase restaurants in Toronto, generally sashimi and sushi will follow to finish off the menu. At Yukashi, they serve kaiseki cuisine so while you receive raw fish, there’s not an ounce of grain accompanying it. Kaiseki strives to use seasonal ingredients to create dishes with different textures and also highlights its natural flavours. Above all, it’s recognized for beautiful plating where an ingredient’s colours are used to create dishes that could be considered an art form.


The otsukuri embodied the concept perfectly where an array of fishes were dotted across the plate and combined with painstakingly slivered and twirled garnishes. While it comes with a dish of sweet soy, there’s also ground salt, yuzu zest, juicy seeds (to calm down the soy’s saltiness), and a host of other items to flavour the seafood.

Three fish are included: the famed otoro or cubes of fatty tuna that’s best described as sushi butter; a chewy red snapper; and the most interesting addition… smoked yellow tail. Cooked over a warayaki stove that uses smouldering straw, the yellow tail smells like a cigarette butt and even tastes a little like tobacco. While the flavours can be a bit overpowering (try it last), it’s really different from other fishes offered. In lieu of ginger, there are potato stems that have a juicy spongy texture and acts as a palette cleanser.


After having the otoro, their signature dish pushed my richness quotient to its limit. The uni niku starts with slices of Mizayaki wagyu: one that’s fattier so it simply melts and a relatively leaner slice that’s more flavourful. If it weren’t enough, the wagyu is then topped with uni (the creamy insides of a sea urchin) and foie gras. It all gets a good torching so that the fats heat up and meld together. Then try your best to wrap the glistening tower inside half a shiso leaf, and eat.


Chef Izutsu notes he got the idea for the signature dish when thinking of something that would have decadent elements that work together or alone. Indeed, it smelled amazing and if you like really really rich items you’re in for a treat. I’m glad there were only two slices … anymore and I’m not sure my stomach could handle all that fat. 

After having the sashimi platter, I thought we already had the “fish dish”, but then another intricately assembled seafood platter arrives, even prettier than the otsukuri. They call this the harvest plate and there’s so much to taste and discover: a cold seafood medley that’s almost like a ceviche except flavoured with a cherry blossom and sake (?) foam; marinated shrimp; roasted fish; deep fried bamboo shoot; lotus root; and skinned tomato. It’s certainly gorgeous to look at, but merely tastes okay as each element had to be prepared ahead of time so isn’t at its peak.


Between the seafood and meat dish, the chef serves the amuse bouche - monk fish liver with pickled radish. While it looks like it would be another heavy item, the pickled radish helped to balance the warm liver that tasted like a lighter foie gras. A good bridging bite.


In seeing the meat dish, I had high hopes that it would be amazing. Something that contains sakura sticky rice, duck, and egg yolk butter… what?! In reality, it sounds better than it tastes. We’re instructed to “break” the egg yolk butter into everything and mix it up. I abstained and broke off pieces and mixed it in every bite. This was a good call as the yolk really didn’t taste like much and the oiliness would have been too much. Meanwhile, although the duck had nice flavours and was tender, I was a bit disappointed that it was so cooked through that the texture resembled beef.


While you usually think of tempura as items dunked in a thick batter, at Yukashi it’s an intricate roll made from tile fish, shrimp, tofu skin and shiso. While it’s deep fried, it’s not battered so you end up with a relatively light dish, especially with the fruit sauce that accompanies it. Although I was expecting something savoury and crunchy, in hindsight, after all the heavier dishes proceeding the tempura, it was nice to have something delicate. 


Likely the simplest dish of the evening, the rice and dashi soup was also my favourite. I really needed that umami-filled hot broth that when mixed with the rice created a congee-like bowl. Restrained elements of kelp, seaweed and salmon roe kept it hearty and humble. I could have used another bowl.


In preparation for dessert, Chef Izutsu brings out what looks like a large cantaloupe. After breaking through the rough exterior, the fruit is pale green, a shade lighter than honeydew. I had my doubts … fruit for dessert? How boring. But then, I’ve never heard of a muskmelon.


Yukashi flies them in from the Shizuoka Prefecture of Japan, where these fruits are so coveted that people wait for hours and pay upwards of ¥16,000 (or about $200 Canadian dollars) a fruit! They command this price as all the small buds are removed at the beginning of the season so that each vine only grows one melon. All the nutrients and resources are directed into one fruit to create the juiciest and sweetest melon I’ve ever had … so maybe melon is better than red bean mochi ice cream.

Back to why I think scoring one of the eight seats around the chef’s table is important – it’s all about the experience. There are some delicious dishes at Yukashi, but there are also others that are pretty to look at but tastes satisfactory. So, what really made the night a success was being able to chat with Chef Izutsu. 


While prepping he’s serious and zoned in. Afterwards, a playful side comes out and he loves to chat (if you’re a chef, let him know as he’ll want to visit your restaurant). It's also a shared event with the other guests sitting around the bar – whether it’s seeing their reaction to dishes or eavesdropping on their conversation with the Chef. The experience is why omakase is now a phrase that elicit excitement for me. 

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 643A Mount Pleasant Road

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
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!


Is That It? I Want More!

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CLOSED: Awai revisited for their new menu (Toronto)


Awai first launched as a vegetarian restaurant offering tasting menus without a price – customers eat as many dishes as their stomachs can handle and set their own price. After a number of years, they decided to scrap the concept citing diners felt awkward figuring out the “value” of food offered. Instead, the restaurant now offers menus in 5-course ($48 Sunday - Thursday; $62 on Friday & Saturday) and 7-course ($75 Sunday - Thursday, $95 on Friday & Saturday) options – still in a plant-based format.

I’m happy to see the creamy mushroom soup stayed on the menu as it’s something Awai creates beautifully. The smoked porcini and cauliflower soup gets a kick from jerk spice, but is still silky and decadent with puréed mushroom pieces and truffle oil. My only complaint was the portion wasn’t big enough.


A coca flatbread also makes an appearance, a chewy bread prepared in their wood burning oven so there’s a smoky essence. That evening it was topped with a white cauliflower and truffle cream sauce, which would have made it similar to the soup, but in the flatbread there was a tangy herb drizzle for differentiation. I love the big chunks of artichokes topping the bread, but could have done without the chewy figs – although for those who like a sweet, savoury, and sour element, it does work.


Cauliflower continues the meal with pieces of it mixed with sous vide beluga lentils and a potato string nest. The deep fried potato balls were so hard that they’re impossible to bite through – instead, I resorted to breaking it up with my hands to mix into the lentils. Overall, the dish was too fussy with textures that didn’t exactly work with each other, the miso and lemon vinaigrette a little off with lentils, and the temperature too cool.


Luckily, the last savoury course ends strong with a tortellini filled with sunchoke, amaretto and almond butter. It’s a lighter dish with pea foam topping the butternut squash. Pasta is another item that Awai does superbly, the dough thin but still chewy. The only slight flaw was the snap peas didn’t have their ribbing removed making them difficult to chew through and detracted from the otherwise crunchy vegetables.


Before dessert, we added on the faux-mage cheese board ($25) - we’re told all the vegan cheese is made in-house. While I’m not a plant-based cheese expert, I’m told by a friend who eats it regularly that there are much better options available for sale. Overall, we found the texture - whether it be the cheese ball, cashew-based blue cheese, or the truffle cheese made with almonds – tasting like spread. So, it felt less like you’re having cheese with crackers and more like flavourful hummus.


Two desserts were presented at the table for sharing: on their own not the greatest but worked well together. The coconut butter pudding had a rather odd texture since instead of being being dense it was very fluffy. The chocolate ganache was understandably rich and dressed with a lot of cocoa powder so it was overpowering solo. Once blended together, the two desserts were better balanced and reminded me of a tuxedo royale cake.


With a set procession of dishes, the meal did seem longer as there was a lag between each plate – perhaps the kitchen’s way of timing a 5-course and 7-course meal to similar durations. True to its purpose, I enjoyed not having to conduct a strategy session amongst the table at the end of a filling booze-filled meal. The process of settling the bill and leaving was definitely easier and less labour intensive. Mission accomplished.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 2277 Bloor Street West

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
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!


Is That It? I Want More!

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Frilu (Thornhill)


Chefs who are taking the risk of leaving Toronto to open restaurants that are not on the subway line should be commended. Indeed, weeknights can be quiet, but people living in the suburbs also need a selection of fancy restaurants, especially ones serving tasting menus. I love the suburbs during the winter - who wants to struggle with paid parking and brown slush when you can drive somewhere with complimentary parking on site?

Frilu is located amongst a quieter drag of Yonge Street, but blink and you may still miss the small single lane pathway to the parking lot (located at the back of the restaurant). At least in Thornhill making a detour is a relatively easy affair.  

Their seasonally changing tasting menu aims to showcase local fresh Canadian ingredients. While the restaurant’s name is derived from the Norwegian concept friluftsliv, surprisingly their dishes are less Nordic and more Asian, possibly influenced from Chef and owner John-Vincent Troiano’s time working with Chef Hashimoto serving kaiseki cuisine. Followed by stints at Michelin darlings Noma and Benu, you can see how these experiences built Frilu’s menu.  

The 2018 fall rendition of the menu is dubbed “harvest moon, changing leaves” ($95) and consisted of ten dishes. After speaking to the couple beside us, they insisted the wine pairing is a must ($60). Indeed, they were right. The pairings were spot on going perfectly with each dish. Given my friend and I were driving, they even let us split a pairing, or the equivalent of about two glasses per person.

Frilu aims to “excite and surprise” guests, so one dish that will span across all seasons in the Lar-Eo. Inspired by an Oreo, Frilu’s biscuit drops the chocolate and uses black quinoa and blueberry instead, which sandwich a creamy centre made with lardo (whipped pork fat) spiced with star anise.


We’ve advised to eat the savoury cookie like an Oreo - twist it open and lick the centre – the creamy white filling silkier and lighter than the original offering. While the quinoa cookie is an interesting idea, it’s also a bit mealy and dry. If Frilu really wants to start with something whimsical, they should take the dish one step further and serve it with a warm cup of cream consommé. It would help balance out the dry cookie and give the diner the whole experience of dunking an Oreo in a cup of “milk”.

Maybe they thought the cava paired with the Lar-Eo would be sufficient. It did help cut through the fat and added a refreshing contrast against the earthy spices, but didn’t revive a dry biscuit.

Make sure to spoon some of the sake and sherry broth that comes with the Great Lake trout dish onto the fish. The rainbow trout is cured with Prosciutto giving the fish a salty cured flavour with a smoother texture. However, by itself, the trout is rather plain and really benefits from the sake broth, which although is hard to gather in a spoon, does give the dish that extra punch of flavour.


Once again, the drink pairing was perfect. The sakura sake helped mellow the cured taste and also went surprisingly well with the thickened chicken jus in the next dish, one of my favourite of the evening.

Frilu’s take on agedashi swaps the fried tofu with one made with glutinous burdock root flour. The smooth chewy base was topped with generous amounts of uni and sat in a pool of thick roasted chicken jus. The combination of the three ingredients was heavenly. The only mediocre element being the radish slices, which while adds a contrast against the dish’s softer elements was overpoweringly strong. Perhaps if they were cut thinner or lightly blanched, the pungent raw bitter flavours wouldn’t be as pronounced. 


Another rich dish followed, a cube of venison tongue sous vide in coffee and basil for 45 minutes, rendering it tender while still having a bit of chewiness common with the cut of meat. A strongly flavoured dish with a hint of smokiness and an umami saltiness from anchovy, it’s balanced by a bold red wine that could stand up against the flavours. Seeing the shavings on top, thoughts of frozen foie gras danced in my head, but it was actually hazelnuts that were surprisingly soft and added a light nuttiness.


Frilu’s blog points to the pumpkin patch as being most symbolic of the fall season, sort of like the star dish on the menu. A small squash is roasted than some of the innards is combined with bone marrow to create a piping hot spread on warm toasted pumpkin seed bread. It’s definitely something you can smell before you even see.


The centre of the squash, containing the bone marrow spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon, was absolutely delicious on the crusty bread. However, once that meagre portion was gone and you’re left with plain roasted squash … it just tastes so … plain.

Other portions of the “patch” need more seasoning - whether it be adding salt to the squash-only portion or the bread itself. The easiest fix would be to give the diners a side of salted butter, so once you get to the non-marrow portion, there’s something else to add to the bread that’s still flavourful.

The hen of the woods really featured the ingredient in its fullest form: a thick wedge of mushroom that’s simply prepared with fermented mushroom paste and mushroom vinegar. In the end, it’s a dish for those who really like mushrooms, whether it’s the meaty middle or slightly crunchy ends.  


Sadly, the dish that sounded the tastiest was the worst of the evening. It started off well with lightly poached lobster in brown butter, warmed through but still tasting raw. But, then it was covered with beef floss (similar to the pork version that’s widely used in Chinese cuisine paired with congee or wrapped in sticky rice), which added a lumpy gritty texture to the lobster. Maybe I could have looked past the floss it there wasn’t so much horseradish added to the puree that it completely covered everything. The flavours only improved with a swig of Riesling, which did help temper the harsh horseradish.


By this point of the meal, we were two hours in and still feeling hungry. Thoughts of whether adding a katsu sandwich ($9) to the menu certainly crossed our minds. If this happens to you, just be patient.

The last savoury dish, roasted duck with rice, is probably the heartiest. An aromatic burnt onion jus is poured over sticky rice and duck at the table. The amount of jus poured was just a little uneven - mine was light (I would have loved more), while my friend’s was drowning and salty. Small slip aside, it was tasty: the duck tender, well-seasoned, and the skin lightly crisped; while the burnt onion jus going great with the sticky rice. A well selected dish to end the meal!


 “Earth apple” was the first dessert and while there were apple flavours, there’s also strong coffee elements, which worked remarkably well with the fruit. Dried sun choke slices adds a crispiness against the silky ice cream. Overall, the dessert went nicely with the madeira wine (port was also available for those who like something sweeter). 


To end, a Dora cake that kind of brings the meal full circle – another sandwich product that brings out the kid in us (although this dessert would be more widely known in Asian cultures). The buttery Castella pancakes were so good and Frilu swaps the traditional red bean paste for a creamy mascarpone. If only they left out the cubes of pear; they were too hard and really threw off the entire pastry.

In the age of seeking peace and happiness, friluftsliv is the concept of immersing ourselves with nature. For example just going out to a park for a long walk, while focusing on nature and not taking selfies along the hike. It’s supposed to provide a sense of spiritual and physical wellbeing.

It’s a great concept, but after sitting in a restaurant for almost three and a half hours, I can’t say that Frilu preaches the concept well. In speaking to the front-of-the-house manager, she explains they want to recreate an experience of connecting with people over food. While I appreciate having this time with my friends, we all agreed, the meal was much too long and needs to be trimmed by at least an hour.

Who knows, perhaps it’s just another symptom of living in the digital era where our patience decreases and we constantly want to be entertained. Sure, it’s a great experience to dive into the dishes and expertly matched alcohol pairings, but the long lags in between are hard to sit through, maybe it’d be bearable if I was dining in a forest. 

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Thornhill, Canada
 Address: 7713 Yonge Street

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
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!


Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:




The Restaurant at Pearl Morissette (Jordan Station)


A day of sipping wine in the Twenty Bench region should end with some sustenance, why not a lovely dinner at The Restaurant at Pearl Morissette? Although Pearl Morissette is a winery, a low supply of wine means all tastings are cancelled “for the foreseeable future”, which means to try their wines you need to visit the restaurant.

One option is to add the wine pairing ($60) to your meal. Having already sampled a fair share already, I opted for two produced by the winery at dinner. To begin, a glass of the 2016 Cuvée Roselana ($11 for 5oz), a vibrant red rosé that’s just as fruity to match, in an aromatic but not sweet manner. Even their 2014 Cuvée Madeline ($10.50 for 3oz), a cabernet franc, had big bursts of cherry notes that when combined with a savoury main calms down and mellows into a lovely finish. Pearl Morissette makes vibrant and easy drinking wines.


The meals are tasting menu only ($85 a person, inclusive of gratuities), which changes daily. Located in the Niagara Escarpment, it’s no surprise the dinner includes a lot of produce, showcasing the bounty from the local environment. The first dish, a braised eggplant, covered with plum slices, fig leaves, and basil is the sexiest eggplant I’ve ever seen (no emoji pun intended). While the eggplant’s flesh looked white, the texture was soft and creamy accentuated with bursts of floral, sweetness, and licorice (a flavour I’m not normally a fan of but somehow works in the dish).


After all the wine tasting, I was ecstatic to see the wedge of crusty sourdough bread, served warm with a side of butter. Pearl Morissette mixes corn meal into the dough so the bread has that sponginess of sourdough but a wonderful sweetness as well.


A palm-sized bean tartlet continues the meal. On the bottom, a creamy and tangy chevre goat cheese topped with diced butter beans that adds a lovely crunch against the thin buttery tart shell. Give me more!


A scallop is lightly warmed and cubed amongst a Doe Hill pepper purée, which is surprisingly flavourful... to the point that it covers the delicate scallop. Learning more about the pepper, it’s described as very sweet. For me there was a slight bitterness mixed with a rich capsicum flavour, which pairs nicely with the sweet corn but less so with the seafood. Personally, I enjoyed the scallops plain with flecks of marigold petals.


While I don’t mind the scallop undercooked, the grilled hand-caught line cod was too rare. The outer edges were fine, flaking away and cooked through, but the thicker section had a slightly gummy texture and fishy essence – it needed another minute on the grill. Maybe if the accompaniments were stronger the fishy taste could be covered, but the tomato juice and razor clam broth were so light that couldn’t mask the undercooked fish. The best part of the dish was the freshly picked tomatoes, simply amazing. Oh, the bounty of Niagara!


While the first half of the meal was light and summery, the following wild mushrooms was a nice progression towards the main. I can see why the lobster mushroom gets its name with the red outer skin and the inside being white. Moreover, it even has a meaty texture and slight seafood essence. Along with black trumpet mushrooms, they are tossed with a bread miso so the dish has an Asian flair with a hint of smokiness.


I urge the chefs to rethink the crumble topping in the mushrooms as it adds a grainy texture to the dish, so it feels like you’re eating sandy fungi. Moreover, the dish would have benefited from a grain (like barley or a parsnip/potato puree) as it was too salty on its own. As a plus, it went wonderfully with the Cabernet Franc, the earthiness tempering the cherry notes of the wine.

Two pieces of roasted rib of beef ended the savoury courses. The Longhorn beef was wonderfully flavourful and delicious. I felt guilty that it was so enjoyable; just moments before the dish arrive I  watching two calves in the field, nuzzling each other and play fighting. Even the vegetables were fantastic: pan fried zucchini that had a lovely caramelized crust on the cut end and just cooked through retaining a crunchy texture; and lightly pickled onions that kept the meaty main bright.


The first dessert acted as a palette cleanser, a rich strawberry sorbet with a tart sweet grass sabayon that’s surprisingly light for something made with egg yolks. It’s a dish with many tastes and textures as sitting on the bottom were salted strawberry pieces dotted with herb oil.  


A goat cheesecake followed for a richer dessert, flavoured with blueberries that were plump and sweet. A side of goat cheese verbena granite added a cool element. 


After the cheesecake, we thought the meal was over - at this point, we were satisfied but not stuffed. Then two freshly baked shortbread arrive, still hot so the butter is melted throughout creating a cookie with crunchy edges but a sinfully soft centre, with peach preserve and spicebush giving it flavour. If it weren’t rich enough, a side of butter is given – great for those who like a salty and sweet combination.


Twenty Bench is such a tranquil environment that you can’t help but be present and in the moment. At Pearl Morissette there’s so much wildlife surrounding the winery: the ducks in the pond kept us entertained – the baby ones diligently swimming and so cute that it’s hard to look away. The elevated dining room with the large windows creates such an airy environment that you almost feel like you’re eating outdoors, with the benefit of central heating and cooling.

The two hours just flew by, I couldn’t believe the meal came to an end. During late August/early September, don’t be afraid of the cannon/gunshot sounds that pierce through the air every few minutes. It’s simply compressed air used to deter birds from eating the ripe grapes. I just don’t know about the effectiveness of the machine, it certainly didn’t scare away the ducks, those little fellows could swim forever. 

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Jordan Station, Canada
 Address: 3953 Jordan Road

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
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!


Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this: