Concession RoadGod, I love a good media dinner. My friend and fellow blogger, Vicki of Mom Who Runs, knows how to put on a good dinner. She makes sure that the kitchen plates up the food and places it up front, right by the windows (she also makes sure to hold these things nice and early so we have good light) and we all crowd around like a pack of wild animals, photographing all of the delicacies that we will soon be tasting. This way, once we sit down to eat, we can concentrate on the food instead of fiddling with smart phones and cameras, trying not to put anyone's eye out with an arrant elbow as we contort our bodies in order to get a decent shot of each dish.
This week, we hit up Concession Road, the newest restaurant from Harsh Chawla and Derek Valleau, the people who brought us Pukka which happens to be one of my favourite restaurants in the city. This strip of St Clair, just west of Bathurst, is increasingly becoming home to tons of new restaurants, many of them good enough to get me to make the trek cross town from my home in The Beach.
Instead of Indian, they have hired Chef Masayuki Tamaru to turn out French food with a Asian sensibility - just don't tell him it's fusion if you know what's good for you. I kept getting the feeling that I had been there before and finally it dawned on me - Concession Road took over the vacancy left by the closure of Bywoods. I much prefer the way the space looks now, it's brighter and airier and it just feels lighter, in general, although the separate dining room is still a bit awkward.
Food wise, a standout, for me , was the beef tartare with asian pear and a raw quail's egg. It was served ice cold and the meat was silky and fresh tasting, served with pickled vegetables and toasts. I also really loved the Steamed Portuguese Rock Fish on beluga lentils with a velvety tomato beurre blanc and from watching the rest of the table, I wasn't alone. Less popular, over all, was the calve's liver but that is because you either love liver or you don't. That said, if any liver dish is going to win over an ambivalent eater, this is the one. Sliced very thin, coated with chickpea flour and sautéed with a Korean BBQ sauce, the meat was unbelievably tender but the liver taste does creep up on you after you swallow that first mouthful so, take heed if you sit on the liver fence.
Chard stuffed with a mix of vegetables on top of a beautiful, bright vegetable sauce with chive oil was also a big hit with just about everyone and even the big meat eaters were oohing and ahhing. For those of you who want to play it a bit safer there is Japanese Fried Chicken served on a buttermilk mashed potato that was not something that I would order at a place like this but it was certainly well done and tasty.
|plating is lovely with lots of attention to detail and colour|
We tried a tiny sliver of Callebaut Chocolate Terrine and a little piece of Chilled Souffle Cheesecake with boozey cherries and hazelnut bark that was out of this world. Everyone remarked that it tasted like Uncle Tetsu cheesecake but without having to line up for an hour. Well, that and it's served in a lovely restaurant where you can sit down and enjoy it with a nice glass of wine which is exactly what I would like to be doing at this very moment, frankly.
|shrimp bonbons, calve's liver and stuffed chard|
They would like to make this a hot cocktail spot (hence the trendy absinthe "program") but I only tried a couple of the cocktails and nothing wowed me. Peter Boyd's wine list, like at Pukka, is great so I suggest you stick to wine and until it gets cold out, they also have a patio out front where you can eat your cheesecake, sip some rose and watch the world go by.
this was a media event so my meal and drinks were free but my opinion is very much my own.
Daniel Racine ( formerly Lolita's Lust, Kultura) is the chef at a new restaurant deep in the Beach on Queen Street East. Owner, Brad Taylor has chosen the barren restaurant wasteland of my very own
'hood to open his fourth establishment and I couldn't be happier. I have been wanting to eat there but have barely been home long enough to blow my nose but this week, I grabbed The Kid and made my way down. I missed the "hoppy" hour where they serve the house wines for $1/oz and craft beer for $5 by ten minutes but it's probably for the best. Instead I had a glass of Hardy's Bankside Shiraz ( served in 6 or 9 oz pours or by the bottle) and ordered the Mediterranean grilled calamari with oven roasted tomatoes, olives, pesto and balsamic finish - unfortunately brown in colour but very tasty ($12) to share. I had the Korean shortribs for dinner, served with kimchee and Jamaican style rice and peas ($15) and The Kid had pulled pork poutine ($11)
My Korean ribs were tasty enough but I didn't see any of the promised bok choy. Instead there was a heap of slightly oily vegetables and kimchee. The kid's pulled pork was a bit overpowered by what tasted like five spice powder for my tastes but he didn't seem to mind and ate it all up.
It is certainly a breath of fresh air for this restaurant starved street (there are lots of blah restaurants, wings coming out the hoohaw and mediocre pub grub rules the day) and I plan to return soon to try some more things as well. I will be sure to make it between 5and 7pm for hoppy hour too.
2252 Queen Street East
Sun-Thurs open 11:30am to 12am
Fri and Sat open 11:30 to 1am
As far as the rest of my week went, another week, another trip to Ottawa. This time, I took the train one way so that I could drive home with my guy later in the week and so I took the opportunity to check out the food vendors who have been stationed outside Union Station all summer. This experiment has been so intensely popular that they have extended the run beyond it's original August closing and now the vendors will be there until Sept 27
To find out more and see who is there check out Front Street Foods
In Ottawa, I tried two more places, Town and The Scone Witch and both places made me very happy. I only got to try one dish at Town, since I went on my own for lunch, but that one dish might have been the most delicious thing I ate all month in Ottawa so I feel pretty good about giving it a rousing thumbs up. The Scone Witch was IMPOSSIBLE to find, which is why I didn't go sooner, despite my friend bullying me into checking it out, but once I got inside, it was packed to the rafters with locals in the know so, clearly, they don't need to make it any easier for tourists to locate.
Full thoughts will be coming soon in a complete Ottawa restaurant roundup in the coming weeks, so for now, some pictures:
Lightly seared tuna with white beans, a crouton and a crispy 6 minute egg (topped with a mound of addictive, pickled mustard seeds) was as delicious as it was stunning to look at. Town will be the first place I eat at the next time I visit Ottawa
I had a BLT with pesto on a feta scone and a bowl of thick, homemade chickpea/rosemary soup for $8.99 and could not finish it - great deal. My lunch date introduced me to the wonder of a currant scone (look at the height on that baby) with rhubarb jam and whipped cream. My life will never be the same.
Pin of the week: Suddenly, I am filled with the urge to visit Milwaukee
Instagram of the week: A new discovery with a stunning feed
Facebook share of the week:
Recreating the Experience with a Chilled Zucchini Soup with Chèvre and Herb Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms http://t.co/ApfO69emIQ— The Yum Yum Factor (@SMmamashack) August 11, 2015