Friday, 30 March 2012

The Drake Hotel

The Drake Hotel
1150 Queen Street West
Toronto, Ontario


In her opinion:
After having a fabulous Sunday brunch at Barque, we decided to do some shopping and basically hangout in Toronto before heading home to Cambridge. But the weather was gorgeous, the patios were calling and our stomachs were showing signs of gnawing. So we decided that we would stretch out our time in Toronto as much as possible. 

We didn't know exactly what we wanted.  We decided that Holy Chuck Burger might be a good choice. Unfortunately, it's closed on Sundays.  Next, the idea of Porchetta & Co. was discussed, but again they too are not opened on Sundays or Mondays for that matter.  This left me a little upset and undecided.  We didn't necessarily want a fancy dinner or something to just get us by like shawarma from Kenningston Market. We wanted a place that we could grab a small bite since we weren't too famished and be cool enough to blog about!

I decided that we should just drive down Queen Street from east to west.  Then it hit me...either Grand Electric or the Drake Hotel...whichever one was first and available to accommodate us.  We got to the Drake Hotel first, got parking pretty quickly, asked whether there was room in the street side patio and told no but the the Drake Sky Yard was completely opened, "so go right on up"! 

He wasn't kidding either.  There was no one in the Sky Yard except for 3 waiters who were sort of caught off guard when we walked in. We were told to sit anywhere.  We choose the covered patio area with the banquette with big cushions.  The Sky Yard is cool.  It's a great place to hang out with friends and drink or grab a bite to eat.  We were offered three glasses of water and the Drake's "Early and Late" menu.

Our waiter was sort of indifferent.  He didn't smile, didn't talk much and did a little grunting or what I thought was grunting!  Not the best service I've ever received.  But oh well...sometimes people have bad days and they take that attitude to work.  It's a shame that they don't realize that tips are also at the customer's discretion!

We started by ordering two Mill Street Organic Lagers. As well, we ordered a few items to share. Our choices were the "Steak Tartare", the "Alsatian Tarte Flambee" and the "Drake 'N' Bake".

The "Steak Tartare" was excellent. Yes, this is raw beef! It's described on the menu as "sour pickles, capers, fine herbes, aioli and grilled sourdough". This was very nicely done.  I enjoyed this dish very much and the flavour was a perfect savoury balance of flavours.

The "Alsatian Tarte Flambee" had been a sort of after thought. I'm very glad that I picked it.  This was so so good.  It is described as "Fromage blanc, caramelized onions, lardons and gruyere".  This pizza like tarte is served with arugala on top.  The flavours work very well together. This is a dish that I don't think I would ever get tired of.

Our last choice, the "Drake 'N' Bake" had been ordered with our son in mind.  Since he is a lover of all things bread however, this bread basket was not up to his finicky standards, even after we ordered regular butter on the side!  It is described on the menu as "homemade breads with dips and things". We got two triangles of delicious focaccia bread, two cheese and chive scones and three dense Gougere type of puffs.  It came with a yellow beet spread and the most delicious truffle/parmesan spread. Even though our little man was not impressed, we were.  The breads were absolutely delicious and the addition of that truffle/parmesan spread heightened it to a whole new level. Very good.

I would say that this early dinner before heading home was very good aside from the waiter with no personality.  I think I would like to return to the Drake Hotel for their brunch in the future.

Beef Tartare

Alsatian Tarte Flambee 

Drake 'N' Bake

In his opinion:
At the rooftop Patio "Sky Yard Bar" at the Drake Hotel on a Sunday afternoon for drinks and some cool treats I look over and say to Julie, "Hey, I think that's Dean Blundell with his new squeeze beside us"...but who cares about that!

The Drake is one of Toronto's cool hangouts and well known for it's cocktail bar. Its retro chic décor is a big hit with the Queen Street crowd and there are many sections to the restaurant, almost one for every taste. The Sky Bar rooftop patio was still kind of deserted as we sat in the covered end of the patio that sports a chic Caribbean look with teak chairs and large pillows in the benches.

There are many menus for different days and different times of the day. Breakfast-lunch, lunch, dinner, early+late, dessert, booze and 86'D. Also the recently released "Aprés Work" is not only a huge hit with the critics but also with the after work crowd of course.

We only had the early + late menu to choose from but there are many items on it to keep it interesting. We grabbed some Mill St Organic beer to keep us cool in this warm March afternoon as we browsed the menu for some good grub.

The steak tartar was to die for. It was perfectly finely chopped in cubes and served with sour pickles, fine herbs, aioli, capers and grilled sour-dough. I'm a huge fan of beef tartar and this one didn't disappoint at all. The sour pickle and aioli complemented it extremely well. The toasted sour-dough bread was a good contrast to the sweetness of the beef and was reminiscent of the Danish version of tartar "smorrebrod" that uses rye toasted bread instead. 

Next was the Alsatian Tarte Flambe. This is  France's northern Alsace region version of the southern Italian pizza and it was delicious. It's composed of thin bread dough with white melted cheese, covered in lardons and sprinkled with arugala on top. Delicious and filling, it was toasty, crunchy on the outer edges but very soft and flavourful as one would expect in a traditional type pizza.

Lastly we had the "Drake 'n' Bake". The menu explains it as home made breads with dips and things. I'm still trying to figure out what the things were but the 2 dips were very good. The breads were focaccia, two cheese and chive and gougere puffs. The beet dip/spread was interesting and was a good match to some of the breads but a miss with others. The parmesan truffle in the other hand was beyond good. It went well with everything and I probably would spread or dip anything on it without any reservation. I so could have that spread everyday and never get sick of it.

The Good: The rooftop patio is cool, perfect for a warm day and a different feel from the eating inside at the lounge or dining or even the patio. 
The Bad: Our waiter stopped short of obnoxious but came close. Zero personality and behaved like his partner had dumped him the night before. We didn't luck out since all the other waiters/waitresses were vibrant and engaging to their clients.
The Verdict: Cool hangout, good food, great drinks and fantastic atmosphere make this hotspot a hit. The retro look is refreshing to see in an establishment that exudes a modern feel and caters to a younger, professional and party type crowd.

I give it a 3 olives out of 5 as rating

The Drake Hotel on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Pancho's Bakery

Pancho's Bakery
214 Augusta Avenue
Toronto, Ontario


In her opinion:
After a lot of churros talk on Twitter of late, I definitely decided that Pancho's Bakery required a visit! So on a beautiful day four days away from the beginning of Spring(or St. Patrick's Day if you must know), we headed to Kensington Market! We had discovered Pancho's Bakery a while ago when we had visited the market on a lazy Saturday afternoon and fell in love with their delicious churros.

Today, it was buzzing. I think everyone else had also read about churros on Twitter or else the green filling option they were offering for St. Patty's day was bringing the crowds in.  We ordered four of these delicious, fluffy little morsels of love. Okay, if you haven't noticed I absolutely adore, no, love churros! My love of them began while visiting Spain and has been going on ever since.  Every chance I get to eat these little beauties, I take it.  It's not easy to find good churros in Cambridge, so it often means going to Toronto. Which is an excuse to visit other little gems in this fabulous city!

Today's churros had strawberry and caramel filling. These fillings are not over sweet, they are perfect. The strawberry filling is not jammy, it is the perfect consistency. The caramel is dulce de leche excellence.

If you haven't tried Pancho's Bakery then you definitely need to go.  They have two locations.  The fore mentioned Kensington Market location and the location at 1345 Davenport Road.

In his opinion:

I often tell people that my wife will make me drive to Toronto for good churros and it usually comes across as just a cute comment. Funny thing is...I'm not joking! She loves them that much! I mean what's not to love about these long, filled and sugar coated pastries often called Spanish donuts?

They are even popular in my native Portugal (which history claims are behind the invention of churros) as well as in the Caribbean and some Central American countries, usually as breakfast food. They are relatively similar to Portuguese Malassadas (also popular in Hawaii) but in a long cylindrical star shape, sprinkled with sugar.

A good place to have them in Toronto is at Pancho's Bakery! Pancho's Bakery is one of those, no frills, always packed, and ready to deliver type of places, conveniently located in one of my favourite parts of Toronto...Kensington Market.

This time around we had strawberry filled and caramel filled churros, opting out for the green filled ones that were available for St. Patty's day. Personally, I don't buy into the whole green food or green drink thing too much, so surely I was not going to have green in my churros. Admittedly, churros are as far from Irish as Colcannon is from Spanish cuisine.

So next time you are in the area, give it a try. They are definitely worth the line-up and are a great finger food to enjoy while strolling through Kensington market looking for your next hidden treasure. Just go...already! Caramba!

Pancho's Bakery on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Barque Smokehouse

Barque Smokehouse
299 Roncesvalles Avenue
Toronto, ON


In her opinion:
There are so many amazing places all over Toronto for brunch. But, for us it came down to two...the County General and Barque Smokehouse.  After an imaginary coin toss, we decided that we would try Barque in Roncesvalles Village.  And I'm so glad we did!

Roncesvalles Village is an up and coming area.  It has developed so much in the last little while with new restaurants springing up all over the place. Roncevalles Village is also known for it's large Polish community and this is reflected in the deli's, bakeries and restaurants in this area.  However, regardless of all these great Polish offerings, barbeque was the choice for this Sunday.

Barque opened in April, 2011.  So it is fairly new to the village.  But already there is a lot of buzz about this place and as a result, you have line ups waiting for Sunday Brunch.  Toronto Life declared it the 6th best new restaurant in 2012.  Joanne Kates of the Globe and Mail declared it "The Best Barbeque in the West". Chef owner David Neinstein has a gold mine here. And I couldn't wait to see what all the fuss was about.

We found free parking on the street, a first for us in Toronto and walked the half block to Barque. When we arrived, we saw people waiting outside on the picnic tables. We walked in and gave our name. The hostess informed us that if the three of us (Edgar, little man and myself) were willing to squeeze into a table for 2, she could seat us in about 10 minutes.  We agreed of course.  The place as packed and the wait would be much longer for a table for 3. Luckily there is a banquette across the wall so that made the seating not to much of an issue. 

We were offered complimentary still or sparkling water. Nice touch! I ordered a cocktail - a Fraise to start.  This is house made strawberry syrup and proscecco.

This cocktail was absolutely delicious and refreshing. The strawberry syrup was not too sweet and gave the right amount of strawberry flavour without overpowering the proscecco.

The brunch menu is not extensive but there is enough choice. I ordered "the Barque Benedict".  This consists of cornbread, two poached eggs, smoked brisket and bbq hollandaise. This came with a side arugala salad and Barque potatoes.  There was also a very small fruit cup on the side.  

The Barque Benedict was so so good.  I enjoyed the cornbread since it provided a little sweetness to the dish. The smoked brisket was outstanding.  The eggs were perfectly poached and the bbq hollandaise rounded out the whole plate nicely.  It was barbeque perfection!  I really enjoyed the sides as well.  I found the arugala salad absolutely delicious in its simplicity.  Just arugala, shaved celery root and pieces of orange with a simple citrus dressing.  The Barque potatoes are also very nice.

Our little man had the "Grilled Cheese with Fries" I tasted it and it was awesome. This was an exceptionally good grilled cheese sandwich.

Overall, I loved Barque's brunch.  It is popular for a reason.  I would like to go back and have dinner and experience their smokehouse specialities in the near future.

In his opinion:
Barque has been in our sites for brunch for a while, and after skipping it a few weeks ago for the amazing burgers at Burger's Priest. It was time to make up for it, and we took the plunge. First and foremost, free parking on the side streets? What? In T.O.? That in itself is already a reason to go visit this hot spot in Roncesvalles.

Always packed and bustling with energy, this place is a crowd favourite for eating inside or enjoying the patio. We waited around 15 minutes for a table and were shown to our seats by the hostess directly across from the bar. Cartoons were playing on the screen but oddly enough the bar crowd didn't seem to be paying attention, I wonder why?

After a quick glance on the somewhat limited brunch menu I opted for the "Hash Skillet". Barque potatoes, smoked brisket, onions, peppers, aged cheddar cheese and 2 sunny side up on top. The brisket was phenomenal, the combinations lurking underneath the 2 eggs were in perfect sync. Potatoes cut into cubes, cubes of brisket and flavourful peppers made me forget the thinly sliced cooked onions that were there for flavour (I'm not keen on cooked onions btw). It was served with a side cup of fruit and an arugala salad,  with very light dressing, parmesan cheese and citrus cubes, and it was delicious. I see a pattern of cubed food here, don't you?

It's a perfect place for hanging out with friends and enjoying great food. The vast majority of patrons were in groups and a few were celebrating some special events as well. I should add that they also have a lunch and dinner menu to go along with their long list of famous cocktails and a decent wine list.

Special mention for Sunday night "Family Menu" where they serve platters to share and the menu changes weekly. I have to try that one soon...

The Good: Great atmosphere, greatly flavoured food and good service/waitresses
The Bad: It is to expect that in busy times the food takes longer to reach us but I still found it a little more wait time than it should be.
The Verdict: A happening spot with great food and so many choices of menus and seating times. The amazing free parking in the side streets was a plus.
Good times all around and promises of a return very soon to try the other menus.

I give it a 3 1/2 olives out of 5

Barque Smokehouse on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Pain Perdu

Pain Perdu
736 St. Clair Avenue West
Toronto, Ontario


In her opinion:
We drove into the city to go to the Stockyards for lunch and when we parked our car on St. Clair West, I instantly spotted this little piece of Paris in Toronto.  There it was in pretty blue letters "Pain Perdu". A pain perdu is simply french toast in France and it is served for dessert, breakfast or tea. So I instantly decided that we need to visit this delightful little patisserie for dessert and to bring a few treats home!

When I walked in to Pain Perdu I was instantly transported back to Paris while the French music played in the background. This little pastry shop could easily be on Rue Rivoli instead of St. Clair Avenue West.  The pastry displays contained delicious looking viennoiseries, cakes and cookies as well as croque monsieur and quiche waiting to be warmed and served in house or taken away for later.  There was baguettes and other beautiful breads in baskets waiting to be sold.

We ordered two coffees and sat down in their small sitting area. The waiter came to bring us our coffee and asked if we wanted anything else. Since we were still very full from our delicious lunch we ordered one chocolate eclair to share.

This eclair was perfection. The choux pastry was excellent. The chocolate pastry was delicious without being too sweet. The chocolate icing was bittersweet which provided the right amount of balance to the entire pastry. So good.

Pain Perdu also serves elegant refined lunch selection with such French specialities as quiche, croque monsieur and duck confit.

Before we left we took some pastries to go, a couple of pain au chocolat and two versions of pain aux raisins. These were outstanding. Some of the best pain aux raisins we have had this side of the Atlantic. It's little places like Pain Perdu that makes me happy...little bits of France in Canada are little gems to be admired.  I loved this place.  So good and we will definitely visit again.

In his opinion:
Awww Paris...It's easy to let yourself be immersed in the smells, the sounds and the tastes of the city of lights while at Pain Perdu!...but...
it all sort of drifts away when looking out the window and realizing you are indeed on St. Clair West in Toronto.

But it is those little moments that transport you from fond memories of that city and all that is associated with it. Pain du Perdy evoques all of those feelings even if for just a brief moment. It is to me another gem in Toronto that let's us enjoy a petit morceaux of France without the jet lag, the long flight and the cost!

We did what we usually do when we are still too full to have a full meal. We had some coffee and shared a dessert. We shared what could possibly be the best chocolate eclair that I have ever had in my life. We then picked up a few thing to go. These were two of my favourite French baked goods - pain au chocolat and pain aux raisins. They were both very delicious when we finally decided to have them at home, later in that evening! 

We will surely return to this little piece of French heaven, but next time with a full appetite and right when they have just baked fresh bread. Only then will be a truly French experience, on St. Clair West!

 Pain Perdu on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Camp 31

Camp 31
22 Paris Road
Paris, Ontario


In her opinion:
We recently planned to have dinner with friends and as always, the big question came up...where should we have dinner? After mentioning our dislikes and their dislikes and where we have eaten lately, a short list was complied...the winner Camp 31. Camp 31 was the original bar-b-que place in our area long before Hogtails or the Lancaster Smokehouse existed.

Camp 31 prides itself on being Alabama's finest bar-b-que. They have two locations, one in Paris, Ontario and one in Castleberry, Alabama.  Camp 31 is also part of the Ribfest circuit including Canada's Largest Ribfest. We knew their reputation so it was easy to agree on this place. But apparently so do a lot of other people. We waited almost 45 minutes for a table. When we finally did get seated our drink orders were taken promptly (I ordered their famous lemonade at $3.25 a glass), but it did take a while to get our meals.  In the meantime, we have the free roasted peanuts to tie us over.

Camp 31's famous Lemonade.

Their menu is pretty extensive. It's filled with all kinds of bar-b-que and Southern delights. However, since it was not my first time here, I knew exactly what I wanted to eat. The Southern Fried Chicken was my pick with mash potatoes and gravy instead of the fries and corn bread as my side.

The chicken was good.  It doesn't compare to the Stockyards but it is very good fried chicken. The mash potatoes were also good with a nice homemade taste with a nice gravy. But the kicker was the cornbread.  The cornbread is sweet and absolutely delicious.

Overall, it was a good meal. My only complaint was having to hear a drunk patron's rants for most of my meal. The restaurant is small and as a result we can listen to our neighbours conversation which unfortunately isn't always a good thing when alcohol is involvedI really do like Camp 31. It's as close to Southern bar-b-que as we can get in this part of Ontario.

Our friends had the ribs and they found them dry but still enjoyed them.

In his opinion:

Well, my second time at Camp 31 is not much to brag about unfortunately. Not really sure why people rave and rant about their ribs either. I find them over-smoked and pretty dry, although the taste is somewhat good. Then again any decent BBQ sauce will do that.

We waited forever for our table. The group of waiters that don't seem to be much older than 15 weren't helping the situation. With about 5-6 parties waiting to be seated, the hostess felt she could remember who is who and it wasn't until we were there for 30 minutes that she started taking names, after screwing up who was next.

We finally sat down and it all seemed okay until we realized that the people beside us were acting like they were at home, cursing up a storm and acting obnoxious with complete disregard for the children that were at the restaurant. Alcohol was indeed a factor (even before they sat down) but the young inexperienced wait staff did not address it and looked a little overwhelmed about what to do.  I really should have told them to return to their trailer park! :)

I ordered the pulled pork sandwich, which is one of their specialities. It was served with sweet potato fries that ended up being the best thing of the night. The pulled pork meat was sort of bland and it came inside of a hot dog bun, similar to the grocery store variety. The beans are actually pretty good and tasted great but their sauce was much watery this time around. I had a chance to have some of the Southern Fried Chicken and it was good, not great but good. Another highlight of the meal was the corn bread that I must admit was delicious. It was still oven hot and melted in your mouth. They serve it as small biscuit sized corn breads that are almost worth the drive to Paris, Ontario.

Overall it was just ok. I wouldn't say that I wouldn't recommend it to anyone but I just believe that because I have a lot more to compare to as far as BBQ is concerned, that it's easy to point out that they fall short on a few of things.

The Good: Great corn bread, good chicken and the extensive menu that pretty much gives everyone lots of choice.
The Bad: The grocery store buns, inexperienced wait staff (although trying very hard) and the over dry ribs (that's twice now)
The Verdict: As far as BBQ goes, it's good to have a place close to home but I feel that Hog tails and possibly Lancaster Smoke House (both closer to us) are better options for BBQ. Not even going to mention places out of town or TO.

I give it a 2 1/2 olives out of 5 as rating

Camp 31 on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Acadia Restaurant and Bar

Acadia Restaurant and Bar
50C Clinton Street 
Toronto, ON


1st Course: fish skin with smoked creme fraiche, fennel and dill pollen.

2nd Course: warm scallop with red brassica, wild mustard, watermelon radish and celeriac.

3rd Course: catfish with pumpernickel, goat's curd, pickled egg yolks and whites and onion tops.

4th Course: oyster soup with chicken stock aspic, black pepper, licorice and borage .

5th Course: red fish with hedgehog mushroom, brown butter, samphire and xeres vinegar.

6th Course: pork belly with steelcut oats, banana pudding, black sesame and peanut.

7th Course: caramelized buttermilk with white chocolate, blood orange and olives.

In her opinion:

I spend a lot of time on Twitter and sometimes I'm really glad that I do because I learn about a lot of different foodie related events on there. That's where I learned about the 7-course tasting menu offered at Acadia for $39.00 per person on March 18 or 19, 2012. That is just unbelievable for a couple of reasons. First, 7-courses for $39.00 is unheard of for Toronto restaurant. Secondly, this is one of Toronto top new restaurants.  

Acadia was selected the second best new restaurant of 2012 by Toronto Life Magazine. That is nothing to sneeze at. Matt Blondin, a French-Canadian chef from Sudbury, is a rising star in Toronto's food scene and a favourite of restaurant critics and foodies! So needless to say, I was thrilled and on the edge of my seat about this dinner. That was until, Acadia Restaurant posted a picture of the 7-course menu on Twitter...then I got nervous. This was going to be some dinner. A foodie's dream come true. But not necessarily my dream come true!

Was it going to be too much for me. I pride myself on being an open-minded foodie but sometimes I'm also a conservative foodie.  On Sunday night when the pictures of each dish started to make the rounds on Twitter...I got a little nervous again and a lot excited.

Acadia is a nice spot in the middle of Little Italy, the decor is not overwhelming, and the space is open with an exposed kitchen.  This means we are an audience to Chef Blondin's cooking. We are also allowed to see that Chef Blondin likes to cook in his socks. I kid you not...that made me realize that he's comfortable in his space and that is reflected in his cooking.

Shoeless Chef Blondin

After being seated and shown the bar menu, we ordered sparkling water for the table and a Virginia Housewife for me (prosecco, gin, wild bergamot and earl grey tea ice cube). Our very efficient waitress then asked if we wanted to start the tasting menu and with our reassuring began.

Virginia Housewife
1st Course: fish skin with smoked creme fraiche, fennel and dill pollen. This dish was one of the ones that worried me when I first read it on the menu.  I had an image of something hard and oily for this dish but when it arrived presented on it's little piece of log, I was pleasantly surprised.  I would compare to pork rinds made with fish skin instead of pig skin.  The flavour of the smoked creme fraishe and dill pollen where the perfect accompaniment.
2nd Course: warm scallop with red brassica, wild mustard, watermelon radish and celeriac. This dish was excellent.  I loved the accompaniments that went with the scallop.  The red brassica was outstanding. 
3rd Course: catfish with pumpernickel, goat's curd, pickled egg yolks and whites and onion tops. This dish reminded me of fish and chips without the chips.  It was very good.  The catfish was light and not the least bit oily.
4th Course: oyster soup with chicken stock aspic, black pepper, licorice and borage. This soup was interesting.  The oyster soup was foamy. The chicken stock aspic that was served with raw mackerel was outstanding.  This addition completely made the soup.
5th Course: red fish with hedgehog mushroom, brown butter, samphire and xeres vinegar. This was my favourite of the first five courses.  The fish was well seasoned and cooked perfectly. I enjoyed the emulision made of xeres vinegar on top of the fish but wasn't crazy about the sea asparagus or mushrooms on their own.  Eaten together, everything complimented each other.
6th Course: pork belly with steelcut oats, banana pudding, black sesame and peanut. This course scared me the most. Pork belly and banana pudding - really!?!? Wasn't I pleasantly surprised when I ate my first bite...this was outstanding.  This dish has hints of eating a peanut butter sandwich with banana.  The pork rillette croquette was excellent. The course that I was most scared of was my absolute favourite! I would easily had another one of was that good.
7th Course: caramelized buttermilk with white chocolate, blood orange and olives. This was very interesting! Probably my least favourite of all the courses.  I think after eating the 6th course nothing stood a change.  The blood orange sorbet was refreshing, the caramelized buttermilk panna cotta was smooth and delicious.  I really enjoyed the cookie crumble and white chocolate on the plate but Chef Blondin could have kept the olive colis that he placed on the plate.  I thought it was too salty for the loviliness of the panna cotta and sorbet.

Overall, this was a very good experience.  Acadia is awesome...then again it was voted the second best new restaurant in Toronto and they don't need a lowly foodie to tell them that!

In his opinion:

I pride myself on being a true foodie and trying as many culinary treats of this world as humanly possible. I also have to admit that I have a weak spot for tasting menu's, a venue where a chef can uplift the dining experience to a new level.

So, needless to say that I was looking forward to the 7-course dinner at Acadia. You had to buy a ticket in advance for the 2 night event and not knowing at all what the menu would be until closer to the day. I had heard a lot about Arcadia and its Chef Matt Blondin and was looking forward to trying his food, especially being a special night of tasting.

Interior of Acadia
The restaurant in Little Italy is very charming with a hint of casualness in a light atmosphere. The staff is prompt and friendly and even the co-owner helps out with serving tables.

The tasting menu was not the type of menu for non-fish lovers (how can that even exist) since 5 out of the 7 dishes were fish or seafood. I was in heaven and my Portuguese blood was thanking the chef, even though Cod (Portuguese staple fish) was not on the menu that night.

1st Course: fish skin with smoked creme fraiche, fennel and dill pollen. 

The fish skin comes well presented in a slice of a log with the fish skins pretrudding from the holes in it. The skins were crunchy, tasty and owned the salt of the ocean in them. It felt like eating the crunchiness of pork grindes but the fish tasting version. Very tasty and lovely with the creme fraiche.

2nd Course: warm scallop with red brassica, wild mustard, watermelon radish and celeriac. This scallop was exquisitely done. The mix of textures in the dish work well together but also stand well on their own, leaving a lingering taste in your mouth well after the bite is gone. The gluten free bread crumb imitation added a clever touch to the softer feel of the rest of the plate.

3rd Course: catfish with pumpernickel, goat's curd, pickled egg yolks and whites and onion tops. I'm not particularly a cat fish lover, to me it has the blandness of lake fish and not enough flavour to make an impact. This dish relied of the pumpernickel fish skin, perfectly fried to fix the balance of textures. The playful hints of egg yoke and egg whites is the perfect accent to the main dish which also went well with the goat's curd.

4th Course: oyster soup with chicken stock aspic, black pepper, licorice and borage. I love oysters but oyster soup? That must be overwhelming I thought...I was wrong. The broth is well balanced, not to be too sea-foodish and the medley of cubed borage added a soft texture to the soup.

5th Course: red fish with hedgehog mushroom, brown butter, samphire and xeres vinegar. When a fish is cooked to perfection, it's so much easier to love all that comes with it. The sea asparagus were perfectly pickled and the cold mushrooms were the balance to the flavours, softening it all a bit.

6th Course: pork belly with steelcut oats, banana pudding, black sesame and peanut. Ok, this dish was the one I was looking forward to the most. I'm above all a pork lover and I think it's a shame that you don't see pork belly on enough menus (insert Martin Picard reference here). The piece of pork belly was cooked to perfection and with ketchup in the mix (although no ketchup taste is not at all prominent in the pork). It was served with a wonderful pork rillette croquette and banana pudding which oddly enough works well with the pork belly. I told the waitress that I would like to return to have that pork belly in all 7 dishes someday.

7th Course: caramelized buttermilk with white chocolate, blood orange and olives. By the time dessert came around, I was ready to start again on the tasting menu. The smooth panna cotta was served with blood orange sorbet. The cookie crumble and white granulated sugar chunks made my palate jump to accommodate the cold to sweet to salty jumps I was experiencing over and over.

The Good: Great experience at Acadia, tasting menu was all I expected and more and I personally congratulated Chef Matt Blondin for making my night.
The Bad: 7 courses in under 80 minutes felt a bit fast and other tables were mentioning the same.
The Verdict: The food surpassed my expectations even though I had read enough good reviews to give me a good indication. I will return to Acadia as I really enjoyed it and would also like to taste their regular menu.

I give Acadia 3 1/2 olives out of 5 as rating

Chef Matt Blondin

Acadia on Urbanspoon