Saturday, 11 January 2014

Verses Restaurant

182 Victoria Street North
Kitchener, ON



In her opinion:
I find myself a bit uneasy as I write this post. Why? Well, New Year's Eve is special. Not just for the obvious reasons but because it marks the anniversary of the conception of this blog. It is also special because it means that there will be a good meal shared in the company of my wonderful husband. It is our tradition to have a date on this evening. Just the two of us at a great restaurant in the area before we return home and are rejoined by our little guy to celebrate the beginning of the new year.

It was New Year's Eve of 2011 -2012 that we began Tips Are Included! It started out of a great meal at the Cambridge Mill...its share with friends and even strangers our opinions of some of the places that we have eaten at in the past or places/events for the future. It represents all things foodie.

So when Edgar suggested that we change things up (we had been going to the Cambridge Mill for the past two years) and try Verses for New Year's Eve, I was excited because in its 10 years of existence, we hadn't ever visited it and this meant that that was about to change. 

I can honestly say that as we drove home after our meal...I felt completely disappointed and for a lack of a better word...violated! Violated because I felt cheated after spending what I felt was a large amount of money for what I think was just a ho-hum meal!

I started my 4-course dinner with the cocktail of the night. A peach martini served with silver sugar rim. It was a combination of vodka, white grape vodka, peach nectar, white cranberry juice and a frozen slice of peach. 

This martini was good. You couldn't really taste any peach flavour but nevertheless the drink was enjoyable. 

Our very attentive waiter, Scott brought us a bread basket consisting of an absolutely delectable and addictive black sesame flat bread and three other types of artisan style bread.

For my 1st course, I choose the "Spinach and Radicchio Salad with braised artichokes and leeks with a white balsamic vinaigrette and shaved Manchego cheese."

When this was placed in front of me in a tilted dish, I felt like I was transported back to the '80s/'90s and nouvelle cuisine. It tasted fine. I found the braised leeks mushy. Overall, it was just okay. Nothing to write home about. I hoped that my second course would be better.

My 2nd course was the "Gravlax". This consisted of "Tequila cured Atlantic Salmon stacked on sea salt and lime potato chips with prickly pear dressed jimaca and clementine supremes". 

Again, I felt that the presentation was dated. However, the flavours of the food were very good. The gravlax was perfectly cured, the potato chips were executed beautifully and were very flavourful and delicious. But I found the remainder of the plate all tasted fine...actually reminding me of a lot of Mexican flavours but there was no need for a pile of clementines or a slice of prickly pear to be placed on the plate. It was almost as if they were an afterthought. 

For my 3rd course, I choose the "Veal". This was a "grilled rib eye with triple smoked bacon braised Brussels sprouts, confit red peppers, cheesy cornmeal porridge and truffled hollandaise".

Individually each element on the plate was prepared well and tasted good but together...this plate was off. I had an issue with portion size...I found the piece of rib eye small. I found that there weren't enough Brussels sprouts on the plate and that the two pieces of confit red peppers were an afterthought once more. But then again, portion size was an issue all through this meal. Really, for $95 per person...I expected more...I didn't sign up for the 1980s nouvelle cuisine craze. You would think that a four diamond award winning restaurant would also know that that trend was long gone and buried.

Finally, we had dessert...there was no choice here...everyone had the same thing. "Dessert Trio" as it was named and it consisted of "chocolate mocha peanut gateau with dark chocolate caramel and sponge toffee; brown butter maple financier, bacon crumble, smoked vanilla cream and reduced vanilla syrup; and Pandan leaf coconut parfait, pineapple confit, passion fruit fluid gel and black sesame creme anglaise". 

I loved the pandon leaf coconut parfait with its accompaniments...just tropical and absolutely delicious. The chocolate mocha peanut gateau was also lovely. The sponge toffee pieces were incredibly good. The brown butter maple financier was okay...not spectacular but just okay. I enjoyed dessert very much and the pandon leaf coconut parfait left me wanting more...that could also have to do with the size of each element of the dessert.

Scott, also brought over our complimentary glass of bubbly with this case a glass of Italian prosecco. It was a nice prosecco and I have nothing to complain about there.

Along with our bill, we were offered two chocolate mint truffles. Cute! They tasted very good, however; they could not remove the bad taste left in my mouth by the cost of our dinner. I paid nearly $300 including tip for a so so, ho-hum meal. I could have eaten better at a non-4 diamond establishment for a lot less. I have no problem paying that kind of money for a meal...I just want to feel that it was worth it. I don't want to drive away hungry and thinking that I have been had or taken. There was nothing special about this dinner. Unfortunately, that is how I felt. I know a lot of you may disagree but I can honestly say that my last meal of 2013 was by far one of my most disappointing...EVER.

In his opinion:
The decision to eat at Verses was one I was very excited about mostly because we somehow had missed going there in all our years of fine dining adventures. The restaurant is a converted church. It looks nice and inviting and is well decorated to match its theme with a lot of dark wood and red highlights in the chairs. It boasts a very modern looking bar in the left corner as you walk in. The contrast of the modern bar actually works, in a Musee du Louvre kinda old meets contemporary way.

The ambience and mood is very romantic at first glance, dim lights, well dressed staff and the appearance of fine service that throughout the evening, lived up to his name. Our waiter Scott was exemplary in his manners, courteous and attentive with the slight mishap of forgetting some elements of the dishes on the menu, which in his defence was new to that night.

We were led upstairs to the balcony where the choir would have played and were seated at a central table, overlooking the nave or main restaurant downstairs. Now, the view was fabulous but the romantic dim lighting  gave way to "I can"t even see more than 6 inches past my nose". The lights are so dim that they take away from the presentation of the dishes and makes for very uncomfortable squinting when talking to your date.

For my first dish I ordered the "Beef Consommé with Camel Dumpling". The consommé was simple, rather blend but boasted a spice kick after swallowing. The camel dumpling was a new experience for me and not a good one at that. The taste was practically non-existent and the dough was a little tough. The camel itself was bland, dry and tough, which is what I heard that "old" camels taste like. So I cannot say if it was poorly executed or just a bad batch of camel. Nevertheless, it was not a winner in my books.

For my second dish, I figured that having one of my favourite dishes in the world would make me forget the first dish. My selection was a "Pan seared slice of Quebec foie gras served with white chocolate bread pudding and sour cherry fluid gel". My foie gras portion was a decent size for an appetizer size course and was very good, taste wise. The slab was however way over seared on the exterior, a lot more charred then what it is usual, making the outside too crunchy and brittle. I have had seared foie grais in many restaurants all over the world and this was the hardest exterior of a foie gras slab that I have ever encountered. 

The sweetness of the bread pudding works well with the foie gras so kudoswith that this pairing, it works. The oddly named "sour cherry fluid gel" reduction tasted very good as well.

For my main, I picked "Sole and Lobster. Dover Sole pan seared with almond and green grape brown butter, lobster and potato hash and wilted bitter greens".

In theory this dish was a winner. The combinations sounded exciting and the double "sea" delicacies are two of my favourite. In practice there is very little that works in this dish. The lobster was completely tasteless and the hash was mushy. This dish screamed for a hash that was firmer and crunchier for contrast. Even the greens were some of the very worse I have ever had. The sole was the only highlight of the plate, well cooked and well seasoned but not enough to rescue the dish.

For dessert there were no choices, just one dessert, an odd but not completely outrageous idea. We all had the "dessert trio" and it was by far the best part of the meal. I won't get into too much description because it has been described well above but it was a good way to end the meal.

The complimentary glass of prosecco served in the end and the chocolate mint truffles with the bill were a nice touch. The service was attentive and pleasant.

The Good: A beautiful and inviting space with great ambience and very good service. 
The Bad: Odd pairings, bland food and a sense of entitlement possibly due to their reputation.
The Verdict: My opinion is that this restaurant is somehow "stuck" in a fine dining time warp. It resembles everything that I recall of what fine dining was or attempted to be maybe 15-20 years ago. The pairings are odd, the presentation is sometimes "old fashioned" and the food items are just not sustainable enough on their own taste wise for a restaurant of this calibre. I'd love to think that this was an "off day" because it was strangely bad for all of their credibility and the awards that they have on their walls. Unfortunately, my sense is that that is only part of the problem and this restaurant needs as much updating in the kitchen as it has had in the dinning room.

I give it 2 1/2 out of 5 Olives as rating

Verses Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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