Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Riverbend Inn

16104 Niagara Parkway
Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON


In her opinion:
To top off our Fabulicious Saturday in Niagara-on-the-Lake; Edgar, Liz, Jacob and I had dinner at the Riverbend Inn and Vineyard. This is beautiful property that I have admired for a very long time but had never had the privilege of eating here. Fabulicious was the perfect opportunity. 

The inn is inviting and gorgeous. We were shown to our lovely table for four and our water glasses were filled right away. After reviewing the wine menu, I realized that I preferred a I ordered my current go to cocktail...a sidecar. This one was tart and delicious.

Our waitress brought over some lovely Ace baguette and olive loaf for us to nibble on while we looked over the menu. 

After some consideration and debate...I choose the following: 
To start - PEI Steamed Mussels
(White Wine Tia Curry Cream Sauce, Fresh Cilantro)

These mussels were really really good. The Indian flavours were a treat. I love mussels and I love Indian but had never had them together...this was excellent.

For my entree, I had Truffle Brine Chicken
(Apple Pear Chutney, Roasted Fingerlings, Cauliflower Puree)

Flavourful and delicious. The truffle brine made this chicken so moist and delectable. The skin was crisp and succulent. I really enjoyed my main.

For dessert, I had Chocolate Cheesecake
(Fresh Berries)

This was a very good cheesecake. The chocolate flavour was not too overpowering and the cheesecake itself was moist and delicious. I just wished I wasn't so full from our lunch at the Charles Inn because I couldn't even finish this gorgeous dessert.

Overall, I had a really nice dinner at the Riverbend Inn. This is a lovely dining room. The service was attentive and friendly. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this restaurant to anyone.

In his opinion:
A visit to this 4 diamond award winning restaurant had been long overdue. We often dine next door at Peller Estates but seem to always miss its smaller next door neighbour. This was the perfect time to give it a try, especially since it was during Niagara-on-the-Lake's Fabulicious event. 

The inn's old world charm, architecture and ambiance are extremely inviting for the discerning public. Its majestic front columns are the perfect facade for this well appointed building that includes the obvious inn, a vineyard, conference rooms and of course, the award winning restaurant.

The dining room is well decorated with an elegant feel and wonderful view of the nearby vineyards. In the summer the patio is open and helps you get even closer to the grapes. We were seated and given some water and home made bread to start our night. Since I was the designated driver that day, no cocktail or alcohol was consumed. The servers were very attentive and polite.

For my appetizer, I picked the Arugula and Spinach Salad (Ice Wine Butternut Squash, Woolwich Goat Cheese, Honey Roasted Pecans and Beet Dressing) the salad was surprisingly light and very fresh. The roasted pecans shared the spotlight with the goat cheese that provided creaminess and texture to the spinach. The beet juice worked well as a dressing and it was a great start to the meal.

For my main, I selected the Peppercorn Strip Loin (7 oz. Grilled Strip Loin, Saffron Potato Puree, Crispy Fried Leeks and Red Wine Jus). I rarely ever order steak in any fine dining restaurant that I visit so this was a surprise, even to myself. The steak came out medium as I requested and was extremely tender to the bite. The saffron potato puree was delicious and the crispy fried leeks were a good surprise as a steak topper. The vegetables felt a bit overwhelming as mandatory greens instead of a compliment to the meat but were well displayed.

For dessert and not to vary too far off the usual, I picked the Classic Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee. This was a very traditional vanilla creme brulee and I don't say this as a problem but actually as a refreshing way to have it. As so many attempts of variations of this dessert emerge, it's nice to see a very good example of the original dish. A highlight of the meal.

The Good: Good country cuisine and attentive service. Great location and views.
The Bad: The steak dish lacked a certain refinement...felt displaced.
The Verdict: Beautiful location, great amenities and very high standards make the Riverbend Inn a must visit. The restaurant's accolades speak for themselves but the food and service back the awards won and its reputation. A must visit when looking for a great meal in a great setting when in Niagara-on-the-lake.

I give it 3 1/2 out of 5 Olives as rating

Riverbend Inn on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Charles Inn

209 Queen Street
Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON  


In her opinion:
Winter can be a total drag and that has definitely been the case this winter. So any opportunity to break it up and enjoy amazing food at the same time...well we're all over it. We have taken full advantage of been many foodie events this year including Winterlicious and now Fabulicious. This is Niagara-on-the-Lakes' prix-fix event with $25 3-course lunches and $35 3-course dinners. So we gathered our troops from last year to join us...just Liz and Jacob and made a dash to wine country! 

We started with a lunch at the beautiful Charles Inn and Restaurant which is a part of Niagara's Finest Inns. This is a stately inn which is both beautiful on the inside and out. Their Fabulicious lunch menu was also lovely. We were shown to our table right away and our server, Lloyd came to bring us warm bread and butter and fill our water glass.

After perusing the menu, I ordered a glass of Megalomaniac's Riesling. My favourite white wine varietal and this one did not disappoint. It was a perfect reflection of Niagara region. 

As for my meal I decided on the following:

Caramelized Onion and Cherry Tomato Tart 
(Balsamic Dressed Baby Arugula, Woolwich Goat Cheese)

Crisp Skin Atlantic Salmon
(Buttered Lentils "Du Puy", Parsnip Puree, Mushroom Ragout, White Wine and Chive Cream)

Rich Chocolate Pate
(Raspberry Sorbet, Candied Orange Peel and Creme Anglais)

The whole meat was excellent. The carmelized onion and cherry tomato tart was flavourful and absolutely delicious. The crispy skinned salmon was perfectly cooked and succulent. But the piece de resistance on the plate was the mushroom ragout. So delectable...I could have had just a plate of mushrooms. Dessert was very nice as well. You needed to be a chocolate lover to appreciate the chocolate pate but I'm a chocolate lover. The tartness of the raspberry sorbet was the perfect accompaniment to this delicious pate.

Overall, an excellent experience from the wonderful service provided by our server Lloyd, to the delicious food and wine and of course the fabulous company. Another successful Fabulicious experience!

In his opinion:
There are so many great restaurants in Niagara-on-the-lake that it makes it very hard sometimes to decide where to eat. This was to case when deciding our Fabulicious restaurants this year...lots of choices, great menus and of course great wine.

We chose the Charles Inn because of our previous visit to their restaurant. It was a very pleasant one and we said we would surely return and we did. The Charles Inn also has a spa and inn facilities besides their award winning 4 Diamond Restaurant.

The room exudes  "old world" charm throughout and has a very inviting dining room with salmon red walls and period chandeliers. Even the chairs are a perfect match for the room decor.

I started my meal experience with a Pinot Noir 2010 from In Between the Lines Winery. This was a medium bodied red with some tannins but still a bit young.

For starters, I picked the Celeriac Risotto (Roasted Celeriac, Baby Spinach, Sauteed Mushrooms, Shaved Parmesan, Herb Oil). This dish was delightful and heavily complex in flavours and textures. The risotto was smooth and creamy but given that it was celeriac risotto that was expected. The mushrooms ended up being the gold mine of this dish, rounding out the texture of the risotto in a smooth creamy sauce. The shaved Parmesan was a nice touch to finish the plate but it felt not needed or a bit out of place. 

For my entree, I chose Oven Roasted Supreme of Grain Fed Chicken 
(Goat Cheese Polenta, Roasted Root Vegetables, Simple Jus). The chicken was cooked to perfection and the skin was properly crispy without coming out in one big piece as it so often does. The chicken was moist and full of flavour. The roasted root vegetables were delicious with just the right amount of doneness to them to give you that firm yet easy to chew bites. The polenta unfortunately didn't feel fresh or wasn't properly cooked. It felt spongy and bland but it would have been a great addition to this dish, had it been well done.

To finish the meal, I chose the obvious dessert of Creme Brulee. I say obvious because there usually has to be something very special as an option for me to pick it over creme brulee. The brulee presented as a 
ginger, orange and honey scented custard, topped with the usual burnt sugar and fresh berries. The sugar coating wasn't all the way caramelized but maybe because it was a bit thicker than usual. Overall, it was still a good dessert, even if not great.

The Good: great service and a fantastic atmosphere makes this place a gem. The food was presented well and flavours were good. 
The Bad: A few misses (mentioned above) in each one of the dishes can't be a true representation of this 4 Diamond award restaurant. Maybe an off day.
The Verdict: My last visit seemed much more perfect. Although the experience was good, it always seemed like it lacked something, just those little misses in the food. Otherwise, the experience was good. It may have been because it was Fabulicious, I will never know.

I give it 3 our of 5 Olives as rating 

Charles Inn Dining Room on Urbanspoon