February 20, 2014

Restaurant: Beckta (Ottawa)

I took a solo trip to Beckta, one of Ottawa's most popular fine dining restaurants, and did their eight course menu ($110). The food was all simply and competently prepared, but it was perhaps not the most exciting experience. Atmosphere and service were first-rate. Though I was one of the first to arrive, the restaurant was fairly busy by the time I left with couples on dates and out-of-town diners.

Enjoyable, but perhaps not my thing.
226 Nepean Street
Ottawa, Ontario

Continue reading for dishes and descriptions.

An amuse buche of duck on crostini and sourdough bread with a caramelized butter were followed by a pair of PEI oysters (mild, small, per usual) with sea berries. No complaints, and perhaps I availed myself of too much bread because I really liked the caramelized butter. Maybe I'll try making it at home (milk powder browned in clarified butter, then processed with fresh butter)... though I don't usually eat butter at home.

Beet salad was fine, but nothing special.

I have yet to figure out how Beckta cooks the black 'beluga' lentils while maintaining their color. This was one of my favorite dishes of the night with its textures and flavors, though I didn't care for the raw cauliflower.

The fish was excellently cooked with a crispy skin and tender moist flesh. My mother would've loved this dish - it reminded me of the black cod dish that was her favorite in Italy.

The skin on the pork belly was terrific - crispy and tender at the same time. The rest of the belly, though, was a bit stringy and dry under the layer of fat.

The portion of duck was very generous. It was very good, though I think it wasn't cut across the muscle fiber - it was a bit (just a bit) rubbery.

The first dessert of lemon curd, gelato and bruleed orange slices was light and delicious.

The second dessert was large (I've not pictured it all) and a bit heavy (and I was kind of full). I couldn't actually finish the salted chocolate ganache. I enjoyed the caramel sauce and the oranges, but the figs weren't great (hardly the fault of the restaurant, but...). And sadly, I don't like figs when they're not great.

Posted by JAY at 03:44 PM | Comments (0)

February 22, 2014

Restaurant: Atelier (Ottawa)

On any work trip to Ottawa, I usually go out to a nice restaurant with a previous manager. (Hi Sylvie!) This time, I chose Atelier... and Sylvie has a new favorite restaurant. The food here was unapologetically molecular - super reduced sauces, nitrogen, liberal sous vide and so on.

A tasting menu is all that's available and cutesy names (not a fan, but whatever, the staff seem to enjoy them) tell you almost nothing about what you'll be eating. The dishes are described as they come to the table, however. Nothing was less than interesting/beautiful and a lot of it was really tasty. Service was personable and they had a half-portion-wine pairing that Sylvie enjoyed. On the night we went, we were the only guests, but apparently they can get quite busy.

Highly recommended and good value for an admittedly high price ($110 for the tasting menu). Since I'm not often in Ottawa, I'll be sure to return to see what new creations are produced.

Atelier Restaurant
540 Rochester Street
Ottawa ON K1S 4M1

Continued reading for a dish-by-dish picture/description.

After a concentrated shot of broth (freeze-clarified, I'm pretty sure), Atelier's takes on blinis and (siracha) focaccia were fun.

A beef tartare was delicious with nitrogen frozen cream, sauces and a brushstroke of super-reduced beef broth. I really enjoy tartare and this was one of the best that I've had.

Lentil salad with brined and poached fish was really well balanced with acidic and sweet fruit sauces and another highlight of the meal.

Seared bay scallops were slightly pedestrian with fresh pickled veggies that were a bit acidic for my taste. A Clamato gel underneath wasn't entirely successful and maybe a bit too firm.

While the squash soup was a trifle salty, overall I really enjoyed it. Its companions of fried sweetbreads and shortbread croutons and popcorn really elevated it.

A seafood dish of cuttlefish, eel and puckery rolled anchovies was really fun to eat. The cuttlefish was beautifully tender.

Nitrogen frozen cranberry spaghetti was artfully presented and the fried cubes of halloumi cheese beneath it were delicious.

This chicken dish reminds me that I need to try sous vide chicken still at home. It was delicious and had a torched-crisp skin. The charcoal-grilled eggplant was a bit strong (smoked?) but still enjoyable and the super-reduced broth was great.

More sous vide, this time rabbit, was probably the moistest rabbit that I've had. Sylvie really liked the lean rabbit terrine that accompanied it.

A slice of seared duck breast was pretty standard, though some tiny fried cubes of paneer dusted with zataar seasoning (I'll have to try this in a vegetarian dish, mostly thyme and sumac in this mix) were a great and unusual accompaniment.

The first dessert of raspberry sorbet was sweetly acidic and served with shards of reduced beet juice (interesting and pretty, not sure if I cared for them as a dessert) and grapefruit vesicles (pretty sure they separated these by nitrogen freezing). It was delicious, though a crumble of pulverized fruit loops was more creative than tasty (and presented as a challenge from the server, easily identified... still, they had fun so...).

An assortment of chocolate-mushroom sweets (ice cream, shortbread, meringues) was not as successful for me. Though it was interesting as a novelty, I think I prefer my dessert without mushroom-umami flavor.

The meal was rounded out by lollipops made of lychee sorbet coated with a nitro-frozen passionfruit reduction. It was a light-but-intense way to finish a large meal - we were both stuffed.

Posted by JAY at 03:52 PM | Comments (0)