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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Acadia Restaurant...Go NOW!! (Updated 05.24.12)

Do you find yourself heading to a superlative-drenched hot spot with a certain amount of trepidation, afraid that reality won't match the hype you've been swimming in? Us, too. So it was with both hunger and a little anxiety in our bellies that we set out for Acadia on a recent evening. We needn't have worried, though. The food was so good that we are obliged to share with you two words of advice:
 image courtesy Caroline Becker via urbanspoon
The reviews have been amazing. Acadia is Toronto Life's #2 Best New Restaurant for this year. How about this from Dine.TO's always blunt Alan Vernon:

Acadia [has] one of the smartest and/or [most]original menus in eons. Take the under-appreciated American South, tap into Canada's almost forgotten Acadian heritage and, voila, an eatery that celebrates the culinary heritage of colonial New France, from the Maritimes and Quebec down to Louisiana. This is truly what fusion was meant to be, not the mashing together of disparate cuisines just for the heck of it. A menu this innovative could only have come from seriously passionate foodies like Matt Blondin and Scott Selland who live, breathe and sleep gastronomie. And while the menu may seem a bit lean on selection, its array of unusual and intriguing ingredients make it exciting. Not since Bertrand Alepee and Jason Inniss has there been such a passionate duo to watch.

The menu is crazy inventive: Coturnix Quail with tamarind, sarsaparilla, duck sausage, pickled grapes, and kasha, anyone? We didn't sample that particular dish but each one we did have was incredibly inventive. Each one walloped you with intense and harmonious (yet disparate) flavours, and delivered a pleasing array of textures for the palate. On top of the food, the service was completely unpretentious, incredibly knowledgeable, and appropriately attentive. Guided by our fantastic server Lauren, we wisely opted for the Chef's five course Tasting Menu, giving the kitchen free reign to impress us.

We kicked things off with the amazing Green Garlic Soup (check the menu link for full list of components for each of the dishes), followed by the house's (deservedly) "famous" grits. Next up was Steelhead Trout from BC's Lois Lake, then a fork-tender Veal Cheek, featuring a coco rub! Finally came a dessert of deconstructed Carrot Cake featuring some of the molecular wizzardry that Chef Blondin likely picked up while working with local master Claudio Aprile.

The standout expereinces from each?
  • Berkshire jowl bacon and a smear of black creme fraiche on the side of the bowl with the soup course.
  • The oceanic depth of flavour of the ham hock comsomme that bathed the grits.
  • The carmelized fennel, which provided the sweet component of the plate's salty, sour, sweet trinity, served with the Steelhead Trout.
  • The bitter and surprisingly compatible coco that kissed the veal.

Grits image ^ courtesy scott via urbanspoon
Steelhead Trout (freshwater salmon) ^ image courtesy Toronto Life
 Veal Cheek ^ image courtesy Baby Hedgehogs Blog
Lauren, our aforementioned server, aside from being a great ambassador for the kitchen, turned out to be a very credible sommelier as well. While many tasting menus offer the option of wine by the glass accompanying each course this one did not. Not knowing what to expect from Chef, we sought our guide's advice, challenging her to suggest a wine that would take us through the entire meal. Boy, did she nail it! We were treated to a great Niagara find- a 2010 Viognier from Nyarai, a winery we'd not previously heard of. This baby had enough steely spine to handle all the savouries, but sufficient fruit to carry the sweets. It's a real winner!
 Photo courtesy WinesinNiagara.com. Look for the same label for the Viognier.
Did we have any quibbles? A couple, sure, but they were so minor that they left no lasting negative impressions on the evening. First, the corn bread, which everyone receives, should have come before any of our tasting courses. Yes, we understand it's baked to order, but the bread is so custardy rich and the sweet potato/bourbon butter so sweet and irresistible that to have it arrive as you approach the end of a gustatory odyssey does neither the corn bread nor the flow of the tasting menu any favours.
Cornbread image courtesy Where Jess Ate via urbanspoon
Second, it must be said that the room (at least our room) was a little drab. It's not so much an ambiance thing- we've eaten in enough fluorescently blinding restaurants in France to recognize that mood lighting does not in itself equal character- but it lacked warmth. Think tile floors, creamy off-white everything else, all hard surfaces, but not in a slick modernist way, just kind of a Home Depot beige way. Perhaps if we had been seated in the room that shares space with the open kitchen then the personality of Acadia would have been felt as well as tasted, but where we were, in the large south room, there was the feeling of a hastily thrown together overflow space.

Remember how right off the top we said "Go. Now."? Well, as if everything we've just told you isn't reason enough, here's another: Chef Blondin will be leaving Acadia at the end of May, 2012. It seems David Chang has stolen him away to be a player on the A-team he's assembling for his trio of new Momfuku restos over at the Hotel Shangri-La. The management promises Blondin's replacement chef will be just as exciting. All the reason to pay a second visit, we say, but do yourselves a favour and eat there before the change.

Update May 24, 2012: Thanks to one of our readers (who wishes to remain nameless) for sharing a link to a Toronto Life article which came out just a day after we first posted this. According to the article Patrick Kriss will be moving over to Acadia from Splendido. It sounds like some positive tweaks are in the works. Read about it here.

Acadia Restaurant
50C Clinton Street
Toronto, Ontario M6G 2Y3
(416) 792- 6002

Acadia on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. http://www.torontolife.com/daily/daily-dish/restauranto/2012/05/17/patrick-kriss-joins-acadia/