Oakville & Burlington foodies have something to celebrate.
The Alex on Brant Street. http://www.thealexrestaurant.com/
A good friend (thanks Krunch) suggested to me a few weeks back over brunch that I had been missing out on excellent dining in my own backyard.
'The Alex' on Brant St. in Burlington near Lakeshore Blvd proved an excellent surprise last evening.
As we pull up outside 480 Brant on New Years eve, with another couple visiting from London, I am less than impressed. In fact I think, wtf? The sign says please access via our patio door.
I walk in tio a hearty welcome and find myself inside a long room, which possibly sits about 40-45 if you include the 5 bar seats/chef's table equivalent and the 3 high chairs facing the patio.
I am understandably dubious; but my welcome by James one of two servers ( who knew the other Rick would provide that dubious combination of Rick/James).
My worst fears are realised on New Years eve with nary a glass of Prosecco or any other type of bubbly available.
Still the menu is presented and my interest is immediately piqued.
I order an easy drinking reasonably priced Sancerre, and one of my guest wishes to try the Lailey Canadian red. It arrives and on first taste its evident from his reaction that its not to his taste. I take a sniff and share my opinion that I believe it to be corked. The resulting response from James and how he deals with the situation is stellar and provides promise on what ends up being an outstanding evening of dining.
As with many of these places that deliver small plates they are exactly that.
Its enough as a small course for one and a bit; but from the perspective of getting a taster of what's being presented it works.
I look up and down the menus and decide the plan of action should be the lobster& shrimp mac and cheese, the pork belly with spicy sauce and the white fish tacos (x2) as the opening salvo.
The pork belly is excellent, its has been seared to excellence for a crisp exterior, yielding deliciousness, when cut, its succulent and juicy interior reflects a perfect braised piece of pork belly that has been worked to harmonious goodness.
The mac and cheese is ok, something is not quite there in the flavour profile and while reasonably tasty, I have had better, still its good.
The fish tacos are superb. They come rolled in the almost anaemic looking white flour taco shell that we have come to love, but enclosed inside is delicious pan fried white fish with a crunchy slaw as a taste and texture counterpoint of deliciousness. We order 2 though 1 order might have sufficed.
The evening is starting to take off, I am getting comfortable and its time for round two, which will include one of the night specials, which is the rabbit risotto, with shaved truffles and a little foie gras, we also order the confit of lamb, the superb mango slaw with butterflied shrimp, and the braised short rib with mushroom lasagne.
Of this set of dishes, I am torn as which should have pride of place, the short rib or the mango slaw. Two such very different dishes that are both quite superb in their own right.
The mango slaw with its rich crunchiness off set by very tasty and tender butterflied seasoned shrimp represents all you could want in your mouth in one forkful; yet the the tender, braised and off the bone short rib meat set on a piece of mushroom lasgna surrounded by an incredible rich veal stock reduction, has all the aspects and flavours of rich unctuous meatiness one could imagine.
James is on his game. My respect for him as someone who enjoys what he does, his service provision and his knowledge and repartee has its impact. In short order the shits and giggles are going large and the game is on.
Belly space is at a premium and its time to pick final dishes.
Of the three picked, two of the dishes are evening specials.
That is the lamb rack that comes with 2 chops on a bed of basic vegetables of small potatoes chunks and crunchy green beans;but with a mustard sauce and sprinkles of goats cheese, delivers a substantial flavour boost as the goats cheese melds with the hot veg and mustard sauce. It delivers huge in its evident simplicity.
Skate wing with lardons, quail egg (though the size would suggest a hens egg) and a house made sauce tartar with lemon is simple and delicious (we need to appreciate skate wing more, its delicate and delicious and brown butter sauce and capers has been my preferred accompaniment); however its always nice to be surprised with new and delicious approaches.
The final piece of the main meal is the hanger steak, with bacon wrapped bacon reflecting I suspect the mentality inherent in the very large "I love bacon" wood board that sits atop the wine cabinet.
While I didn't partake in the final dish, it was deemed worthy by my dining companions.
I will certainly be back in short order to try some of the small plates i didn't manage to get friendly with.
The Alex rate a very solid 4 forks out of 5 in my opinion.