This tormenting Covid period has so far significantly disrupted normal dine-in restaurant operations here in Ontario. For an avaricious foodie like me, to overcome the occasional ‘good-food deprivation‘, taking risk to venture out, making that long drive to a special restaurant and then be subjected to strict safety protocol is an option I am willing to take. Unfortunately with long closure period and staff attrition, there is no guarantee that this effort will not be just a waste of time and gasoline…..with mediocre, ho-hum, easily forgettable food waiting for us at the receiving end!
Fortunately, my experience this weekend at LE PRE – PEARL MORISSETTE ‘s outdoor dining spot was nothing of that sort! In fact it was quite the opposite!
For years, I have always been critical in reviewing restaurants that proclaim their chefs have former ties with Michelin star establishments elsewhere. Based on my experiences, a Macaroon (s) does not automatically good food makes! However, in this case, Le Pre’s well proportioned and creative tasting menu, featuring artfully plated and mouth-watering dishes, prepared with indisputable savoir faire helped to sooth my apprehension and the food was indeed well worth the long drive from my Richmond Hill home!
To refresh some of your memory, Pearl Morissette was voted Best New Restaurant in Canada, 2018. Manned by a pair of ‘dynamic duo chefs’ – Daniel Hadida ( former sous at the World’s Best #15 Restaurant: Septime, Paris…slightly behind Passard 3*L’Arpege but ahead of Alain Ducasse 3*Plaza Athenee and Aleno’s 3*Ledoyen! ) and Eric Robertson ( key kitchen member of the Michelin star, In the Wulf in Belgium ). From them and their skilled kitchen, today’s culinary offering that greeted us was pseudo-rustic with contemporary touches and most importantly ‘uber-delectable’!
After a wet but relaxing hour and a half drive, we arrived at the winery restaurant welcomed by a huge heated, out-door ‘ black ‘ tent located next to the famous ‘Black Barn‘ which houses the award winning restaurant during normal times. To facilitate easy transfer of food, the kitchen was also re-located outdoor in an adjacent separate tent. There is also a special stand-alone area featuring an active wood-fire pit for roasting of poultry and meat….etc. The smoky aroma emitted was so mesmerizingly good!
Our party of 6 was once again assigned the magnificent looking ‘long’ customized wooden table as per our previous visits. To facilitate minimal contact and interaction, dishes featured in our multi-course Chef’s ‘Omakase ‘ menu were laid out in detail on a special one-page menu. By posting a photo of it, it eliminates my having to spend time describing the various courses in detail! Cool!
Now, onto the food!
Man! What an enjoyable and memorable meal!
Our menu put forward some of the most exquisite tasting sauces, dressing and dishes we have come across anywhere, present or past. Particularly, that piece of perfectly cooked, slow ‘wood-fire’ roasted, line-caught Cod must be one of the best tasting fish dishes we have come across. As if perfection was not enough, the addition of a side of delicious melange of wild mushrooms helped to kick the dish up another level! So simple and yet so delectable, this one dish alone IMHO, is worthy of a Michelin star!
Other commendable dishes included ALL cold and expertly dressed vegetable courses. Delicate and well balanced, the predominantly vinaigrette based dressing were all spot-on. Those super-sweet, cherry-tomatoes! Wow!
Apart from taste components, textural interplay exhibited by say, the one bite, fried butter squash and chicken liver pate ‘Nigiri’ was most captivating! The juicy, smoky and crispy skin roasted pasture raised free-range chicken paired with roasted shallots and pan jus was rustic, tasty and, if I may, worthy of rubbing shoulder with Thomas Keller’s famous roasted chicken!
Last but not least, that French Apple Tart!! Wow!....my third or fourth wows of the meal?! The oh-so-buttery, crispy short-bread crust plus the meticulously crafted thin apple ribbon swirl! Soooo darn good! Definitely a piece of Paris yummiest transplanted to Niagara! If only the kitchen had made enough to allow for take-out sale?!
A minor down-side disappointment worth noting. Though, quantity of food was well proportioned for the average patrons. However, for some of the bigger appetite male customers, there's a chance they might still feel slightly hungry at the end. As such, additional complimentary bread should be offered to help fill the gap as well as to help in mopping up some of those delicious sauces?!
Anyways, IMO, this meal clearly reflects the reputation and reinforced Pearl Morissette’s position as one of Canada’s best restaurant. Exceptional cuisine worthy of a special drive!
Lastly, since Phase 3 re-opening, I am so blessed and fortunate to be able to savor back-to-back great meals at Frilu and Pearl Morissette. More humble instant noodle and frozen dumplings for lunch tomorrow? Ha!
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