Atelier Restaurant, Ottawa

Bread & Butter, Atelier Style
We've been meaning to visit this restaurant for some time.  They've been opened a couple of years, and there's been lots of buzz.  "12 courses, 9 wines, 4 hours."  To be honest, the time flew by, really - considering that we were in the restaurant long enough to drive to Montreal, and back.  It was worth every minute, to allow Chef Lepine and his crew, the time to create his plated gems.  Now, on with the food!  (I won't comment on the wine pairings, or this will end up being a novella - I will say that Steve Robinson as Sommelier was simply the best!  He is incredibly knowledgeable and personable.)

Smokey and the Bay Leaf:  mackerel, fried mackerel spine, homemade pickle puree, bay leaf gelée cubes (and foam, if I remember correctly), savoury lentils.  While not my favourite dish of the evening (not a fan of mackerel), it was beautifully prepared and presented.  The fried mackerel spine was actually quite delicious and stirred memories of eating fried smelts as a child, spines and all.  With me, you can never go wrong with the earthy goodness lentils bring to the table.

Smokey and The Bay Leaf


The Red Carpet:  perfect spheres of orange and basil served on a ribbon of beet purée gelée.  What I thought was feta, was actually dehydrated and crumbled walnut oil.  What appeared to be croutons, were melt in your mouth cubes of toffee textured dehydrated orange juice.  There was also a delectably crunchy shoelace-sized strand of beet, running beside the hills and valleys of the beet gelée.

The Red Carpet

Angry Octopus:  sous-vide octopus, bacon, olives, celeriac purée, braised tomato and lemon zest.  This was the 'salty' course.  The texture of the octopus was wonderful.  It's been a year since I have had the chance to eat fresh octopus, and these pieces didn't disappoint.  If you've never had octopus, perhaps you can't appreciate the texture.  It's firm, yet tender, chewy, but not rubbery.  It may have a bit of an identity crisis in this regard.  You can try and figure it out for yourself, I just know I love it.

Angry Octopus

(Enter your name twice) Pumpkin Eater:  a one bite treat of curried pumpkin, a square of lemongrass 'sponge', some dehydrated coconut milk and chopped pumpkin seeds.  There was a wonderful aroma that came from the fresh kaffir lime leaf that was clamped to the spoon.  I love the heady, citrony smell you get with kaffir lime leaf.  Not a favourite for everyone, but oh so exotic.  Had I been alone, and the restaurant darker, I might have rubbed the leaf behind my ear.  Ahem.  Sorry...

Pumpkin Bite

Yukhoe:  beef tartare, dehydrated sesame oil, yucca (cassava) chips, enokitake (I think) mushrooms, pine nuts and sesame seeds.  At first waft, I thought it was tuna tartare - the smells were all so familiar.  Hearing it was beef was a pleasant surprise.  The texture of the beef was wonderful - little cubes of melt in your mouth carnivorous joy.  Mmmm.

Yukhoe (Korean Beef Tartare)


Duck:  a pierogi of duck confit and goat cheese served with sunchoke, sweet potato purée, fried leeks, sour cream, caramelized onion purée and topped with a slice of black truffle.  This course was another favourite of mine.  The combination of the duck confit and the goat cheese was divine.  The sweet potato and sunchoke was a nice foil to the tangy goat cheese and sour cream.  Only complaint?  Could you make them a little bigger please??

Duck and Goat Cheese Pierogi


Frosty Vineyard:  the palate cleanser course consisted of frozen green and red grapes, chocolate streusel 'soil', aloe vera 'ice' and blue cheese branches.  These were my favourite - they're made of cheese, why wouldn't I love them!

Frosty Vineyard

Dillusional Mushrooms:  mushroom two ways - sauteed and served on a swipe of dill with a prosciutto wafer;  next, cream of mushroom encapsulated in a sphere of dill, on top of prosciutto crumbs, dill flowers and a square of black garlic purée.  Can't say I would ever think of putting dill and mushrooms together, but glad that I have now had it.  Most excellent combination of flavours.  I must warn of the surprise texture/temperature/flavour of the mushroom ball.  I managed to get it onto the fork and  into my mouth without piercing the dill membrane (not so successful on the beet course with the orange sphere) and it literally exploded in my mouth with the slightest amount pressure applied.  Caught me a bit off guard.  But, once I got over the shock of the sensation, the mushroom was actually quite tasty.  Something you just have to try for yourself.

Mushrooms Two Ways

Bison:  last of the savoury courses, they saved the best for last.  Bison, cooked sous-vide, then briefly pan seared so as to preserve the lovely pink colour and moist texture (as you can see, they did).  It was served on a bed of velvety smooth cauliflower purée (underneath which was hidden very thin slices of cauliflower crudo), roasted pearl onions, roasted leaves of brussel sprout, pea shoots - drizzled with a tarragon mayo.  The bison was supreme.  I can't add too much more here except to say, "Please, sir, I want some more".

Bison

iCup:  a layer of passionfruit and banana sorbet with a hidden chocolate surprise

Passion Fruit & Chocolate Dessert with Fruit Sauce filled Spoon (goes with dessert below).

Doughnuts Make You Smile:  an old fashioned doughnut hole, mango foam, cranberry syrup filled spoon and the most awesome disk of hazelnut praline topped with a frozen dollop of buttercream - rich, sweet, and a nice small bite (not a fan of desserts, but do SO appreciate the effort).


Doughnut Make you Smile

Menthol Cloud:  our last morsel for the evening - a pillowy cloud of mint flavoured candy floss

Menthol Cloud

Final Thoughts:  this was an amazing evening, and I must say, worth all the chatter.  The staff were great and we really enjoyed our peek into the kitchen.  They have eked out a place on the Ottawa culinary scene - from the 'Secret Club' looking exterior, to the mod (and comfy) furniture and the mega stainless steel wall which curves out of sight into the kitchen.  My apologies in advance if I got any of the dish components wrong - I was trying not to be a nuisance, yet still enjoy my dining experience, which I did, very much.  A+



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