Atelier — food design at its best

Ottawa trips don’t usually signal culinary extravaganzas.  On the referral of one of my Sauder colleagues, Tony Boardman, I signed up for a reservation at Atelier.  Made the reservation on-line (what a great invention) and then received a phone confirmation giving me instructions about how to find the restaurant due to the fact that there is no sign — just the address — 540 Rochester Street.

Tony had prepared me for the tasting menu which has a wine pairing that goes with it —  it sounds like it changes almost every night.  It was a Tuesday evening and the restaurant was quiet — but I got the sense that one always gets superb service at Atelier.

Of course they endeared themselves to me when the warm bread was presented with a tooth-paste-type-tube of butter.  Like this. Fun.

atelier butter

The first course was called Bubbles — it was a bit challenging for me because it had duck tongue (2 of them) but I really liked the balls of kohlrabi, little tapiocas, coconut bubbles and foam.  It was matched with a 2009 Hidden Bench Bistro Rose from Niagara.

The second course was Prosciutto and Melon.  Wonderful.  It was watermelon instead of the usual cantaloupe which I don’t really like.

melonThere was prosciutto, raw swordfish, seared watermelon (chunk in lower picture) and little cubes of watermelon as well.  There were daubs of red wine to balance the plate.

The third course was called Fennel Vision — it was caramelized fennel, wilted spinach, edamane, powdered olives — and things that I can’t remember.  The chef does a lot of freeze drying and powdering of food — the tastes are really amazing.  This was matched with a Sauvignon Blanc (2010 Astrolabe) from Marlborough, New Zealand.

The fifth course was 46 degrees Salmon with salmon, cucumber, dill, chervil (photo below).

46 degree salmon2 Then came Nachos & Beer — a wonton in beer batters with powdered cheese, sour cream, bacon and jalapenos — and of course accompanied by Birra Bruton Stoner from Lucca, Italy.

By this time, I was wondering if I could stay the course.  But each individual offering was light and so tasty.  So I persevered.

Liver Damage was probably my least favourite — fois gras deep fried with parsnip pieces, brioche and pistashio nuts matched with a NV Cossart Gordon Medium Rich 5-year Bual Madeira from Portugal.  Busy Beets followed with frozen extruded beets, beets and a little slide of brie accompanied by a 2006 Dr. Hermann Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Spatlese from Mosel Germany.  And then there was a delicious Duck Tortelloni with smoked mushrooms, what I wrote down as “amazing sauce”, hazelnuts and I think a quince paste.  This was accompanied by a 2007 Beresford Shiraz from McLaren Vale, Australia.  And the final savoury was Elk (a first time for me) — a steak which was delicately broiled and very tasty — especially with the 2006 A to Z Winewords Chemin de Terre from Oregon.

While I had requested a half-portion of each of the accompanying pairings, I was reaching my limit.  And now dessert of which there were three!  Pomme de Mars was apple rings with Ice Cream cake and a walnut crumble paired with a 2008nDomaine Pinnacle Ice Cider from the Eastern Townships.  iCup was a frozen passionfruit pure inside of which was a chocolate cake on a cookie.  Hmmm.  The match here was a 2007 De Bortoli Noble One Botrytis Semillon from New South Wales.  Just when I really thought I was done, The Troll Truffle arrived.  I’ll let you imagine what that was.

The design of everything was exquisite — the plating, the incredible tastes — it really awakens your taste buds and reminds you what food can taste like at the hands of a great chef.  I didn’t meet the chef — but I did see the kitchen where all this happens.  It is compact and, of course, well designed.

You can find Atelier at 540 Rochester Street Ottawa Ontario — 613-321-3537,  And apologies to Atelier if I made any mistakes in listing the ingredients — they were too many and too wonderful to remember/list.

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