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.
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.
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).
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, email@example.com. And apologies to Atelier if I made any mistakes in listing the ingredients — they were too many and too wonderful to remember/list.