Saturday, July 21, 2007

Our First Restaurant Review - Artisanale

We had the most delightful evening the other night.

We were celebrating our friend Fiona's 75th birthday (somewhat belatedly - there was a line-up). Deciding a road-trip was in order, and hoping the weather would hold, we headed to The Bookshelf in Guelph.

The Bookshelf is a very cool, independant bookstore, etc. that you can dawdle through for days. The challenge is to not blow the mortgage payment while you're there!

The "etc." portion of Bookstore, etc. used to include a perfectly nice restaurant with a lovely courtyard that we've enjoyed many dinners in. It's just beautiful, surrounded by high ivy-covered walls. You'd never know you were in a downtown setting.

Since our last visit, the restaurant has been sold to Chef Yasser Qahawish and his wife Allison Mitchell, who manages the dining room. It's now called Artisanale Cafe & Restaurant (Their website is under construction.)

Alan had worked with Yasser many years ago at Auberge du Pommier in Toronto.

After happy greetings all round, we were seated in the courtyard, looked at the menu. Big improvement! The menu changes every day, to allow for seasonal finds and the best of what's available. Yasser believes in cooking locally, organically and well.

For appetizers, we had Chicken Liver Mousse with Sweet & Sour Prune,

Octopus & Lentil Salad,

and a salad of Fine French Beans with Saucisson & Hazelnuts.

The flavours were amazing, the portions hearty, but not overwhelming and very simply presented.

The main courses we chose were Steak Frites with Maitre d'Butter,

Duck Confit with Spinach Salad and Crispy Potatoes

and I had Cabbage Roll Stuffed with Brown Rice & Ontario Vegetables, in memory of my late father. He was powerless against a good cabbage roll.

I must say, I expect a good restaurant to be able to pull off Duck Confit and Steak Frites, and Artisanale does this admirably. But I'm always most impressed with a place that can take something truly humble and make it delicious. That cabbage roll was a thing of beauty - light, flavourful and delicate. Dad would have ordered another round...

We shared a selection of desserts, a lot of wine from an extensive and growing wine list and eventually made our way home, happy, full and looking forward to going back soon.

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