Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Woodlot Restaurant: Intensely Flavoured Comfort Food

Walking into Woodlot Restaurant, one is greeted by an open kitchen with a wood burning oven and a humble but cozy small 2 story very informal interior for sitting patrons. We were seated upstairs. The only problem is that if other patrons in this area are very noisy (and there was a group of 14 having a celebratory gathering), the noise made it impossible to hear your friends speak, even when they raised their voices. I must be frank by saying better soundproofing in that area is in order as the din takes a great deal of pleasure from the meal, which overall, we found most satisfying and in some ways, quite exceptional. We were particularly pleased with the very polite and accommodating wait staff and truly delighted by the attention forthcoming by the co-owner chef, who was so attentive to our requests about the elements in some of dishes and personally came upstairs to explain each one with such pride and passion. We could see and experience the love he put into the cuisine.

As we were awaiting our food, we were brought Red Fife bread that was just made in the wood burning oven, along with some house churned butter. Well, we could have made a meal just out of that tasty, crunchy, wonderfully wholesome and satisfying experience. It was so good, we all purchased some extra bread to take home.

Our first course was wood oven roasted pulled lamb tart with dandelion greens, a b├ęchamel like cauliflower cream and sprinkled with grated parmesan. This tart was so exceptionally satisfying (you will keep reading this word which was such regular and fulfilling part of Woodlot's restaurant experience). The flavours and textures went so well together and the crust was so wonderfully light and flakey.

Our next dish was perfectly cooked papardelli with a very rich, again, wonderfully flavoured and intensely satisfying wild boar ragu, flavoured with cinnamon, star anise, thyme and rosemary.

My favourite dish was the braised duck cabbage rolls, the best stuffed cabbage roll experience i have had in a long time. The savoury savoy cabbage was stuffed with pulled duck, wild rice, chestnuts and prunes, a blend of such complementary flavours and textures.

I ordered the the roasted fingerling potatoes with duck fat and herbs to go with the stuffed cabbage rolls. All 4 of us at the table couldn't keep our forks away from these crispy, addictive potatoes, so another side of the potatoes was ordered.

A beautifully presented venison game pie was the only disappointment....but still possessed a very flakey crust, good but not so complex or interesting flavours, and the pieces of venison were a bit dense and tough. What was needed here, in my opinion, were pieces of venison selected that could be cooked slowly like beef short ribs or brisket so that the venison would easily fall apart when being chewed.

We finished with one of the best tasting tart tatins in the city. As you van see in the picture, the aroma drove us to dive right in before the photo so you are viewing the partially eaten tart. Very good pastry, cooked slowly in the wood burring oven, producing lovely complex and alluring, caramelized flavours in the dark apple topping.

As I have said several times, a wonderful, flavourful, highly satisfying meal experience overall.

WOODLOT Restaurant
293 Palmerston Ave (at College)

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