Friday, March 9, 2012

Atlantic Restaurant, Toronto, One of the Best Meals I Have Enjoyed in the GTA

Atlantic is located on Dundas west, just west of Dufferin, a part of the city that is slowly gaining significant restaurant traction, with many of the chefs presenting some of the most interesting, unpretentious cuisine in the entire GTA. Some of the chefs are returning to their cultural roots, using local products when available, "foreign" product if it suits, in the most honest way possible, the flavour presentation of the main ingredient the driving vision. Other chefs are incorporating a wealth of experience with travel and reading. So much exhaustive information is readily available on line; so much real food science is now quite accessible.

Chef Nathan Isberg is in the vanguard of this evolution of creative thinking that fuses the science of cuisine with the ethnic cultural flavours available through experience all married with his refined personal taste. This is not haute cuisine, nor is it comfort food. But, his food is more than comfortable. It satisfies and also entertains your mind and palate. I have enjoyed this chefs cuisine before, but, never like this. He has clearly evolved. I like the way he thinks and visualizes his creations.

Sakura (cherry blossom), onsen (Japanese style slow cooked) egg and clams, all in a dashi broth made with fresh shaved bonito, blue-green algae and galbanum, a Persian sourced aromatic gum resin.

Squab sashimi, red fife wheat berries, sea greens, salt cod and ume-su (red plum vinegar).

“The rest of the squab”, crispy skinned, with hedgehog mushrooms combined with mushroom infused pasta filled with a bit of gruyere cheese all in a very reduced onion broth flavoured with fresh ginger and cedarwood.

Frogs legs seasoned with advieh, a Persian originated blend of spices, with regional differences, the chef’s version using cardamom, orris, white pepper,  adjvar, coriander, saffron, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, rose petals, rosewater, fennel, orange blossom water, cloves and turmeric. On the plate, the frogs legs were mixed in with roasted cauliflower flavoured with mustard seed and flaxseed oil. Roasted almonds and bitter apricot kernels were mixed in, adding a perfect complementary taste that worked so well with the spices and flavour of the frog meat.

Black cod, cavalo nero and “roots”. The salty crispy potatoes added a nice texture to the dish. The root vegetables cooked in hay, the cod was covered in the hay ashes.

Sliced, very rare duck breast cooked at 55c sous vide, the duck skin the lightly seared, grain risotto, kobacha (Japanese pumkin) and shredded cabbage all dressed with Japanese mustard.

A refreshing salad of seedlings and nori with olive oil and lemon juice dressing.

Crispin apple, cinnamon gnudi and rhubarb with a honey, lemon and a pinch of sancho in the dressing. A perfect ending, bright, tart flavoured rhubarb, pillow soft gnudi and the balancing flavours of the apple with the honey.

I found this meal a remarkable experience. Oh, and the best, the chef suggested that the best match for most of the dishes was his tea, but we did enjoy some bubbly he offered before beginning and a glass of red with two dishes.

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