By Dalal Saikali
Photos by Alessandra Gerebizza
We set out to write a critique of a culinary event that we attended. We expected to be able to write: “each delicious part of the duck was utilized to its best potential.” “The noodles were perfectly done.” “Flavours were especially selected to compliment the dish.” “The presentation was professional, creative and completely appetizing.” We’ll be completely honest with you; when it came time to write, we were stumped.
The location: Sidedoor Kitchen, Byward Market
The event: A special tasting menu designed by Top Chef Canada participants
The Chefs: Jonathan Korecki, executive Chef at Sidedoor and Trevor Bird, Guest Chef from Fable in Vancouver
Don’t get us wrong:
Each delicious part of the duck was perfection and complimented by what it was being served with. Never have we tasted such a rapturous peppercorn jam, which tied together each and every component of the dish. The interplay between the rawness of the breast, the salted crisp of the skin and the satisfying bite into the bun was a signal that this was going to be an experience, rather than a meal.
The made-onsite basil ramen noodles were not only perfectly done, but they also brought together the slightly oily consomme and the freshness of the cucumber.
The pork flank dish was extremely surprising in that it was covered with flower petals. The local honey was the finishing touch that made this course an eleven on a scale of ten because it hit every single aspect of culinary appreciation: flavour, texture, presentation, Wow Factor.
How can we not say that the “flavours were especially selected to compliment the dish”? The main course was presented on a bed of boston lettuce leaves, which diners use to wrap up bits of this beautiful deep-fried fish. The fish is arched in such a way that you can flake away bits of flesh with complete ease, and add the different components present in the dish: pickled carrots, beats, potatoes, and fresh, fragrant basil. The little package, which is only perfected by the crispy skin of the fish, is an explosion of flavour and sends all inhibitions of lapping up the dripping juices out the window.
After being unable to finish this main, we were presented with a beautiful and complex dessert that felt homey and familiar at the same time. Creamy lucious berry custard and chocolate in both hardened ribbons and soft chewy bites.
Indeed, the meal was glorious and “the presentation was professional, creative and completely appetizing”. There, we said it. But we have come and gone and we are still at a loss for words. How can we accurately explain this experience, without cheapening it?
You must have gathered by now, dear reader, that this was not your typical high-end meal. It was the result of two friends coming together to share their passion and bring delight to people, if only for an evening. Jonathan and Trevor spent countless hours together while filming Top Chef Canada. The complicity that they must have developed through that experience shines through not only their demeanour, but also their work. The menu they built screams both their names in a way that endears them to the taster. The fact that each and every component of the entire meal was fresh and as local as possible, combined with the unique viewpoint they bring to preparation was a fantastic start. The kitchen staff, upon observation, looked like a well oiled machine had fallen on a group of great friends. They were highly-efficient, as well as in good spirits throughout the evening. It’s no small wonder they had shared much success together before. Jonathan, Trevor and their kitchen staff created an experience where eating ceases to be just eating. Their poise in and outside the kitchen alludes to years of passionate work and study to be able to use food to trigger the human being’s different pleasure centers.
The devil, however, is in the details. Delivery can be a risky aspect of the restaurant business. We were astounded by the professionalism, albeit low-key and casual, of the wait staff. The lovely Simon, who, through his delicate attentiveness, made us feel like we were the only clients in a sold-out restaurant, knew absolutely everything about the meal, the restaurants, the chefs. People who are talented and work hard seem to attract others with similar traits.
The coming together of Jonathan and Trevor served also to highlight Trevor’s new Vancouver restaurant, Fable. If Monday night’s event is anything to measure by, Vancouverites are also extremely lucky.
At the end of it all, we can say that the perfect equation for an exquisite culinary experience is the following, as demonstrated by Jonathan and Trevor:
Experience and the continuing search for perfection multiplied by consistent hard work, topped with a good dosing of both confidence and humility made for a meal that was not only beautiful and delicious. It was like eating our way through Ravel’s Bolero, with a strong but subtle start that works its way through cannons of high notes, to finish in a boundless climax of drums, horns and bewilderment.