Thursday, January 24, 2013

Atelier - Part 2

Hi there!

OK, so I'm back to finish off my exploration of the gastronomic safari that is dinner at Atelier. Please keep in mind that I'm working 3 months after the fact and a lot of this is coming purely from incomplete notes.

10th Plate - "Appletini, Appletini, Appletini?" - photo by kira_generika

And now, dessert time! The first course "Appletini, Appletini, Appletini?" (I have no idea what the heck the name is all about) was a celebration of apples, obviously, and the chef was clearly have one helluva party with them! I'll try my best to explain all that was going on here. There were pieces of poached apple, an apple and sorrel sauce, apple cider foam, apple-sour cream cake, as well as a hazelnut and white chocolate ice cream, a chocolate caramel "paint" (I think) and pieces of dehydrated chocolate mousse. This last component was definitely my personal favourite on this plate; it was like sponge toffee, but in chocolate form - super crunchy, rich and tasty. I also quite enjoyed the marriage of the apple flavours with the white chocolate-hazelnut ice cream. Very bright and fun, but still pretty damn rich.

11th dish - (Your Name Twice), Pumpkin Eater
Next up, the requisite pumpkin dessert. Kari was wary, not being a pumpkin fan, but needn't have been. This course was quite an enjoyable departure from the standard, and overbearing, pumpkin pie flavour profile. The dish was made up of a chestnut-pumpkin cookie, a pumpkin mostarda (a kind of sweet pickle), a coconut-ginger sorbet, something that appeared to be a disk of pumpkin pie filling (but not sure what they actually called it), homemade granola (which was a bit peppery, in an awesome way), a coconut macaroon, coffee paint, and a bunch of other stuff! I really liked how they played the "heaviness" of traditional pumpkin flavourings with bright and refreshing flavours like coconut and ginger.

Special birthday course - Shattered Dreams

Hey, it's my birthday! So, for an added bonus, I get cake! Although in this case it's shortbread with buttercream icing frozen in liquid nitrogen and smashed into pieces by our server. Hence the name "Shattered Dreams". I discovered a couple of interesting things through this "bonus" dish: first, liquid nitrogen is kinda epically cool, and two, not sure I like the texture it creates in baked goods... It was damned tasty, but it felt a little like chewing on fibreglass. Maybe Atelier's version of the birthday bumps?

Last dish - A Mangoes into a Bar...

And finally, the last dessert, A Mangoes into a Bar (ba-dum-bump). It consisted of (so far as I can remember) pieces of fresh mango, cardamom ice cream, funnel cake, crushed pistachio bits and dried mango soaked in vermouth. While this sounds like a lot of big, kick-in-the-face flavours, it was actually a nice light way to end the night and cleanse the palette. The flavours were fresh and bright and it was a perfect way to end the night. Probably my favourite dessert of the night (although the dehydrated chocolate mousse bits in the Appletini dessert win best dessert element).

So there you have it, a remarkable foodie experience - definitely a fascinating and delicious birthday treat!

Now, if restaurants were simply about food, then this would be in the running for top meal ever. Unfortunately, service does play a role and I found the snobbishness of our server didn't mesh well with such fun and playful dishes. He should of at least laughed at the bad jokes!

I'm curious if there wasn't an intentional "good cop-bad cop" kind of dynamic going on since the sommelier was very easy-going and down-to-earth (which aren't really the qualities one expects in a sommelier), in contrast to our reservedly smug server.

But really, that is my only complaint, and it's minor in the grand scheme of things. It would have also been nice to have gotten the details of the plates in writing, but I'm nitpicking out of blogger laziness. Lord knows trying to scribble the notes while the server described each dish was pretty damn challenging.

As for the dining experience, I would, should money accommodate, try Atelier again, but not until they did a total menu revamp. I'd very much like to see how such a culinary production evolves with the seasons.

In the end, was it worth the hundreds of dollars in output? I say yes, if only for the incredible variety, creativity and boldness of the food. Not being a dessert person, however, I found myself wishing for more meat, less sweet (especially when the dessert courses were larger than many of the dinner courses). But the desserts were pretty remarkable and I would not want to take away from them.

So that pretty much wraps up the gastro-journey that is a meal at Atelier! Kudos again to the chefs!

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