It’s Monday and -13 C outside. Not my first choice for an evening out, but as it turns out, it’s a perfect night for an uplifting dinner at the Chef’s Table at Kensington Riverside Inn.
My husband and I are here to sample the prix fixe menu. Available Monday through Thursday from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., diners can sample a two-course meal for $35 per person, or three courses for $45.
Arriving at 6:30 p.m., we’re seated in the main restaurant (seats about 40), adjacent to the lobby dining area. Dressed in tones of grey, taupe and blue, the room features a large open-concept kitchen.
At first, the experience is a little awkward because we are the only guests in the house. Thankfully another couple arrives shortly afterwards. According to our server, weekdays during the holiday season can be quiet.
After selecting our wine, we face the delicious task of choosing our dishes for the evening. On the prix fixe menu there are two appetizers to select from, three entrée options and two dessert choices.
To start, I order the charred leek and potato soup, and my husband chooses the artisan greens.
As we wait for our first course, our friendly, professional server brings us an amuse bouche of herbed goat cheese and pickled beet. Served in a ceramic spoon, it’s a flavourful bite with a peppery aftertaste. We’re also served warm homemade bread. Tonight’s selections are whole grain and a vibrant olive bread. Both are fantastic.
When it comes to the soup, our server presents it with finesse. Placing a white bowl on the table, he familiarizes me with the sous-vide pork torchon crusted with sunflower seeds, set in the centre of the dish. As he explains the dollop of Alsatian mustard ice cream topping the torchon, he pours the potato and leek soup into the bowl. It’s an elegant and entertaining experience, and the soup is superb. Like crème fraîche, the ice cream is rich and creamy, while providing a subtle tang to the soup and pork.
My husband loves the artisan greens. Tossed in a sherry vinaigrette with candied pecans, goat cheese and pickled beets, the ingredients are simple but the way they come together is fresh and delectable.
For his main, my husband has the game hen. Sliced into medallions, the herbed, sous-vide chicken rests upon a medley of fresh root vegetables and a potato purée. Topping it off is a sumptuous fig reduction with summer truffles. It’s a lovely, seasonal dish — tender and juicy and bursting with flavour.
I go for the steelhead trout topped with baby shrimp. For folks concerned about making sustainable seafood choices when dining out, it’s worth noting that Chef’s Table is an approved Ocean Wise restaurant.
Presented crisp side up, the trout is prepared with beurre blanc and topped with baby shrimp. The dish also features a nice portion of English peas and green beans with wild mushrooms and confit potato. Once again, the ingredients are simple, fresh and expertly prepared.
I’m usually not wowed by dessert, but tonight is an exception — the deconstructed pistachio crème brûlée is phenomenal. Forming an S shape, the dish looks like a winding road straight out of candy land. Dotted along this curving path of brûlée are strawberry rosewater and orange blossom meringues in addition to toasted almonds and strawberries. It’s quite the sight and quite tasty, too.
We also sample the Valrona parfait, also deconstructed — this dish is served with French chocolate, espresso sorbet and a hazelnut praline. No complaints here.
All in all, a night out for two with two glasses of wine and a tip for expectation-exceeding service came out to $150. When I compare prices to the regular dinner menu, there is a savings of $33 for the prix-fixe menu. Sure, it may not be a staggering amount, but it is one way to try new dishes and save yourself a chunk of change.
Either way, the next time you’re in the mood for a special night out you may want to try the Chef’s Table, where under the direction of award-winning chef Duncan Ly, and chef du cuisine Craig Boje, you will encounter an exceptional dining experience.