Life is full of wonderful surprises. In the midst of my birthday week, my friend happened to need to give away a reservation at Atelier last minute. This restaurant has been on my list of restaurants to check out in Ottawa for a while now and I was more than happy to take over the reservation. This one-of-a-kind restaurant in Ottawa is #60 on Canada’s 100 Best in 2017 (with a impressive standing of #19 in 2015). It offers as 12-course tasting menu which changes regularly. If you want to explore the world of molecular gastronomy, where science meets food, this is the place to be. Please note that when you make a reservation, credit card information has to be given. If you cancel the reservation within 48 hours of your seating, then a 50% charge will be made on the card if they are unable to fill the table, which is why my friend was asking for someone to take over her reservation.
This restaurant is located in an obscure building on the quiet Rochester Street. There are no signs in front of the restaurant so it is not the easiest to find. Since they are unlikely to take walk-ins, the lack of signage doesn’t seem unreasonable. Seating is dispersed over multiple floors. The decor is simple and modern.
We were given the choice to add wine pairing to our meal. Although the contents of the meal are hidden, the wine list was given to us to help us make our decision. We both quickly decided that we cannot say no to such a nice selection of carefully chosen beverages. We were told that despite the impressive number of items on the list, the 10 number of drinks equated to around 3 servings and this was slowly served over the course of our meal, which was expected to be approximately 3 hours. If this is not your preference, you can also choose to get half-portion of wine pairing or order drinks by the glass. I would highly recommend the wine pairing though. There is nothing like eating amazing food with a perfect glass of wine to match it. Not only is the quality of the wine superb (many with >4 star ratings on the Vivino app). There were many drinks on the menu which you are unable to easily purchase elsewhere. One of the 10 drinks was a sour ale (the only non-wine drink on the menu), which I was skeptical of when drinking it by itself but it’s tangy flavour really complemented the soup it was paired with.
After making our only decision we needed to make for the night, we were able to sit back and relax as the symphony of culinary art began. Imagine you are Belle in Beauty and the Beast during “Be Our Guest”. That was exactly what it felt like.
First we were brought some sriracha-infused bread, which was one of the softest, most nicely flavoured bread I’ve ever eaten.
Next, we had the Chamomile-Cured Trout, with its lovely presentation of different textures and colours. Everything on the plate was so tasty alone and together.
Next up is an Artichoke and Sweetbread dish. Understanding that some people may not be interested in eating innards, if you have specific dislikes or allergies, you can inform the server prior to the meal. For those who are more adventurous, this was an amazingly-flavoured dish not to miss. The sweet bread was battered and lightly fried, and paired so well with the marinated artichoke. Top that all off with a sprinkle of caviar and the dish is truly a party in your mouth.
To change things up, the next dish is presented in a terrarium. Using chopsticks to carefully remove the contents from inside the glass ball, take your time to enjoy the perfectly cooked octopus with its accompaniments.
The next dish is the epitome of molecular gastronomy. Are your kids not eating their peas? Try making a frozen globe of pureed peas! What?! Good luck with cleaning up after them though, since half of my globe ended up on the floor after I tried to smash it open aggressively with my spoon.
For the soup of the day, we had a sour beef soup, which was an umami explosion in your mouth! It was definitely the winner of the night for me in terms of taste.
Our mains of the night started with a delightful square of quail terrine.
Next up, how about some styrofoam? Enjoy some foie gras with a cherry on top in an edible rectangle of styrofoam which dissolves in your mouth.
Next, try a sausage-shaped eel sitting on top of a nicely painted sauce.
We ended our mains with a juicy piece of Suckling Pig and an equally tender piece of Koji Beef.
For dessert, how about helium filled balloon? To eat, just inhale quickly and have a conversation with your newly-found voice.
Or how about their “Sea Buckthorn” dish with an array of different textures and flavours.
It was a morbid finale as our meal concluded with a tombstone with the most light and tasty “dirt” and matcha “moss”. The date on the tombstone denotes the opening of this restaurant in 2008 but is it also predicting that its eventual closing will be in 2028? Only time will tell.
The service was definitely 5-star here. Our server was very considerate to show us where the washrooms are on our way to our table. Even though the food was slowly served over several hours, there was not a lot of downtime as we were constantly engaged either by the sommelier presenting us with the various wines or the server bringing us our dishes plate after plate with detailed descriptions of each. When one of us had to excuse ourselves from the table, they would wait to bring us our next drink/dish. For every dish/drink, we were given a new set of utensils/glass/plate. When I made a mess with the frozen peas, they quickly came over to wipe off the table.
This was overall a very unique experience and I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone for a special night out. The price is definitely on the high side but I found that it was appropriate for the quality of the service and the food. I am thankful for my friend who gave me this opportunity to finally come to Atelier and I hope she and her husband will be able to experience this for themselves soon.
For more information: http://www.atelierrestaurant.ca/