D’Lish launched its new summer menu yesterday, and it is fabulous. How do I know that? Well, I was among a dozen lucky guests who were invited to a tasting preview on Tuesday (Mack was invited too, but was held up at a meeting). We were not only given the opportunity to try each dish, but to also provide some feedback as well.
Chef Jason Durling, fresh from cooking in Niagara, has only been at d’Lish for a month (talk about getting thrown in the fire – he started just before the Indulgence crush!). But given what we were presented with, he already has an acute understanding of the restaurant’s philosophy of clean food and seasonal ingredients.
With good wine and great food, there was no doubt the conversation would be sparkling, but I have to say, the ladies at the corner of the table where I was seated were lovely dinner companions! It was great to eat and share with Ruth Kelly of Venture Publishing and Kim Hill of Thread Hill – I think we were all on the same page, palate-wise.
The eight courses started off with a bang – a roasted heirloom tomato soupa that elicited moans of enjoyment usually reserved for mains. It was a demonstration of simple but fresh ingredients made to sing – pureed tomatoes, sweet and glorious, enhanced with a touch of creamy basil crème fraiche. The plain house-made crostinis didn’t hold up to the soup, however, bland as they were. You can be sure the kitchen will be tweaking that.
Roasted heirloom tomato soupa
After trying the teenage greens, pickles and meat, I was certain that it was a salad that even Mack wouldn’t mind ordering. Deceivingly simple, but packed with layers of flavour, it was the ideal summer salad, with a light buttermilk vinaigrette that drew raves from around the table. The pickled red onions were a nice touch, but it was the slice of salty prosciutto that helped elevate each bite.
Teenage greens, pickles and meat
I will readily admit to being defeated by the wine pairings that night, but before raising the white flag, I was able to enjoy my favourite pairing – a Botani Dry Muscat with the roasted veg and goat cheese terrine. The Muscat was crisp and light, and given I waver on goat cheese most days, the wine softened its usual tang. The plate itself was beautiful in presentation, boldly accented with a vibrant red of so-called “beet squeeze” (which turned out to taste nothing like beets…we guessed that there was a fair amount of sweetener mixed in). And unlike the earlier crostini, the bread pudding cracker served alongside the terrine was delicious – it crumbled too easily, sure, but it made up for that with its rich, buttery texture. Paired with house-made spreads, the crackers could easily make a solid starter on its own.
Roasted veg and goat cheese terrine
The three mains were served up family-style, which, in this setting, suited the table well. My favourite of the dishes was easily the marinated Alberta striploin, cooked to a perfectly pink medium rare. Meltingly tender, eaten with the brown butter forked potatoes underneath, it was a version of steak and potatoes I will be dreaming about for days to come.
Marinated Alberta striploin
The rockin risotto, made with MoNa mushrooms and topped with microgreens, was creamy and well prepared. The only minor misstep was the mushrooms didn’t accompany every bite; this will be remedied for the menu’s launch.
Our corner was disappointed with the handpicked herb roasted chicken – the meat on our platter had dried out, an inconsistency that the kitchen will be looking at. The accompaniment, however, a warm potato salad that Chef Durling described as a “bowl full of love”, was excellent. Based on his grandmother’s recipe, mustard notes were prominent. Everyone around the table couldn’t get enough of it.
The meal’s finale featured not one, but three desserts. I was most excited for the trio of ice cream sandwiches, with flavours that will change based on the availability of seasonal ingredients (stone fruits, for example, will be coming in two weeks). I tasted the snickerdoodle, made with a rhubarb ice cream. The ice cream itself was great, bursting with rhubarb flavour, but I was expecting a yielding cookie shell instead of what I found. Kim and I agreed the cookie needed to be softer or at least thinner.
Trio of ice cream sandwiches
The chocolate cherry torte, a flourless chocolate cake, complete with a ganache, was intensely rich, and made with chocoholics in mind. The non-chocoholics at the table advised that the serving size be reduced, or the layer of ganache to be thinned out. We also recommended some liqueur be added to the sauce, though my preference would have been for the cherries to have been further macerated.
The third dessert was a bit of a bonus. Leah Kinsella, who had worked at d’Lish as a sous chef the year prior, recently left the restaurant to start her own company, The Art of Macarons (e-mail here). It’s currently a home-based business, but she hopes one day to have a storefront. Leah said she had to try innumerable recipes in order to obtain that perfect texture, but based on the samples we tried, I think it was worth the effort! They were perhaps a bit too large (given macarons usually deliver a concentrated saccharine burst), but I enjoyed the lemon and apple pie flavours. Best of luck to Leah!
Macarons and chocolate cherry torte
Thanks to Amanda for the invitation and to hosting a d’licious night! I’ll be returning soon with Mack in tow to make sure he gets a taste of what he missed!
10418 – 124 Street
Monday-Thursday 3pm-midnight, Friday-Saturday 11am-1am, closed Sundays