I entered the front door of Atelier with pre-conceptions. I left with an appreciation for food that I haven’t had in quite a while. Having eaten at Craft in NYC and George in Toronto – both small plates concept establishments, although not necessarily billed as “molecular gastronomy” — I would have to say that Atelier can easily run with those dogs. Ottawans have a habit of seeing the far away fields as greener, of not seeing the talent that we have close to home, of playing the small town card. But the truth is, our city is coming into its own in more ways than just food, and we need to embrace and nurture our home grown creativity.
The front of house experience was great. Low key but sharp and professional. The room is definitely a secondary player to the food, which it should be, however I did find it a bit sterile – perhaps my only criticism. The sommelier was informative and creative without being pompous, and the pairings were bang on. One of the choices was St. Peter’s Organic English Ale – which I typically don’t like (maybe just because I’m Irish). But it played perfectly with the sweetness of the Southern Comfort dish – beautiful.
Rachelle has given a detailed breakdown of what we ate and drank so you don’t need to hear it again from me. What I will say though is that we had a surprising amount of what I wasn’t expecting – food. We ate a ton. The dishes were complex and creative, each building on their own theme. Soup-er Bowl for example. The most tender and succulent chorizo I have ever tasted, in a broth resembling a fine corn chowder, with anti-griddled cheese puffs made to look like pop-corn. Some of the dishes were very brief, others were actually quite substantial, all were highly creative, multi-sensory and delicious.
Anything other than a glowing recommendation of Atelier would, in my mind, be grossly unfair. Yes there were anti-griddles and foams, yes there was an immersion circulator, yes there was a bit of science. But not too much. Really it was just about great food.
I would eat my words if I wasn’t so full.