Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fire It Up! The Courtyard Restaurant Gets Ready to Reopen Their Doors

And man, is it hot in there! With a fresh new menu, new kitchen and all the original staff, this restaurant is definitely one of Ottawa's hottest spots. And they're reopening their doors October 27th.

I had the honour of attending the Courtyard's grand re-opening soirée this evening. What an event. Not only did a glimpse at the menu make me start drooling, they also had entertainment that was so perfectly suited for the occasion.

Sadly, 3 months ago, the Courtyard restaurant suffered a kitchen fire. One that closed their doors over the summer. But the new menu is more than fitting for the season, filled with dishes that warm your heart and your soul.

Upon arrival, trays of delectable little treats were floating around. Crisp, golden orbs of cod topped with baconaise (just that word makes my heart skip a beat), delicious beef tartare, and savoury-sweet strawberries topped with quinoa and mint. A sparkling wine was enjoyed by all with every mouthwatering morsel.

A fitting show of fire in Clarendon Court, just outside the restaurant, got everyone glowing as flames danced through our eyes.

Sophie Latreille from Fire Weavers performed some of the most graceful and mesmerizing moves I've ever seen done with fire. What a treat.

Back inside, the soft atmosphere of dimly lit tables and old stone walls awaited. Already, an alluring amuse-bouche was anticipating our arrival. Silky tuna tartar with crumbled foie gras torchon, so rich, yet my palate quickly refreshed with the tartness of passion fruit. And just like that, it was gone.

As the dishes continued to arrive, so did the wine. Without my even noticing, my glass never emptied. I was too enthralled by the visual presentation and care that had gone into every single course. The roasted beets had me in awe before the first bite even made it to my mouth. These fresh root vegetables, combined with the goat's cheese coulis, frosted walnuts, golden beet pickles and citrusy lime fluid gel that decorated the plate, created a spectrum of flavours in my mouth like no other. Can you say heaven on a fork?

Crispy pork roulade with celeriac remoulade, siracha and watercress was up next. This exquisitely presented plate was my favourite. The precision in each slice of celeriac was mind-blowing – at first glance it looked like an arrangement of thin, fresh pasta.

Before our main arrived, the lights dimmed until only the flickering of the candles lit the room. Melannie, one of the tour guides from the Haunted Walk of Ottawa, and probably one of the most enthusiastic people I've ever met, had us at the edge of our seats. Taking us through details of the Courtyard's past, including 2 other fires and a suspicious ghost who still roams the upstairs of the restaurant after closing.

The chills I suffered from Melannie's story quickly vanished when our main course arrived. This comforting dish is all anyone would need to get through a spooky story or a cool fall day. Slices of rich, braised beef short ribs, cooked 48 hours sous-vide, rested on a giant pillow of velvety smooth cauliflower coulis. Hints of truffle, king oyster mushrooms, arugula and coffee spaetzle made it difficult to continue in any of the ongoing conversations. At this point, it was me and my plate of food. The world around – nonexistent.

Dessert you say? There's always room for dessert. Luckily I have a separate stomach reserved for that. Otherwise, I would have had to pass on this decadent treat. Bringing me back to my childhood, a generous creamsicle was the headliner to pistachio-fennel cake, creamy licorice namelaka, fragrant orange blossom, candied orange peel and sticky molasses. Wow.

I'd be surprised if you've made it this far into the post without quickly wiping the drool off your keyboard and running to the Courtyard. All of the marvelous people that made this evening (and the many more to come) possible are simply amazing. From their chef Michael Hay, pastry chef Quinn Davis, Miranda Forbes, Geneviève Rochon and everyone who worked so hard to make the evening a huge success, best of luck in your 30th year of business! They even did a live auction with the money raised going to the Ottawa Firefighters Memorial as a thank you to their quick response the day of the fire.

This is a place that you will get well taken care of (I still remember a friend's wedding being a huge success). Best thing I can say now is, yay! they're open again!

Courtyard Restaurant
21 George Street, Ottawa ON

Courtyard Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

That's my hula hooping instructor!!! I totally wanted to go and see her but didn't feel like going down there solo.....should have called you....


One of Ottawa's Real Foodies said...

Great post Rachelle. Love the juxtaposing of the two fire stories at play.