Mar 26, 2009

Festival of Chefs 2009: EPIC

Located on the main level of the Fairmont Royal York Hotel is the restaurant EPIC, whose chef, Ryan Gustafson, was next on Breemer and O-reagano’s Festival of Chef checklist.

When Breemer's mother first came to Canada (many decades ago), the Royal York was the tallest building in the Commonwealth. Though now dwarfed by taller neighbours, the hotel still maintains its sense of history and presence. These days the hotel also connects with commuters (due to its convenient location across from Union Station) and hungry sports fans on their way to or from the ACC, Rogers Stadium or the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Though there are a number of restaurants in the building, we were there to sample the food from Gustafson's kitchen at EPIC. Upon entering we noticed an overall serene blue theme to the open room. Comfy blue banquettes lined the perimeter of the dining area, in which each table was set with decorative blue floral plates.

We began by devouring the spread du jour, a wonderful puree of white asparagus and mascarpone cheese (plus we think we tasted a hint of truffle). It was so good we couldn’t contain ourselves and kept nibbling on it nonstop.

The first break from the spread came with the arrival of an amuse bouche for each of us, a pleasant surprise. Breemer was given a crab salad with chive fresh cream while O-regano had a buffalo mozzarella with tomato and balsamico.

Stuffed medjool date, tangerine, baby arugula

For the starter we opted for Pingue’s Niagara prosciutto, which came with BC tiger Blue cheese stuffed medjool dates, fennel, tangerines, arugula and a pink peppercorn-truffle vinaigrette. The pungent cheese and sweet dates fused wonderfully, especially when tasted with a little bit of everything from the plate. And this inspired a plan to pick up some plump medjools and a good Blue from CheeseB at some later time.

O-reagano opted for the Vegetarian main which consisted of a presentation of fuseau artichoke, celeriac strudel, fifth town chevre, northern woods mushroom, soy beans, corn fricassee and a sage-galeux squash sauce.

Celeriac and chevre strudel

Breemer chose the Ontario natural char that had the Ocean Wise seal of approval from the Vancouver Aquarium. The dish came with celeriac purée, autumn beets, fine beans and a truffle-port foam. This was the second time on the Festival of Chefs restaurant tour that Breemer had truffle-foam, and this one was equally enjoyable.

Char, beets, beans, truffle-port foam

On the dessert menu there was an option of cheese paired with rooftop honey which happens to be a main attraction on the EPIC menus. However, as much as we love cheese and adored the idea of trying honey fresh from the hotel roof, there was no room for cheese after all we ate (especially with all that spread!) so we opted for the dessert platter. This is the perfect choice for the indecisive. It came with dainty portions of lemon financier, sticky toffee pudding, molten lava cake, apple tart, chocolate soufflé and, our favourite, chai brulée. The latter alone could be reason enough to return.

Feather-light chocolate souffle, sticky toffee pudding oozing in background

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