The Passion of Ricarda's of Oakville
There's a lot that's exciting about a checking out a new restaurant in unfamiliar locales - even if that locale is just 30 minutes away. However, hearing from the head chef that they receive and use all their produce daily to ensure that all their dishes are as fresh and the operations are as sustainable as possible, is one of the most exciting.
Ricarda's flagship location in Toronto opened in July 2016, a combination bakery/restaurant/cafe with event and catering capabilities, it prides itself on it's vibrant spaces, personalized service, and of course, good food. The Oakville location, now only roughly eight months old, is no different.
Admittedly, I could be more familiar with Oakville's dining scene, and though there certainly are a number of spots representing high standards of quality, few are necessarily cutting edge. Ricarda's, on the other hand, takes Mediterranean cuisine, with a specifically French and Italian influence, and prepares and presents it like an inspired breath of fresh air.
Few dining moments are more thrilling than when the Chef gets to show off. So when we asked Mitch to prepare what he wanted us to experience from the menu, and he replied with an emphatic "awesome," we knew this would be a great meal.
It was at this point that Mitch, the beyond affable Chef hailing from Hamilton, with an intense sense for high quality and good taste, went back into the kitchen.
And the courses came out as follows...
Sumac Salmon Tartare with Cucumber Mousse and Squid Ink Crackers
Great, refreshing starter. The salmon tartare comes across almost ceviche-like, owing much to the citrusy, passion-fruit vinaigrette. The cucumber mousse has the effect of chilling out the acid in the vinaigrette. First encounter with squid ink for the evening/ever, very faint brine like flavour, and depth of colour is awesome.
This one made us feel guilty, yes, but look at it this way, people wouldn't keep doing it if it wasn't delicious, which it was. That may be a terrible "sorry, not sorry," but the silky texture with the savoury taste balanced perfectly with the crisp bartlett pears. The caradamom jus was deadly.
Pan Seared Salmon & Calamaretti Risotto
One of Mitch's personal faves, he may have been quoted as saying he could eat it every day. Equal parts savoury and citrusy owing to the combo of smoked tomato broth and lemon.
Squid Ink Mafalde
The second encounter with squid ink, this dish blew us away. The thick, al dente ribbons of mafalde pasta, with the faint saltiness of ink, combined with the prosciutto, nduja, and smoked paprika octopus all referencing an almost chorizo type flavour? Dead.
Pan Seared Seabream Filet
A thick filet, nicely seared, what you'd hope for if you were craving a fried white fish. Of particular interest with this dish was the grilled eggplant tahini puree, which if you're not expecting it can come across ash-like, but both grows on you and gives heft to the delicateness of the filet.
A big wow, also, basically a big tentacle. Meaty at its base, crispy at its ends, we were amazed both by the flavours and the fleshy, rather than squeaky, texture. The trick, according to Mitch? It's cooked sous vide for three hours, infusing awesome flavours before being grilled to perfection.
Dessert: Amaretti Crème Brûlée and Chocolate Pot de Crème
By dessert I could barely remember name, food had found space in my brain. However, I can't forget these two insanely delectable finishers, the Crème Brûlée like a bowl of condensed milk and the Pot so rich that it likely owns a house nearby on Lakeshore.
And one more time for the Mafalde...