Monday, 26 March 2012

近畿地方の復興 The Renaissance of Kinki

My ever stylish host nailed it on the head when she proclaimed "Sometimes you have to pull out the old jewellery and polish it up to appreciate what you really already have".  That is exactly the sentiment I have for the re-emergence of one of Ottawa's gastro-landmarks in the Byward Market.

(Grilled Calamari and Octopus with Sake Poached Pear, Tomato and Jalapeno in Parmesan Bowl)

Kinki, located at 41 York St. was an innovator over a decade ago when the trendy area consisted of mainly of retailer's, take out and Brit-pub's catering to the University crowd.  The name itself, Kinki must have been a shock to the ultra conservative public at the time (perhaps still) with the risque´ suggestion of sexual impropriety transgressing into Ottawa's ho-hum food culture.  They may in fact be the unknowing originators of the now popular term "food porn".

I was hooked from the time Kinki opened their door's but as a one time regular I became increasingly bored with traditional North American styled Maki's found just about everywhere in Ottawa with some restaurants degrading to the pedestrian "all you can eat sushi"?  Really, it's raw seafood?

Recently I was invited to taste the new, soon to be released menu at Kinki and I was elated after a long period of absence from a once favorite haunt.  If the restructured, youthful team could re-establish themselves as innovators in the stagnate Sushi genre then Kinki goes back to the top of the list of must eat market boutique restaurants for me.

If you have not been this place it is cool with  generous booths, romantic tables for two, sushi and cocktail bars, hip but tasteful art, attractive and very attentive staff.  The restaurant is situated in a heritage, exposed stone building that echos with perfectly chosen jazz and palatable beats spun by their in house DJ.  What is new and equally exciting is that in a short summer season with limited outdoor space Kinki are opening a 140 seat side patio this spring for public and private events.

 (Sake with Clamato and fresh oyster )

First up, cocktail's.  Clearly the staff had a lot of fun making these libatious elixirs, I can only imagine how those tasting seminar(s) went? The result of our first drink was this fantastic "eye" opener, who would have thought Sake, Clamato and oyster? It was a brilliant concoction in a time where the something or other "tini" has run it's course.

Youthful and talented Kitchen Chef, Jonathan Roy is a graduate of Algonquin College's Culinary programme and is supported by Sushi Chef Amin Takano, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu.  These two artist's created 3 appetizer's and 3 mains from their upcoming menu. 

First, the succulent grilled calamari and octopus (pictured above) as with all of the dishes expressed a deep respect for the freshness of the seafood with a clear understanding that it was the star of the dish.  Poaching sweet pears in sake added a textural and flavourful contradiction that pulled the whole plate together when paired with the salty parmesan bowl.

Three types of "Whalesbone's" seasonal oysters included Raspberry Point (P.E.I.), Gems (B.C.) and Caraquet (N.B), represented some of Canada's best and all played nicely with a house made chutney and an edamame, wasabi puree.  A bean salad was refreshing, light and crisp with edamame, walnuts, cilantro, Hallumi cheese, mescaline greens, topped with a chili modena and balsamic vinaigrette, a clear nod to the influences of sister restaurant Mambo.

(Hint of Hamachi, Ebi Chili and Ocean Delight with garlic, ginger, cilantro and chili oil chutney)

We have all coined the phrase, "it looks too pretty to eat" and that is precisely how I felt when this dish arrived.  It reminded me of an artist's pallet often more attractive than the canvas itself.  However, I was there to eat and was I ever happy I did.  The freshness was clear in each of the presentations, as was the obvious pride the staff had in preparing and presenting the trio of goodness.  Entrepreneurial pairings of Hamachi, asparagus, cucumbers and scallions, sriracha marinated Ebi (sweet shrimp), mango, perfect rice and fried won ton chips amalgamated to delectable flavour combinations and textures.

The dining experience was complete, fulfilling and an overall a breath of fresh air for this sushi lover.  I am told that there are a few crowd favorites that will remain on the menu, but essentially the entire menu has been rethought by this energetic, creative team.  

Kinki has successfully achieved a renaissance 近畿地方の復興 by reinventing how they manipulate for the better these often taken for granted seafood delights, as well as providing a rejuvenated, upbeat space for the treasure to be enjoyed in.

Monday, 12 March 2012

L'agile Lapin, I'd Order That at a Fancy French Bistro.

Is there ever a better time than now to enjoy the delicacy of fresh, lean rabbit, braised with a quality Chianti and seasonal asparagus?  I can only add that being in the company of great friends and family makes this simple dish all that much better and it really couldn't be easier to prepare.
Here is what you will need:
  • 1 fresh rabbit cut into 6 pieces;
  • 1 cup of each 1/4 inch diced carrot, celery, cremini mushroom and yellow onion;
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced;
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour;
  • 1  handful of fresh thyme and rosemary;
  • Olive oil;
  •  Salt and fresh ground pepper;
  •  1 bottle (750ml) good quality Chianti. 
Here's the Process:
  • Transfer the flour to a Ziplock bag, add about 3 tbsp's each of salt and pepper;
  • Coat the rabbit with the flour mixture;
  • In a large non-stick frying pan add olive oil and brown the rabbit 3 pieces at a time on all sides;
  • Transfer the pieces into a Dutch oven and cover with the vegetables, garlic, fresh herbs, a dash of salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper;
  • Pour the whole bottle of wine onto the rabbit and vegetables, if it does not cover completely just add a bit of water to cover;
  • On your stove top bring to a strong simmer;
  • Cover with tight fitting lid and place in a preheated oven at 350 f.
  • Cook for 60-90 minutes or until fork tender;
  • Remove rabbit when done transfer to serving platter and cover with aluminum foil and rest for 15-20 mins.
The Jus, or rabbit Chianti sauce:
  • Strain the jus from the Dutch oven, discard vegetables;
  • Place the residual stock into a saucepan;
  • Bring the liquid to a boil, taste for seasoning and adjust.  Add 1 fresh bay leaf;
  • Reduce to about 1/4 of volume;
  • Whisk in 4 tbsp's of unsalted butter;
  • Strain through fine strainer into serving vessel.
The Greens:
  • Fresh asparagus, cut off the tough bottoms and marinate in olive oil, dry oregano, salt and chili pepper;
  • Grill on BBQ until cooked to your liking;
  • Transfer to serving plate and add freshly grated Romano over top.
There you have it, a simple yet elegant meal that is inspired by spring and the joy that comes with making, eating and sharing great simple meals.  Oh, and don't forget at least one extra bottle of that Chianti to join you as you indulge in this great dish.

Let me know what you think? Enjoy.