Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Verses Restaurant

182 Victoria St. North
Kitchener, Ontario

This was originally posted to kw.eats in December 2003.
If my memory serves me correctly, the Verses owners Debbie and Brett
previously ran Select Service Catering. They also had a previous stint at
Langdon Hall, so not a bad pedigree. I hear Langdon Hall has changed
their menu now, which corrobrates that story. Many of their staff
apparently also followed them from Langdon Hall.

The parking lot set the scene well, full of Mercedes, BMWs, Audis, and a
lonely SVT Mustang. A nice, welcoming entrance with discreet Verses
signage forshadowed the meal awaiting inside. Upon entering, we were
quickly met by the maitre d' who promptly took our jackets, and ushered us
to our table.

Now, the building itself deserves a mention. Obviously inspired by The
Church in Stratford, the dining room is the main floor of what used to be
a church, with tables located throughout the floor, pulpit area and even
in the balcony area above the entrance foyer. The decor has largely been
kept unchanged, with stained glass portaits of Jesus, Mary and crew
overlooking you as you dine. While there are no walls or dividers inside,
which creates a wonderful feeling of openness, the tables are arranged
artfully enough so that we never felt as if we were staring at another
group or participating in their conversation. Open concept privacy, if
you will.

Before I digress too widely, I don't think any restaurant review would be
quite completely without mentioning the food. I found the menu itself
adequate, but not very creative. Appetizers (~ $8-$18 - all prices from
memory so may not be accurate) included staples like fois gras, scallops,
and a few other items. They had perhaps 7-8 mains (~ $20-$36), including
a couple of fish items, rabbit confit, pork chops, lamb, a striploin. I
started with the vegetable napoleon ($10), which was a few layers of
perfectly grilled peppers, zucchini, and overly sauteed onions, surrounded
by a trio of seasoned cheese wedges. My partner had the "fois gros verses
fois gras" ($18), consisting of a delicious slab of seared fois gras (is
it ever not delicious?) and a mediocre slice of fois gras spread with some
brandy (?) jelly, a couple small slices of toast, and a dish of mango
slices. For my entree, I had the Georgian Bay Splake ($24). A
wonderfully grilled piece of fish, crisp outside and tender inside, set a
top a mound of wild rice drowned in butter and some non-descript veggies.
Recommended. My partner had the "Surf and Turf" - a few slices of nicely
cooked steak for the turf, and a bland hunk of overcooked tuna for the
surf. These were served over a warm miso flavoured vermacelli stir fry.
A failed attempt at trendy asian fusion. Definitely not worth the $36.
We finished the meal with chocolate attitude ($12) - 4 interpretations of
chocolate haphazardly thrown onto a place - a chocolate sorbet dusted with
goil foil, a chocolate brownie, chocolate pate, and chocolate mousse.
Excessively rich and overpoweringly chocolatey, but we scraped the plate
clean. This is not a dessert you want to fly solo on though. Other
desserts were $8ish, and were vaguely interesting, but not enough so that
I actually remembered what they were. Kudos for being made in house
though I'm not a wine guy, so I'll leave that to others.. bottles were
$25-$50+, or $8 by the glass. However, the waiter waved us off of the
house "Verses" label for what it's worth.

People go to restaurants for good food, but they stay away because of bad
service. Verses has nothing to fear in this department. Our assistant
server was inexperienced but made up for it in eagerness and an A+ attempt
at first class service. My water glass was refilled almost literally
after every sip - the water level kept rising, and he'd be there before
the glass hit the table. He almost looked disappointed when he noticed my
glass was full enough not to require a refill Nice touches with replacing
napkins and brushing and clearing the table promptly. Our head waiter was
on the slow side, but I wasn't sure if it was his fault or the kitchen's.
We had to wait a little longer than usual between courses, but it wasn't
excessive. It was a full house afterall.

We chatted briefly with another server and Debbie, who explained their
history and told us about their tasting menu, which they offered at the
chef's table downstairs next to the renovated kitchen. 8-10 people, $120
for 6 courses or $180 for 8, all at the chef's discretion. I'm sure it
would be a tasty adventure for the expense account.

While the food is far from perfect, and the prices higher than most
places in town, I'm sure this place will do well, as there is much room
for fine dining to be expanded in KW. Total with tax and tip was $160
for 3 courses and 2 glasses of wine. But one doesn't go to these types of
places for value do they.

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