178 Peel Street
New Hamburg, Ontario N2A 1E3
Brittany Restaurant has been on our to-visit list for a while; however, it was so out of the way that there was never enough incentive for us to go. We eventually went after the restaurant’s name change; it is now called "Asie".
I have to admit that when we first read about their name change and the sample menu on their website, we were quite skeptical. So many chefs attempt to do fusion but few have done it right. You can't call your food fusion just because you dash some Chinese five-spice in your rub, or spread wasabi mayo on your salmon filet. The combination should be harmonious, the food should taste "as if" it should have been done this way. Regardless, I made reservation.
I don't know when the name change occurred but it is definitely still in the transitional stage. On their homepage, the restaurant is now referred as "Asie" but the domain name is still http://www.brittany.on.ca. The sign at their front and the wine list are still bearing the name "Brittany". The menu and business cards are switched to "Asie".
We were seated in the "red" room. Clearly the room has been updated but still retains its intricate detailing - foot-tall baseboard, elaborate crown-moldings and hardwood floor. Did I mention that the arch beside the bay window had lily-of-the-valley (something floral) patterns repeating thrughout the arch?
While I was determining which sake I should order, Kim (the chef/owner) came to greet us. After learning that I want to steer away from the "North American norms" (e.g. Gekkeikan from LCBO), I saw his eyes literally sparkling. He quickly took away the wine menu and said he would serve us his sake tasting menu - three different Junmai-Ginjo. I was slightly nervous (don't know how much we would be charged for having such premium grade of sake) but my desire for junmai-ginjo made me fearless. It turned out to be a correct decision. I will have a separate review on his sake selection. But in general we are very impressed by his appreciation of sake and happy to learn that we can actually get premium sake here.
We shared seafood spring rolls w/ miso horseradish (wasabi?) dressing to start. J had the chef's special Muscovy duck breast and I had panko herb crusted Ontario lamb rack w/ a herbed tomato demi-glaze. The filling in the seafood spring rolls reminds me of the Chinese fish balls. The horseradish dressing was mild but the punch was there. The panko crust is an interesting approach. Panko is Japanese breadcrumbs; it is fluffier than the normal breadcrumbs. The duck breast was marinated in some oriental spices. Some people say that the taste of duck is the hybrid of chicken and beef. Well, the duck we had that night definitely tasted more beefy than chicken-y. Normally duck served in the restaurants will be smothered in either fruity or maple/honey glaze, not in Asie. The first bite was almost too dry. The meat was just unbelievably meaty and heavy, I might mistake it as bison if not knowing we ordered duck. Kim was quite happy with how the dish turned out, so he probably had it done this way on purpose. As for desserts, J had the green apple gallette, I had mascarpone cheesecake. The desserts were nice but we were totally distracted by the last of the three sakes.
Overall, food here is something you would expect from a relatively high-end Asian fusion restaurant. The best part is that we got to chat with Kim and understand how he actualizes his ideas through his food. I feel that he is still in the exploring stage. Some approaches are relatively bold but there are also things which are too matchy-matchy, almost 2-dimensional. It will take some time to polish his style to a more sophisticated level. (Note: The food is good. Here I simply refer to his fusion approach.) There are some things he could have tried; not sure if he has thought about them but decided not to do so. For example, instead of having classic vanilla dressing, he could drizzle something like honey/red bean paste mix over the cheesecake for an Asian flare.
The new restaurant name is "Asie" ("Asia" in French?). This shows their ambition in promoting the restaurant as a global fusion trend-setter. I feel bad but have to say that the food is not quite there yet. However, if Kim continues to be so passionate about learning and appreciating Asian (mainly Japanese) culture, he is very likely to achieve his goal.
Saturday, February 11, 2006