The Bauer Kitchen
187 King St. South
I really wanted to like this restaurant. It has a long and successful pedigree (Charcoal Group - owner of Charcoal and Wildcraft, amongst other local places), it's participating in the urbanization of Uptown Waterloo which I heartily support, and it has a great industrial chic vibe to it inside. The decor is interesting and it seems to have less of a focus on the bar compared to Wildcraft; however, after a couple of visits I was ultimately disappointed with the single most important aspect of a restaurant - the food.
My first visit (sorry, no pictures from this one) was quite acceptable - duck confit spring rolls with a spicy orange sauce were fried crispy and had a generous filling of shredded duck, and the braised short rib gnocchi was also a generous and flavourful meaty offering. It was the aftermath that wasn't so nice - a severe case of food poisoning that had me up all night. Now, one can never be 100% certain of the cause but I had nothing else strange that day so it seems that it was the likely culprit.
The second visit was a lot better from my stomach's perspective, but not for my tastebuds. (Apologies for the dark pictures - it is difficult to take good pictures by candlelight with a point and shoot - but in this case it's somewhat appropriate as the flavours match the lighting).
To start off, we were offered the usual bread. It was purported to be freshly baked that day, but judging from the texture, it seemed at least a day old. It set the tone for the evening though, as what followed was almost a complete disaster.
First appetizer: Hand made beef short rib ravioli, truffled leek cream, red wine jus and fried shallots. ($11.95)
Second appetizer: Steak tartare with quail egg, shallots, lemon zest, capers, garlic and crostini. ($9.95)
First main: Duck confit pizza with honey roasted pears, thyme, caramelized onions, stilton cheese and roasted garlic ($14.95)
Service was up to the standards we expected from a place like this. The front desk was overstaffed (a good thing) and we didn't have to wait for our jackets to be taken or our table. The kitchen was a little on the slow side (might explain things drying out?) but nothing outrageous.
Overall, I have very mixed feelings about the dinner we had and this review. I'd really like to chalk it up to a bad day (by either the kitchen or our tastebuds) but there were so many things wrong with both visits that we'll have a hard time going back to give them a third chance. I'm sure many customers and readers will disagree, judging by the buzz and the crowds they are still attracting, but with all the options available in Waterloo now I have a hard time wanting to return.