Thursday, July 08, 2010

Uptown 21 -Tapas Nights

In honor of Uptown 21's prestigious inclusion in the 2010 edition of Where to Eat in Canada, we decided to pay them a visit on their Tuesday Tapas night. This regularly weekly night features an all-you-can-eat option of tapas dishes (small, appetizer like plates) that the kitchen keeps sending at you until you beg for no more. And then desserts come. There is a $25 (vegetarian) option and a $35 (carnivore) option which includes meats and seafood. While not all dishes are home runs, the overall quality is very high and for the price it's a great value. Uptown 21 is rapidly becoming one of our favourite restaurants in the Waterloo region. Without further ado, here are some pics and short comments from our last two visits.

Seems like this is the standard appetizer as we received it on both our visits. Toasted bread with goat cheese and tomatoes. Very nice.

Double smoked pork hock infused whiskey with orange juice. The initial taste was orange juice, but the nice smokey pork flavour lingered on the palate. The OJ was an interesting choice, but added too much freshness to something that's probably better as a darker, savoury drink. Perhaps with tonic water and a pickled onion instead.

Roasted vegetables with shaved Parmesan

Warm olives in bacon fat. There's probably a more technical name for it, but it's salty, greasy, and delicious.

Chilled vegetable gazpacho

Fish and creamed spinach with balsamic reduction

Duck, mushrooms and truffle oil on toasted walnut bread with shaved Parmesan. My favourite dish of the night, very rich, intense flavours. We jumped on the opportunity to get a second helping of this one.

Mushroom stew with frisée

Cucumber and strawberry salad with balsamic dressing. Not a great combination of flavours in my opinion, and a little heavy on dressing.

Poutine with truffle oil. By this time we were pretty stuffed and a heavy dish like this didn't go down too well. Would have been good earlier in the night I think. Or if we didn't have that second helping of the duck dish.

Cauliflower and potato fritters with cucumber purée and chili oil. Anything deep fried is tasty, but smaller fritters probably would have prevented the cauliflower from getting too mushy inside.

Grilled shiitake mushroom cap

Tuna croquette. A little dry.

Pork sausage with sauerkraut. Lean and meaty with a rustic texture that's miles beyond anything you'd find in a grocery store.

Summer salad - tomatoes, cucumber and basil

Garlic scapes and asparagus. Very flavourful.

Battered fish with corn relish

Fries are addictive in general, but watch out for these ones. There was just something about the seasoning that made them vanish quickly. Bacon fat?

I guess when you put out a lot of dishes you can't make a separate sauce for everything. The corn relish was repeated here, similar to balsamic reductions on other nights.

Clams in a roasted red pepper soup with lots of bacon bits. The smokiness from the red peppers and bacon really went well together and made for a very complex flavour.

Doughnuts with rhubarb jam and crème fraîche. Desserts are also unlimited and keep on coming, but after our visits, we concluded that they are not his strong points. Most were very simple and felt very one dimensional compared to the savoury dishes. That said, the doughnuts were probably the best dessert.

Chocolate cake with whipped cream and apples

Chocolate mousse

Cookies. What is that in the middle of that cookie? Yes, bacon. I love my bacon as much as the next man (and clearly so does the chef), but just say no if it comes in a cookie.

Strawberry and rhubarb pastry

Overall, it's a tremendous value and opportunity to sample a wide variety of dishes, not to mention a great way to get people in on a traditionally slow night. I'd recommend trying as many savoury dishes as you like, and not worry too much about saving room for a lot of dessert.

Sapphire also has some comments about their cocktails:

After the mediocre cocktail I had during our first visit, we just stuck with ordering food only. Recently I felt they should be given a chance to redeem themselves, and they did! Nick and Nat's culinary creativity extends to their cocktail menu as well. Fresh ingredients translate into vibrant drinks. My favorite is the Caipirinha (although there's no way I could tell if I got cachaça or rum with it); I can sip on it (ahem, "them" if counted by glass) the whole night. When you order drinks, do ask for the day's specials. The most interesting items are normally not from the menu.