To start off the meal, the bartenders made us a drink with Sirup de Picon, a rather hard-to-get aperatif here in Canada. It's base is fresh oranges, so it is a little reminiscent of Grand Marnier, but much richer and you can taste the alcohol even more, probably because of the cocktail we were made. The first dish we tried was the Chawanmushi, with Dungeness Crab, crispy seaweed, salmon caviar and croutons. I've had chawanmushi many times, and the best was probably at Kimura. The traditional way it's served is in a teacup, because it was steamed in said teacup. To my surprise, this version is cold, not room temperature, but actually cold. That really threw me off and I failed to enjoy the smoothness of the custard until halfway in. The crab chunks were aplenty, so no complaints there. A few more sprinkles of ikura would have been appreciated so as to add some much needed saltiness to the dish. I'm not sure if the dish was worth $14, but there was quite a few crab chunks in there. Next up, the Poached Farm Egg. This seems a little pricey at $9, but was served with young heirloom onions, elderflower, farmhouse country morning cheese and a few slices of mushroom. The egg was perfectly poached, and the crispy onions were a great flavour contrast. And with the elderflower, you either love it or you hate it. Fortunately, I liked it and found it very similar to toasted quinoa. Not a bad plate, but I'd have liked some bread to soak up the eggy goodness. For our next dish, we did get bread. This is the Roasted Bone Marrow, with some potato shoe strings and a pickled parsley salad. The bread was a great vessel to spoon the fatty marrow onto, and once you add the sides, you've got yourself a nice, crunchy and creamy crostini. I did find the marrow a bit fatty for my liking, but that's the chance you take when getting marrow. My other favourite versions of this dish were at Black Hoof in Toronto and at Italian Kitchen in Vancouver, where they both serve it with a side of Beef Tartare. Our next dish was the Roasted Sweetbreads, with some onions, and a verjus gastrique. What is a verjus? It's the juices from grapes (not wine) pressed. The sweetbreads were quite unctuous, with a nice texture that brings to mind liver. It's a delicate item, but stands up well to searing. It was creamy and crispy, a good rendition of the ingredient. This was the last and I must say, the best dish of the night. It was their 48-hour Short Rib. After cooking it for that long, this short rib was infused with some smoked salt, and that is all it needed. I loved how they served this "on the bone", highlighting the tenderness of the meat against the hardiness of the bone. For three people to share this dish, we just pretty much tore the meat away from the bone (very easily) and shared the goodness of our fortune together.
There is still room for improvement for Wildebeest, but they are off to an excellent start. Though we didn't need a knife for our dishes, we noticed at the end of the meal that the knife we had with us was quite exquisite. The serrated edges are sharp, and it makes me want to slice a strip loin with said knife. If you do go, order something "knife-worthy".
- Prices can be high - eg. the $9 egg
- Portions can be small
- Trust the knowledgeable servers
- Mostly long family style tables