Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Fun Pork Rinds at The Oakwood Canadian Bistro

The Oakwood Canadian Bistro on UrbanspoonThis was my friend's pick for the Easter weekend, and boy was the place packed! I guess we'd gotten in right at dinner time because around 6:15pm it looked sort-of deserted. Closer to 7pm it was full.

From the get-go, we were told that it would be share plates (the waitress gives everyone the pep talk) and that not everyone would come out of the kitchen in the order that they were ordered. Presumably this meant the kitchen was collecting orders of various items and mass-producing them for efficiency.

Four of us teamed up to share plates, and it was basically one dish shared by four persons. Not a good ratio. We wanted to try many things and let everyone have a go at ordering what they wanted, so we accepted the portions that we ended up with. But mostly one plate per two or possibly three persons is probably closer to getting a really good taste.
Especially if you order anything that is a salad or that requires scooping, immediately ask for extra serving spoons.

$5 salt and pepper pork rinds, spiced tomato puree (picture)
  • I think I was the only one who found these fun. They aren't especially tasty, but interesting to look at and fun to fool around with. If you've got kids, let 'em have it.
  • Whatever they did to these pork rinds, they puffed up into huge proportions. But were really, really, crunchy-hard. Hard enough to be difficult to just crack apart for sharing. The square dish in which the (cold) tomato puree was served didn't help things either as it was hard to jam a piece of pork rind into it.
  • If you smother the pork rind in the puree -- I mean, really let it swim in there -- you can hear it crackling and it softens up nicely.
$6 maple glazed pepper brioche, brown butter emulsion (picture)
  • The bread was bread. Maple glazing and peppering didn't really do anything to make it stand out, and in any case even a bit of the flavourful butter covered any other flavour.
  • The butter was very soft and smooth, and tasted like bacon. Yup, bacon. There's a generous amount of butter, too.
  • I guess in lieu of starting you off with complimentary bread (a tradition you'll be lucky to find nowadays at old school restaurants), you can now pay $6 for it. Comes with tasty butter, though. Hmm...
$10 fried octopus, bacon aioli, pickled shallots, komatsuna (picture)
  • This came in a narrow "pipe" like dish. If there were just a small quantity, I think the plating really emphasized that fact, unfortunately.
  • Predominantly sweet flavour, probably from the sauce. You could have eaten it without realizing there's octopus in there.
$10 all canadian poutine, brisket, fries, curds, gravy
  • Came in a small cast iron frying pan.
  • It's just poutine. A few slices of beef brisket on top.
  • Basic and delicious (and salty!). Hard to go wrong with this comfort food.
$12 warm kale salad, cauliflower, sprouts, lemon parmesan dressing, buttermilk onions
  • For some reason, the predominant flavour for me here was fried onion and that covered everything else. If you order it, try tossing it thoroughly and being careful to not get too much onion in each spoonful.
  • Definitely have at least two spoons to help yourself serve this when sharing.
  • The cauliflower at the bottom looks seared/burnt, in the Nuba Najib's Special style.
$15 burger, smoked cheddar, relish, buttermilk onions, alfalfa sprouts (picture)
  • Nice big burger. No sides. So for $15, I'm expecting a super-tasty burger. I think this falls short of the $15, but that is not to say it's a mediocre burger. As burgers go, it's pretty moist and tasty..
  • Although the patty is ground-up meat, you will be asked how you want it, as if it were a steak. We went with medium-rare and overall the burger came out pretty juicy.
  • We did manage to cut it into quarters (the kitchen won't do any cutting for you, despite the menu being sharing plates -- huh?), but it's a fall-apart mess. Go with half if you're sharing.
$19 flat iron steak, sunchoke chips, chimmichurri, roast bone marrow (picture, medium-rare)
  • $19 for six (6) slices of meat. (Really? Yup.) To be fair, three stumps of bone marrow might cost you about $15 (at The Greedy Pig or Pourhouse, for example), so it's really closer to $14 for meat, but still over $2 per slice. Nicely done steak, but still...
  • The sunchoke chips plus bone marrow makes an interesting side. Bone marrow is basically fatty-tasting, though, so that might turn you off. Just don't eat it and nibble on the chips.
$15 trio of masons:
  • In half-height / short mason jar style jars. Works out to a rather smallish amount of dessert. The trio order is therefore a pretty good deal and a good amount.
  • There are three types of desserts:
    • (normally $6) apple crumble, roasted apples, oat crumble, vanilla bavarian
    • (normally $6) nanaimo bar custard, coconut pecan ganache, vanilla custard
    • (normally $6) maple lemon meringue Pie, meringue, maple lemon curd, madeleine pastry
  • Of the three, I thought the tastiest one was the warm apple crumble. Mix of strong fruity flavour and crunchy texture. The other two were sort of meh -- even the nanaimo bar custard one, which sounded really intriguing.
$4 for one can of Cocos Pure 100% Coconut Water
  • This was my drink order. Came in the original can, plus one straw. According to the can, it is coconut water and nothing added.
  • Strangely, even the official website sells it through Amazon.
I think what felt disappointing about the Oakwood was that for the price you pay, what comes to your table looks awfully skimpy. Fortunately, everything is pretty tasty. Not superbly tasty, but tasty enough to probably justify the cost. I guess this is what you could call something priced just right. You're not walking out of there feeling ripped off, but neither are you calling up all your friends telling them how cheap it was, either.

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