I am not a picky eater but time has allowed me some prudence as a patron. I am a city girl at heart and the abundant riches of culture in Toronto have pressured my pocketbook enough that a night out with my favourite date comes with careful selection.
You can then imagine my glad heart at receiving some of the most attentive, unpretentious service in the city at Acadia restaurant last Saturday night. We caught the film, Lincoln, first to pay continued homage to the brilliant Daniel Day Lewis (who knows something about being selective: he takes years between films, forcing patience from diehards like me.)
The film was long and we arrived late for our reservation. But a phone call en route assured us that our table had not been given away. This was not a given. After all, Acadia has been awash with accolades since it opened last year.
When acclaimed chef Matt Blondin was scooped, many wondered if his replacement would tarnish the shine. Not in the least, said Joanne Kates in Postcity magazine, who called Patrick Kriss a” chef with the Midas touch.”
“Any regrets Acadia’s owners have at the loss of chef Blondin should be drowned in milk sorbet … or frozen smoked cream … or dried andouille sausage.
That chef Kriss worked his way up to sous-chef at Daniel in New York is evident in every bite at Acadia: the cooking is more delicate and refined than before; indeed, a splendour of French technique applied to low country ingredients.”
So we have assurances of great food from its first chef and its second but forgive me if I am not yet swayed. Dining out, is never just about what’s on the plate: great food is often diminished by surroundings. Acadia, on Clinton Street in Toronto’s Little Italy, is too tiny, says Globe and Mail food critic Chris Nuttal-Smith.
“Acadia’s physical space is a tragedy. The room is loud enough to kill conversations, but without the energy that can make loud restaurants fun; it’s clangy, boomy many nights, with cafeteria tile floors, a low ceiling, largely barren walls. The Shaft-era soul-jazz playlist can get grating. It’s hard to imagine lingering. Do get on with it, Mr. Selland, please.”
Again, I am not bothered. The place is sparse and the noise was abundant. We had to raise our voices a few more times than my dining partner liked. But when we arrived, my coat was taken and I was called by name. ( Thanks to the phone reservation). I was shown to my table and offered a menu, some water and a welcoming smile. A few moments later, our waiter arrived to outline the tasting menu and his pride and enthusiasm for what was ahead was immediately contagious. Our food and drink came each with straight up descriptions which are necessary in this place of delicious alchemy. Throughout the evening I noted waiters quietly buzzing about the noisy patrons, not one of whom looked pained, impatient or disgruntled: no easy feat, this circus act on a Saturday night in one of the city’s best. I wondered what was missing in all of this and realised, with a start, that it was arrogance. There simply was no hint of it. Funny how I have come to expect some attitude with the fine fare on Toronto’s plates. But here, in this spot, there was nothing but courtesy and excellence.
The food at Acadia is divine, its menu fresh and innovative. Whether the owners will move to grander space or not will not affect my return visit. Many new eateries opening in this economic climate are showing off their food without plush backdrops. Absence of capital will do that. Absence of proper service will turn my hungry heart cold.
I look forward to another visit.