I am not a picky eater but time has allowed me some prudence as a patron. A city girl at heart, the abundant riches of culture in Toronto have pressured my pocketbook enough that a night out with my favourite date comes with careful selection.
Imagine then my glad heart receiving some of the most unpretentious service in the city at Acadia restaurant last Saturday night. First, the movies. We caught Lincoln 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 so 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 … assurances of great food from the first chef and its second. 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, call me hardly bothered. The place is indeed sparse; the noise abundant. We had to raise our voices a few more times than my dining partner liked but when we arrived, my coat was immediately taken,and I was called by name. I was shown to my table right away, offered a menu, water and a welcoming smile. A few moments later, our waiter arrived to outline the tasting menu; his pride and enthusiasm immediately contagious. Our food and drink came each with straight up descriptions…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: arrogance. Not a hint. I now expect attitude with the fine fare on Toronto’s plates. Here, in this gem, only 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.
Acadia is closed on Tuesdays but check it out any other night.