Saturday, November 10, 2012

La Quercia- Amazing, Unforgettable Italian Dining

After my recent trip to Montreal, everyone asked how the trip was. 9 times out of 10, I started by telling them about our epidc Pied de Cochon Sugar Shack Dinner. The Leggy Redhead and I were telling Asian Super Director and The Italian Stallion all about it over pizza, and ASD mentioned a recent amazing meal at La Quercia. I've heard that their tasting menus are pretty epic and I've been wanting to go there for a while now. We started planning and scheduling a time when we would all be available and ASD booked a reservation a month in advance for an 8pm seating for the 7 course menu. Joining us were TLR lovely sister, Saucy Chef and TIS's bestie who was visiting from the Maritimes, The Kalamata Crustacean.

La Quercia is tucked away on the corner of Alma and West 4th and looks pretty unassuming from the inside. In fact, you need to look pretty carefully to see any kind of signage since it's delicately etched on their window. Inside, it's a small room with around 12 tables with crisp white linens and smartly dressed servers. I would consider this un-pretentious fine dining, the atmosphere is relaxed but classy. The service was impeccable! We were served dished from a few different servers throughout the meal. All were extremely charming, knowledgable, classy, but they all had a great sense of humour. I think some of them got a kick of how enthused I was when every dish arrived at our table. The 7 course menu items are the chef's choice and come from the Fresh sheet (although if you let them know preferences and allergies, they will apparently work with your tastes). We were there for over 2 hours.

First up was Burrata with braised leeks, artichokes and Hazelnuts on crostini, served with a board of thinly sliced Italian Charcuterie and pickled vegetables with complimentary bread.
I've never had Burrata before and I loved it. People, this is no ordinary cheesy. It is beautiful, light, smooth, with a pillowy, fluffy texture. It was mild and dainty in flavour and ooey, gooey, great.

Next we were presented with Vitello Tonnato- veal cheek and tongue on roasted red pepper sauce.This were little veal cakes (they looked like crab cakes) and they were delicious. They had a very subtle richness and a brighter, more delicate flavour than I expected. The Saucy Chef explained that in many multi course dinners like this, the chef will start the meal's flavours as very mild and subtle, and then make the flavours bigger and bolder as the courses progress.

The next dish was Cauliflower Endive Bagna Cauda. Apparantly the meaning of Bagna Cauda is "warm bath" and it's base is garlic, anchovies, and olive oil. I definitely started to notice a flavour progression here. This was fresh, saltier, with some salty umami flavours. This tasted like a delicious, lighter twist on a Caesar salad.

Next up was our first pasta course, Agnolotti di guido- stuffed pasta with roasted beet tops, parmesan, ricotta, tossed in buffalo butter.
This was my surprise favourite dish of the night. These little delicately wrapped bundles of fresh pasta were awesome. This dish was so simple, so delicate, with enough of a rustic earthi-ness that it didn't feel too precious. Normally, I'm a sauce fiend, but the fresh flavours bursting inside this pasta required no sauce.

Around this time in the service, we weren't sure where we were in the course progression and what was left so The Leggy Redhead decided the table should order some seafood to add to our tasting menu and got the group consensus to order Roast Squid stuffed with Heirloom tomato. I love squid and this was no exception. It was perfectly cooked, not too chewy, with the light squid flavours being given more depth with a robust flavours from the ground heirloom tomato and herbs. We were all starting to get pretty full at this point....

The next pasta course was the favourite of the rest of the crowd,  Maltaliati alla Amatriciana- a linguini like pasta with a pork cheek tomato sauce. This dish was super flavourful and very bold. The pork cheek wasn't visible like in a typical ragu, instead it was very small chunks, implying that the sauce was slow cooked so that the pork cheek was infused into the sauce. Really yummy.

The final entree course was Hanger steak with pinenuts and arugula. We were all full at this point so we weren't able to attack this with the enthusiasm that we should have. It was another delicious dish. The meat was tender and pink, supple and delicious- nicely balanced with the fresh, peppery, crisp arugula and pinenuts. A few at our table found the meat a bit too game-y but still quite nice.

Dessert was a plated trio- Flourless chocolate cake with cherries, lemon creme with blueberry, and tiramisu. The chocolate cake and the lemon creme were my favourites. The cake was so simple and I loved the dense, almost brownie-like texture. The lemon creme with blueberries was light, bright, simple and a refreshing way to end the meal. They also give you a delightful meringue cookie each with the bill.

This was a special meal experience and I highly recommend booking a multi-course chef selected meal here. The amount of food was great (we were over-stuffed at the end but we ordered the extra squid dish and could have taken some leftovers home.) For the quality of the food, wonderful atmosphere and service, $45 for 7 courses is a very fair price. This was beautiful, non-pretentious food, cooked with love and I thought every dish was fantastic.
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