Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Urban Eats @ Sazerac Gastro Lounge - Toronto

Named after a New Orleans cocktail from the 1850’s, Sazerac Gastro Lounge is the new kid on King Street West’s trendy block. Open for only three months, this young establishment is anything but adolescent. It boasts a mature and sophisticated gastro and cocktail menu (which packs a punch!). 

Serving Creole, French and Caribbean-inspired foods, Sazerac incorporates molecular gastronomy in all of its dishes, experimenting with combinations of flavours and textures, all while using ingredients from local farms within a 100km radius.  

I have to say that I was impressed by the food creations, all made from scratch (even the ice cream), by Chef Jesse Chingcuangco formerly of le Petit Castor and Scarpetta. His dishes show an attention to detail. Each artistically plated dish was an interesting blend of delicate and well-paired flavours complementing and balancing one another. Each bite takes your palate on a journey, moving from one flavour to another. You can literally taste every ingredient. The most memorable part of dinner was the variety of distinctive and delightful pureed sauces which created interest and balanced the taste of each dish.  

Here is a sampling of what I tasted:


The gastro journey began with the best corn bread (above) I have ever tasted! Made of peaches and cream corn, jalapeno, aged cheddar and served with a delicious helping of soft and savoury yam butter. From the first mouthful, I immediately experienced the sweetness of the corn, followed by a nice and very subtle kick of jalapeno. The yam butter is a must with this dish! And did I mention the corn bread is complementary before each dish? Oh yeah!

Next up was a light Summer Salad ($9) with mixed greens, shaved vegetables, beets with a puree and peach chardonnay vinaigrette. The dressing was creamy and delicious, a very refreshing change from standard vinaigrettes.

The Mains:  

The Kolapore Springs Trout ($19) was a hit! The trout is farmed near Collingwood in Kolapore Springs staying true to the concept of using ingredients sourced within a 100km radius. It was prepared just right. The fish came with Cookstown baby fennel, purple carrots, sorrel, a buttermilk dill and sorrel puree. The velvety smooth purees were a delectable pairing with the seafood, downplaying the “fishiness” of the trout.  

This was followed by the Chantecler Rouge Chicken ($22) with purple basil, radish pods, artichokes, Jerusalem artichokes, almond espelette, corn and brussel sprout puree and compressed Matsu apples. Once again, I have to say, the inclusion of the purees add a whole new exciting dimension of taste to the meal.  The chicken was nice and tender (albeit a little fatty) and the veggies that accompanied the dish were cooked nicely and rich in flavour.   


To finish off the evening we had a Rhubarb and Walnut Tartin ($8) which consisted of a crispy toasted walnut crumble, raspberries, rhubarb gel and compote, strawberry wafers and banana ice cream. Along with all the dishes created at Sazerac, the Banana Ice Cream is made from scratch. This definitely comes through.  It tasted like a real banana, none of that artificial stuff!  I also enjoyed crunchy walnut crumble and the sweet and tart rhubarb compote.  

Drinks ($10-26):

We sampled a few different hand-crafted cocktails over the course of the evening...and man, some of them were strong. We tried the tart yet slightly sweet French 75 (brut, gin, lemon and sugar) which went down very well and quite quickly.  

We also tried their namesake drink, the Sazerac (bourbon, gomme syrup, absinthe, Peychaud’s) which was VERY strong!  This is definitely a sipping drink, I barely made a dent in mine.  Lastly, with dessert, we sipped a really nice smooth and sweet glass of Antica Formula Sweet Vermouth on the rocks.  

Sazerac Gastro Lounge is a casual loft space which features live music and local artwork that is rotated every two months. Décor, physical layout and colour schemes are a subjective matter and even though their choices were not my cup of tea; it is worth the trip to sample Chef Jesse Chingcuangco’s creations. This was perhaps one of the most unique food experiences I have had in awhile. 

Natalia Dziubaniwsky is a lover of life, avid traveller, animal lover, movie buff, volunteer, budding writer and is always seeking a new adventure. Interact with her on Twitter @taliasfootsteps or simply follow her footsteps through her blog.

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