The Oakwood Canadian Bistro-
I only know of the existence of The Oakwood Canadian Bistro because I happened upon its review while going through the food section of The Globe and Mail’s website. The review made the restaurant’s version of poutine sound delicious enough that I made a mental note to try the restaurant as soon as I got a chance to. Of course, ‘as soon as I got a chance to’ became ‘as soon as I remembered that the restaurant even existed’ after reading countless other restaurant reviews describing dishes that seemed to be equally as delicious as the poutine from The Oakwood.
I was finally reminded of the restaurant’s existence when I tried to make a reservation for a different restaurant (which I can’t seem to recall) on the opentable mobile app. The restaurant that I wanted to make a reservation at did not have a table for four available on the Saturday evening that I wished to visit, but there was a table available at The Oakwood. Naturally, after being reminded of the existence of a restaurant that I wanted to visit, I immediately reserved my family a table there.
True to its name, The Oakwood’s interior had an Oak/wood motif.
They also had a fireplace, which was a comforting match with the oak theme.
The food they served was also of the comforting variety. I think that almost everyone would agree that first and foremost on the list of Canadian comfort foods would be the poutine. It was also the dish that brought me to the restaurant. Along with the usual fries, cheese curds, and gravy, the poutine at The Oakwood was topped off with a stack of smoked beef brisket.
The dish (food in a cast iron pan on a plate) looked really appetizing when it arrived at our table, but it did not taste as good as it looked. The slices of brisket were stiff and dry, and they totally detracted from the overall flavours of the poutine. The poutine also could’ve done with a bit more gravy included. The fries were not moist enough and their resulting dryness only accentuated the unpleasant textures of the dry brisket. I remembered the cheese curds to be adequate but not exceptional. They were certainly not exceptional enough to salvage the dish from its unpleasant dryness. If I were to give the dish a grade, I would give it 60 out of a possible 100 total points.
The confit pork belly that we also ordered was better tasting than the poutine.
I thought that the dish was good, but not great. The pork belly tasted like a more refined version of Chinese roast pork. The skin was crispy and the meat was very tender. The fat content was low, and that was entirely acceptable because of the tender meat. The apple slaw provided a refreshing textural contrast as well as a sweet flavour contrast with the pork belly. I didn’t think that the two dollops of maple mustard meringue helped the dish in any way. They were superfluous and unnecessary. The same could be said for the crackling, which looked and tasted like pre-packaged and over-processed pork rinds found near the checkout counter of select urban neighborhood supermarkets.
We also ordered the albacore tuna dish, which we thought was the most enjoyable dish of the meal.
The lightly seared tuna tasted as fresh as any piece of raw albacore that I’ve ever had. The included fennel salad strayed away from the usual accompaniments of rare albacore, and their flavours and textures matched unexpectedly well with the raw albacore. The chili lime vinaigrette also went well with both the fennel salad and the tuna, giving the entire combination a hint of the flavours of ceviche. The rice crostini was another pleasant surprise. It looked like a fish stick but tasted like deep fried sushi rice. Eating it with the albacore made me feel like I was eating sushi 2.0. I thought that this dish was a case where the fusion and evolution of ingredients worked, which I think is pretty rare for so-called fusion dishes.
The confit garlic and braised leek bread was ordered for my wife and daughter’s benefit, since they are both garlic bread connoisseurs.
My wife liked the crusty-on-the-outside and light-and-fluffy-on-the-inside textures of the bread. I appreciated the the slight sweetness of the dough. The garlic and leek flavours were a little too sublte and refined for our liking. The smoked butter emulsion sounded like some complexly flavourful superior relative of plain ole’ butter, but it actually tasted like plain ole’ whipped butter. The smoking and emulsification (with water??) process were really not needed to make butter taste better than its already tasty self.
The final dish that we ordered was the burger. Since it was ordered for my son, we asked for it to be prepared plain. The toppings that usually came on the burger were brought to our table on a separate plate.
As usual, I can’t make any personal comments on this dish since my son was the only one that tasted the dish. He finished the entire patty, which seemed to indicate that he did not dislike the dish. I asked him if he liked it and he said that he did. This usually meant that the patty was acceptable. If he really liked the dish, he would’ve offered up his fondness of the patty upon his first few bites.
All things considered, I would say that the meal my family and I had at The Oakwood was pretty average. I was disappointed by the poutine, but found most of the other items o.k. I liked the albacore dish, but that alone would not be enough to bring me back to the restaurant. But I still might visit the restaurant again to try the other dishes on its menu that my family and I were not able to order on our first visit. Who knows? Maybe my second visit will bring a much better experience.