This new restaurant has plenty of history behind it. For one thing, it occupies the site of the late Twelve, a defunct project of On the Twenty in Jordan. For another, it is co-owned by Chef Stephen Treadwell and his father, James Treadwell, who acts as sommelier. (And there's a good Canadian wine list.)
The son was formerly executive chef at Queen's Landing in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Treadwell is a step up even from that.
The food may be contemporary, but it never seems to try too hard. And even though Treadwell has only been open since May, there's been much critical acclaim in the Canadian press already.
No wonder. Let's set the stage: The restaurant rambles along the banks of a surprisingly wide Twelve Mile Creek so that many of the tables have water views, and in the summer there's a patio. Decor is understated and sophisticated -- mostly neutral colors are used. It is quiet elegance.
The food and menu are unique. Treadwell subscribes to the farm-to-table philosophy, a growing restaurant trend that stresses local, or close to local, purveyors.
The menu follows its own pattern, too. A large word in boldface type gives the main ingredient in the dish, then comes the explanation. If you go under "Squash," for instance, you find that it is "Tempura of Kabocha Squash served with Green Curry Mayonnaise." If you look under "Lamb" you'll find that the meat in question is eight-hour cooked Lamb Shank with Pistachio Orange Glaze, Thyme Roasted Autumn Vegetables, and "simple jus." Under "chocolate," find Bittersweet Molten Cake with Ginger Ice Cream.
You'd be surprised how much easier that format is to read and how helpful it is for decision-making. And, although you can order a la carte, the menu offers several prix fixe assortments.
The food itself is beautifully served and well balanced. In an appetizer, Butter Seared Sea Scallops were cleverly pointed up with an apple puree. (According to the menu there was also supposed to be walnut foam in there, but I missed it.)
There was a Short Rib and Chanterelle Risotto, which was one of the best rice dishes I've eaten. Rich, just a tad chewy and satisfying and helped along quite a lot with "Toscano" cheese and a little white truffle oil. A couple of dandelion greens to add color.
That Eight Hour Cooked Lamb Shank was incredible. Tender and velvety, it was adorned with a gentle Pistachio-Orange Glaze. Burnt Lemon Glazed Chicken Breast actually managed to be juicy -- not an easy thing to pull off when these days, factory raised birds are the norm.
It came with some braised white beans; a prosciutto sausage added just the right note of salty decadence.
When it came to dessert we found the Bittersweet Molten Cake as gooey as it should be. This is getting to be a menu cliche, but at least at Treadwell the accompanying Ginger Ice Cream cut through the richness. Only the Sticky Toffee Pudding disappointed -- mildly.
This traditional dessert went everywhere the British Empire did in years gone by. I first ate it in Australia and was smitten. But at Treadwell it was a different variation on the theme -- it was more cake-like than I remembered and the toffee nowhere near as crunchy.
Here are a few other menu items that might intrigue: Under Appetizers: Pan Seared Foie Gras with Toasted Brioche, Preserved Quince ($14 supplement) and a Terrine of Duck Confit with Spiced Apricots. Under main courses: Pan Seared Lake Erie Pickerel with Potato Confit and Gruyere Parsley Foam, or Beef Ribeye with Horseradish Creamed Shallots and Broccoli Potato Puree.
And, just in case you forget you are on the cusp of the Great Lakes, consider this: Pan Seared Lake Huron White Fish with Honey and Lemon Glazed Carrots, Shiitake Mushroom and a Foie Gras "Beurre Blanc." (The quotation marks are from the menu, so I assume that the sauce is a cute variation of the classic.)
The lunch menu, which we have yet to taste, features the likes of "Deconstructed" Shepherd's Pie (the quotes may be getting a little too cute) with Pommery and Aged Cheddar Mashed Potato and a salad ($15), and "Chips and Fish." I quote the menu: "Cream Ale Battered Whitefish and Hand Cut Yukon Chips with Yuzo (sour citrus) tartar sauce and Parsley Salad." The price is $16.
3.5 stars (out of 4)
WHERE: 61 Lakeport Road, Port Dalhousie, Ont. (905-934-9797). The restaurant specializes in farm-to-table cuisine, meaning they buy their foodstuffs as locally as possible. The result is innovative contemporary food. Credit Cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa.
FAVORITE DISH: Short Rib and Chanterelle Risotto.
NEEDS WORK: Sticky Toffee Pudding.
PRICE RANGE: Three course prix fixe, $48; four course $56; six course tasting menu $75. (All prices are Canadian.)
SERVICE: Very good.
NOISE LEVEL: Moderate.
HOURS: Lunch, Tuesday through Sunday until 3. Dinner, Tuesday through Sunday until 9 p.m. Restaurant will be closed Jan. 1-31.
HEALTHY CHOICES: Pan Seared Lake Erie Pickerel, Burnt Lemon Glazed Chicken Breast.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes.
PARKING: In the lot.
KID APPEAL: For grownups.