Nick & Nat’s Uptown 21

Despite passing by Uptown 21 numerous times, I have never thought of trying it due to an initial impression of an over-priced upscale restaurant. That was moronically based on the elegant decor seen by creepily peering in through the tall glass windows on King Street. However, I have been deeply attracted to their farm-to-table philosophy –

“…with as much locally sourced ingredients is to see a chef taking it seriously old school… Eat local might be the cause du jour in the restaurant world but few places are willing to create nine new dishes each and every day.” – Drew Edwards, The Record

In addition, being an avid fan of the Food Network, I was sad to have missed Uptown 21’s version of Iron Chef , but was highly impressed after reading articles on how they raised awareness for the Food Bank of Waterloo Region.

Nick revealed one of the secrets of his culinary success, which is his strong relationship with local farmers and his ability to adapt his menu to the ingredients they show up with seasonally. He also talked about the fun Iron Chef challenges his restaurant’s been hosting for the past two years to test other chefs’ ability to take whatever farm product was at hand and create something memorable.

What impressed me the most is their daily changing dinner Prix Fixe menus. I wonder how much time Nick & Nat invest daily into designing the menu! It must be exhausting… but this element of surprise greatly elevated the anticipation for the dinner reservation at Uptown 21 on my birthday.

*Note: They have two dinner seatings.

First Impression:

Slightly crowded and cosy, but definitely very classy.

Our server Carla said… that is Natalie? :)

Their famous twitter profile photo! My initial impression of the jars were that they somewhat symbolized what Nick & Nat strives for – unlimited creativity. Each jar contains a mystery flavour. It could be sweet; it could be tart. It could be spicy; or it could be pleasantly soothing. Their daily prix fixe menu feels as though I am blindfolded and picking random jar from the shelf, then curiously opening it to discover what will be the surprise within.

Sadly, we forgot to order the FREE bacon. Although I have an obvious lack of love for bacon, Y loves it. We will definitely remember it next time! Speaking of bacon…

Maple: Did you hear about the possible bacon shortage?!

Y: OHNO! Maybe Uptown 21 will start charging for bacon. ;(

On the Table for Maple:

My table of 4 decided to have the three course Prix Fixe menu – without dessert ($40).

  1. Course #1-1: Tamworth loin
  2. Course #1-2: Rare tuna
  3. Course #2-1: Roasted heirloom tomato and garlic soup
  4. Course #3-1: Pan roasted Everspring duck breast
  5. Course #3-2: Smoked pork shoulder and beef brisket cottage pie

Toasty bread! Yay!!

Food was served promptly despite a full house.

Tamworth loin, plum-hot pepper relish, pickled hawkswing mushrooms, fromage fort, toast and fried leeks.

My first “pink-pork” experience. Blue cheese included!

Rare tuna, summer squash, honey-paprika garlic, green onion-mustard and sunflower seeds.

Winner: Tuna

WE LOVED IT.

I usually avoid ordering any form of tuna as sashimi always seem too sour, while steaks always seem too tough. This appetizer was garnished so beautifully that it looked like a swing dance on a plate! The thinly sliced rare tuna was light, with a delicate mix of sweet and tart. Bravo!

Roasted heirloom tomato and garlic soup with fresh herbs.

No one chose the salad option since it was a really chilly night. Salad of the day was roasted beet and plum salad with mint, cestbon chevre and roasted bread crumbs. It sounded tempting, but not as alluring as the warm soup.

I was expecting a creamier soup, but was pleasantly surprised with the lighter broth. With three courses, a creamy soup might have been too heavy. The soup was sparingly topped with a layer of oil. We had a mini debate at the table – was it olive, avocado, …or other exotic oils? The answer was chili oil! Who would have thought of that!

After an initial shock of spiciness, the full bold flavour of the soup started sinking in. It sat perfectly on the fine line between boring tomato soup versus salty tomato soup. Highly addictive combination of tomato and garlic – who would have thought a simple tomato soup could bring about such great pleasure? This was my brother’s favourite course of the night – and he rarely chooses soup over meat. Bravo x2!

Smoked pork shoulder and beef brisket cottage pie with cheese curd whipped potatoes and pickled hot peppers.

Pan roasted Everspring Farms duck breast over crisp sage spatzle, roasted broccoli and brandy jus (add $7 to prix fixe menu price for duck).

*Not too sure what the $7 addition meant…?

Winner: Duck breast

The cottage pie was too heavy, and none of us could finish the plate. Hence, the duck breast was the balanced and preferred choice. Tender and juicy – extremely generous portions!

We expected smaller portion sizes due to the number of courses, but Uptown 21 is definitely not a stingy restaurant. Despite feeling slightly stuffed after the third course, I could not resist the golden question…

Server: Would you like to see the dessert menu?

Mind: Noooooooo

Heart: YES YES YES!!!

While we pondered over what the Smallest Dessert Ever ($2) was, Carla served a complimentary birthday dessert.

Aww, how sweet!

Carla explained that the Smallest Dessert Ever is a mini version of this pie – I am calling it a pie since I cannot remember the exact name. Someone please enlighten me! Anyhow, thank you very much, I appreciate the kind gesture!

By the end of the night, I felt pampered and well-fed. Our bill arrived just slightly after the second seating started. Still a full house. Reservations highly recommended.

I wanted to smack myself for waiting so long to try this restaurant, and hope to be back soon for their all-you-can-eat tapas Tuesday.

Brownbag Friday is only $5! And ohmygod Mark McEwan has been to Uptown 21!

Verdict:

1) $$$ – Prix Fixe menu provides best value
2) Classy, always crowded
3) Rather prompt service despite busy night
4) Generous portions, amazing detail and impressive flavour

Nick and Nat's Uptown 21 on Urbanspoon

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