I enjoy fancy. I like the romantic classiness inherently embedded in fancy. I like the few brief moments of being detached from the day’s messiness in the midst of fancy. However, as a Masters student who has been squeezed dried from tuition fees and probably owe my parents two billion dollars, the only fancy I can afford is the occasional discount/deal/coupon type of fancy.
Hallelujah, 2013 started off with Waterloo Region’s first Wine & Dine Festival! Despite having only eight participating restaurants and some complaining about the limited choices, I thought the variety is plentiful. Try going to all of them, then talk about limited choices!
Despite wanting to dine at Sole for the longest time, the weeping truth is that I simply cannot bear to spend $40 on a single entree, no matter how delicious their rack of lamb with black olive and sage crust sounds. I, however, can permit myself to the once-in-a-while splurge for the $29/three courses deal.
Thank you, Wine & Dine festival organizers!
The restaurant was dimly lit. Perfect for a romantic evening but created the impossible task of taking clearer food photographs. Hence, I apologize for the dark photos!
Anticipating the busy Friday evening crowd, our reservation was for 7+pm. I only realized that Sole opens till midnight on Fridays when we noticed some tables only starting their meal while we were getting ready to leave at 9+pm!
We were seated promptly at a square table in the middle of the dining hall. Oddly, they arranged for Y and I to sit side-by-side instead of across from each other. I actually prefer it this way as it allows for easier conversation in the bustling dining room. The restaurant was actually really noisy, simply because everyone seemed to be having an amazing time. Wine glasses clinking, conversations flowing, so much laughter going on at each table!
Scanning the spacious dining hall, which is separated into two main areas by a middle booth divider, I noticed that Sole probably caters mainly to the more mature crowd. I identified only three tables of 20+ years old.
The service was prompt, with excellent kitchen-dining room coordination. We were never left without food on the table for more than five minutes despite the crowded room!
On the Table for Maple:
- Multi-grain bread with onion marmalade
- Appetizer #1: Smoked Rainbow Trout
- Appetizer #2: Trio of Mini Pizzas
- Entree #1: Duck Confit
- Entree #2: Pan Seared Red Snapper
- Dessert #1: Strawberries & Cream Napoleon
- Dessert #2: Mini Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee
Y & I were slightly disappointed with the unexpectedly chilled bread. I love toasted bread, and am not sure if it was on purpose? Despite that, we thoroughly enjoyed this spongy multi-grain. The onion marmalade’s sweetness thoughtfully complimented the savoury chewy bread. I thought this little deviation from the typical butter-with-bread was a prelude to a special dining experience.
The battle of the appetizers:
Smoked Rainbow Trout with green beans, toasted almonds, roasted pepper reduction
Trio of mini pizzas of Margherita / Prosciutto, Gorgonzola, Fig / Tomato & Bocconcini
Winner: Rainbow trout
The pizzas were noticeably plainer than strong pizza flavours we are typically used to, whereas the smoked trout had an excellent balance of sweetness from the beans and a favourably mild saltiness from the trout. Perhaps it was our instinctive bias towards dishes with a good balance – the pizza trio was overly light while the trout provided excellent proportions of light and heavy.
The battle of the entrees:
Duck confit with sweet potato mashed, sugar snap peas, port and plum reduction, cardamom cream
Pan seared red snapper with sausage and mozzarella arancini, vodka rose sauce, shaved asparagus
Winner: Duck Confit
It was my first arancini (fried balls embedded with cheese) and I loved it! The oozy mozzarella provided a warm comforting bite. The snapper was nicely done, which is difficult as fish can be easily overcooked – one of the reasons why I barely ever order fish dishes at restaurants. However, the vodka rose sauce was too bitter for me.
On the other hand, the smokey flavour of the confit was enhanced by the sweet cream sauce. I loved the refreshing crunch of the snap peas. The arancini balls got a little too heavy after the second one but I could not get enough of the tingly-buttery yet light sweet potato mash. Again, I thought the overall balance and taste composition of the duck confit was more robust than the snapper.
The battle of the desserts:
Strawberries and Cream Napoleon
Mini Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee
Winner: Creme Brulee
I really appreciated the thoughtful sizes of the desserts as Y and I were already pleasantly satisfied after the mains. This time, the winner was chosen NOT based on balance, teehee. I have always preferred cakes to pies, and custardy gooey pudding desserts to flaky puffy desserts. Therefore, unless the battle is between a cake and custard, custard always triumphs! Y enjoyed the Napoleon’s delicately thin, almost glass-like, pastry layers. The fresh strawberry & cream combination provided a contrasting light conclusion to the meal. However, we agreed that the Napoleon was too awkward to eat. It fell apart as we tried to split it vertically so we decided on devouring it layer-by-layer instead.
Presentation and design of each dish was evidently thoughtful. Sole’s manager (or owner?) periodically checked on each table to ensure that all dishes were executed perfectly. I have had numerous experiences with Toronto’s Winterlicious, each with horrendous service mainly due to their servers’ inability to juggle an overly crowded dining room. Therefore, I was extremely impressed with the timely and personable service at Sole despite the crowd, and am glad that they had managed to provide a smooth and very enjoyable evening.
One day, one fine day, I hope to be able to afford and splurge on that $39 roasted rack of lamb with black olive and sage crust & crispy gorgonzola polenta because it sounds just too delicious to pass.
Happy Wining & Dining till February 2nd!
1) $$$$ – Close to $40 for each entree
2) Reservations recommended, it gets really busy all the way till late
3) Service was impeccable, table was never empty for more than five minutes
4) Dishes thoughtfully executed