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Restaurant recommendation: Uptown21

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Run by the former chef of the now defunct Hannah’s, I’d been wanting to try Nick and Nat’s Uptown 21 since its positive review in the Record. But our first attempts butted up against their popularity; each time we tried to go, it seemed to be full.

Yesterday, we finally got in. (Actually, it wasn’t even all that busy.) And while I’d love to give you a menu overview, having gone in with the preconceived notion that I wanted to try their $45 four-course chef’s special, I didn’t really give the regular menu much mind. Similarly, once spotting that they did $22 wine matchings with that menu, I didn’t peruse the wine list too much either. Though did notice they seemed to have quite a few by the glass, which is always nice.

Jean spent a bit more time with the menu, noting that it included both foie gras as an optional add-on, and cheese for dessert. He finally decided to start with a foie gras appetizer, then have the three-course version of the chef’s special–exactly the same as the four-course, except you leave out the first appetizer, and save $10.

Figuring that four glasses of wine was too much on a school night, we were going to share the wine matchings. But they explained that each was actually 3 oz. glasses of wine, for two glasses total, so we each proceeded with that. (Smart idea; more places should do that.) For Jean’s foie gras, they offered up a Tawse chardonnay that normally isn’t sold by the glass. It was quite nice; reminiscent of that rich Prince Edward County chardonnay we’d really liked.

With my first course, I got a typically floral Vignognier–forget from which winery. It went down pretty easily also.

My item was very lightly seared, thinly cut tuna served with radishes, a nice coleslaw (no mayo), and sides of pesto and spicy chili sauce. Beautifully presented, and all very enjoyable (though I skipped the radishes–not a fan). Jean was also impressed with his foie gras, to the point of concerning our server, who couldn’t quite tell if his expression meant that he liked it or not. (If you’ve ever seen Jean eat foie gras, you know what I mean.) That was served with greens and salty peanuts, which worked well.

Now the chef’s special includes two choices for each course, but for the next two, we went with the exact same items.

The shitake soup with asparagus seemed almost too subtle at first, but once I mixed in the light cream sauce, it came to life. Nice to have flavouring from other than salt. That was served with a Trius Cabernet Franc, and the earthiness of that wine worked quite well with the mushrooms.

The next course was Ontario trout, served on a lentil risotto. I was thinking that either a white or a light red ought to work with that, when the server came by and asked whether we’d prefer red or white with that one! We went with one of each. The white was a New Zealand Astrolab Sauvignon Blanc, nice and crisp—intense but not too sharp. I really love a good Sauvignon.  The red was the Ontario Rosewood Pinot Noir, which recently won an award as Ontario’s best Pinot. We had this wine at the Verses wine matching dinner in the spring, and were really wowed by it. (And, it’s only $18 at LCBO.) It was quite enjoyable again—to me, a bit fruitier than Ontario Pinot’s often are.

The fish was beautifully done, nicely crisp and seared on the outside, still tender and moist inside. And the lentil side dish was very tasty, with added bits of chorizo and beets! One more, the plates were cleaned. (Each course was a perfectly reasonable size, so in the end we were just satisfied, not stuffed.)

For dessert, we diverged. I tried the mocha caramel mouse with doughnut, while Jean had a trio of gelato: cinnamon, lemon, and berry. Those all tasted amazing. He asked where it was made, and it was from Whole Lotta Gelato, down the road. My mousse was pleasingly less sickly sweet than I was expecting–that’s a good thing. And the doughnut was small, plain, and certainly had that homemade and not Tim’s feel to it.

With that, I had Graham’s 10-year port while Jean went with Lailey’s Vineyard’s late harvest vidal, a lightly sweet wine with apple accents.

Though we never felt rushed, the whole meal experience was fairly efficient, as we were there about two hours. Servers were attentive and knowledgeable. As per the subject line, I’d recommend it!

(And in other restaurant news: I noticed that the wonderful Verses Restaurant is once again offering their Summerlicious menu, $25 for a three-course lunch, or $35 for a three-course dinner.)

2 thoughts on “Restaurant recommendation: Uptown21

  1. I’m not a huge fan of radishes either, but i saw something on the Food Network once that i tried and loved, so i thought i’d pass it along. Take radishes, trim the ends, quarter (or smaller if they’re really huge), then sauté in butter and garlic. Cook until softened, add salt and pepper to taste, and serve as a veggie. Surprisingly non-radishy in taste – they caramelize slightly and it’s really, really tasty! Goes great with beef or pork.

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