On a culinary seascape awash with awards and best-whatever lists, a few originals rise above the flotsam. Four diamonds from the AAA-CAA is one.
MAR 30 15 — Well I recall the moment in January, 2014 that Restaurant E18hteen received its first, most coveted AAA-CAA four-diamond distinction for superlative decor, service, and definitely above-the-crowd food under the watchful eye of its former young executive chef, Algonquin College graduate Walid El-Tawel (who has since moved on to Toronto where he is today chef de cuisine at Aga Khan Museum).
The good news is, CAA-AAA again bestowed its four-diamond honours for the second year to Restaurant E18hteen in the ByWard Market, this time under executive chef Jonathan Korecki (who also presides over companion restaurant, Sidedoor). Also overseeing the E18hteen kitchen is chef de cuisine Kirk Robert Daniel Morrison.
It was Nancy’s and my pleasure on Sunday to be invited to celebrate the reaffirmed award at a charity fundraiser brunch, the kind of event chefs unfailingly look forward to as an opportunity to show off what they can do. So many creative and distinguished dishes to choose from, as you can see here.
According to the CAA, a four-diamond designation identifies a restaurant “geared to providing individuals with a distinctive fine-dining experience.
“Often orchestrated by an executive chef and accomplished staff, the menus reflect a high degree of creativity and complexity using innovative presentations to enhance high quality,” the association says.
As an aside, I can say innovation appropriately describes Korecki’s approach to a seafood appetizer yesterday (photo, above) that was designed to visually mimic the appearance as well as flavours of the sea: British Columbia albacore tune tartare with a bright undercurrent of citrus vinaigrette, coriander and other fresh herbs, lapped with a splash of sea buckthorn (the yellow berries) and nori (where the thin seaweed tuile rising at right suggests the appearance of barnacles using tapioca pearls spread across one face, then allowed to dry for crunch and intriguing appearance). So brilliant, on many levels.
According to the CAA, each establishment — whether it’s a hotel or restaurant — is visited anonymously by professional evaluators (not folks whose claim to fame is ownership of a laptop) and graded on almost 100 criteria. In a four-diamond restaurant, for example, the experience “shouldn’t be just a meal, but a completely enchanting experience.”