Table Talk: Joanne Kates reviews Acadia
At 9:20 on Monday night at Acadia, I went to the bathroom. Not so unusual. But the bathroom itself was. Both rolls of toilet paper in my stall were folded on those cute little v’s like in hotel rooms. It was immaculate and smelled good. All of which was surprising in an almost-full restaurant mid-evening.
But lots is surprising about Acadia. When they lost their fabulous chef, Matt Blondin to Momofuku, I thought Acadia was done for. Can a small niche place survive the loss of their chef? Not usually. Especially given Blondin’s luminous Acadian cooking — and that he opened the place.
Wrong is good at times like this; had I seen the bathroom at 9:20 p.m., I might have guessed better about the drive to excellence of the Selland duo who own Acadia. They scooped Patrick Kriss from his gig as chef de cuisine at Splendido near the start of summer. What, one wondered, does chef Kriss know about Acadia or anything Cajun or Creole?
He learned. Fast. And brought his own chops to the table.
Chicken crackling is about as low country as you can get. Fry it so carefully that it crumbles on contact, top it with flecks of hot sauce and sit it on clouds of intense whipped blue cheese — and that’s low country gone high art.
Same dazzle with cold cream of corn soup: a river of good lovin’ poured onto frozen smoked cream, the new erotica of the dairy, with dried andouille sausage (lots of taste!), lightly pickled quail egg and blanched celery sweetening sour yellow plums. This is about as sophisticated as cooking gets in our town.
Grits are cliché. Chef Kriss’s grits are, if memory serves, even smoother than chef Blondin’s, with kick from pimento cheese, sweet from barely cooked fresh prawns and smoke from ham hock consommé.
This is a chef with the Midas touch. He fries sweetbreads crisp and juicy and bejewels them with thin sliced tongue, dehydrated tongue pastrami powder (!!) and heirloom cherry tomatoes. Chef ties together the apparently disparate elements of fat golden scallops, dried andouille sausage, shaved foie gras, dots of celeriac purée and snazzy seedy mustard. As for the cloud of smoked corn foam on top, inhale deeply.
For dessert, chef draws a line of dark chocolate cremeux across a plate, adding cherries, fruit purée, miniature crispy-crunchy butter cakes and dreamy milk sorbet.
Any regrets Acadia’s owners have at the loss of chef Blondin should be drowned in milk sorbet … or frozen smoked cream … or dried andouille sausage.
That chef Kriss worked his way up to sous-chef at Daniel in New York is evident in every bite at Acadia: the cooking is more delicate and refined than before; indeed, a splendour of French technique applied to low country ingredients.
Acadia, 50C Clinton St., $90 dinner for two
Joanne Kates trained at the Ecole Cordon Bleu de Cuisine in Paris. She has written articles for numerous publications, including the New York Times, Maclean’s and Chatelaine, and she was the Globe and Mail’s restaurant critic for 38 years.