Sunday, April 14, 2013

RIB 'N REEF X TORRES WINE TASTING


Last week we were contacted via email by Mr. Peter Katsoudas, owner of one of Montreal's premiere steakhouses, the Rib 'N Reef. The nature of his email was to extend a generous invitation, requesting that we join him in the restaurant's wine cellar and private dining room for a special event where two renowned veterans in the food and beverage industry would be collaborating to produce what was sure to be a lavish evening. On this night the Rib 'N Reef, offering some of the city's highest quality steak and seafood for over 50 years would be executing a 6 course menu to compliment a selection of wines from the Torres family, operating vineyards, estates and wineries since 1870.

This will be the third time in the history of Foodie Date Night that we publish a post for a meal that was provided at the expense of the restaurant. Conforming with our self-imposed ethics policy, we respectfully explained to Mr. Katsoudas at the time the invitation was granted that our participation was contingent on three details: we reserve the right to post or not, good or bad, our opinion of the food and service will not be stifled or restrained, and finally, that should we proceed to publish a post all bias (including having been comped) will be fully disclosed to our readers. With ample time to consider, our desire to maintain integrity with our readers and subsequent terms have understandably, and without objection resulted in withdrawn invitations in the past but Mr. Katsoudas admirably left his offer on the table. In maintaining full transparency, we feel that our personal relationship with the chef charged with executing the evening, Daniel Maislin is also of relevance to our readers and that it is thanks to his advocacy that our humble blog came to Mr. Katsoudas' attention.

Having celebrated several special occasions at the Rib 'N Reef in the past, we're no strangers to the restaurant's outstanding standard of service. No expense is spared to ensure clients have a first class experience from the moment they arrive. Amenities of a bygone era have never fallen by the wayside at this steakhouse. Valet parking, coat check, formally dressed staff, white linen tablecloths, and tableside preparations are still commonplace here, and when the government withdrew the right to enjoy a cigar and a scotch at your table following the finest prime-rib in the city, Mr. Katsoudas remedied that issue with an opulent cigar lounge that has become a destination for connoisseurs.

Wine Cellar & Private Dining Room (Photo Credit Ribnreef.com)

We would come to learn that although the evening's menu was executed by Daniel Maislin and his kitchen brigade, it was developed by former Rib 'N Reef employee and wine enthusiast Rob Wiseman, who returned exclusively to spearhead and emcee the event. The meal began with a loose interpretation on a dish of Chilean origin called locos con mayo, inspired by the crisp and pleasantly acidic Chilean Las Mulas 2012 Sauvignon Blanc it was to be paired with. In this rendition, traditional abalone was replaced by poached mussels, oysters and colossal U4 shrimp (U4 is a classification for purchasing shrimp indicating the average number of units per pound). A splash of salsa verde and a smear of saffron mayonnaise were flavorful, but subdued enough to let the shellfish and the citrusy mineral qualities of the young wine shine, particularly the salsa verde that was prepared with a calculatedly restrained quantity of vinegar. The mussels were perfectly plump, but the irregularly shaped nature of the shrimp resulted in it being ideally cooked at it's thickest portion but less so towards the thinner tail end. If there were anything we would change on this delicate dish it would've been to have left the oyster raw so as not to lose it's briny edge.

Poached Oyster, Shrimp & Mussels, Salsa Verde, Saffron Mayonnaise
Torres Las Mulas 2012 Sauvignon Blanc (Chile)

Halibut carpaccio had a slightly chaotic appearance but the clean flavor of the firm white fish was nicely coupled with a brunoise of sweet honeydew melon pickled in fiery ginger juice and the timidly floral, smooth and satin Vina Esmeralda 2011. A subtle dash of smokey spanish paprika was just enough to add depth without detracting from the oceanic quality of the dish.

Halibut Carpaccio, Pickled Honeydew, Spanish Paprika, Ginger, Beet
Torres Vina Esmeralda 2011 (Catalanya)

A French tradition to cleanse the pallet between fish and meat courses called Trou Normand is customarily served in the form of a brandy and/or sorbet. A considerable amount of creative liberty was taken in this case to fuse together the concept of a Trou Normand with crema catalana (a Spanish vanilla custard), resulting in an unsweetened yogurt and vanilla bean granita floated with the tart apple murmur of Sherry Manzanilla. One of us felt that the ice crystals in the granita were a bit larger than preferred but it wasn't enough of an obstacle to impede both of us from loving the complex flavor and clever concept. 

Trou Normand - Yogurt, Vanilla, Sherry Manzanilla

Smoked and grilled Gaspor pork tenderloin was served over a white bean and mascarpone cheese purée adorned with pork skin cracklings and a crimson, blackberry gastrique. The smoke on the pork was discernible, though the doneness was debatable. Many are apprehensive about pork served medium but we don't subscribe to that preference, particularly with pork of this quality. Having said that it was not unforgivably overcooked, we're actually fairly certain that most guests found it to be ideal so there's a case to be made about responding to your audience. The purée though a touch stiff, had splendid flavor and the blackberry gastrique provided brightness both in terms of flavor and color to an otherwise rather beige-on-brown dish. The cracklings cracked, perhaps a bit too much. The dish was paired with a fruity Pinot Noir Mas Borràs 2010 that was a fairly standard but exemplary match for the grilled pork and a nice transition between the lighter, acidic whites that preceded it and the more robust reds that would follow. 

Smoked Pork Tenderloin, Cracklings, White Bean Purée, Blackberry Gastrique
Torres Mas Borràs 2010 (Penedès)

If you ask us, there's no better steak than a rib steak, and there's no better part of a rib steak than the fatty, crispy, lip on the perimeter. It's not something your doctor wants to hear you say, but it's true, fat equals flavor. In a stroke of genius that is surely a food cost nightmare, just that magically fatty lip was removed from dozens of aged rib steaks to accommodate a small crowd in the wine cellar. Each one individually rolled into a pinwheel and marinated in orange juice, red wine and juniper berries. The pinwheels were cooked sous-vide just short of rare and finished on a hot grill to caramelize the exterior. The provocative, melt-in-your-mouth result was laid over a pile of sautéed spinach studded with buttery pine nuts and sweet reconstituted dried-cherries that mimicked the wine superbly. The marinade was reduced to a seductively sticky sauce with a beautiful sheen. Not one, but two glasses of what may be considered Torres' flagship wine Mas La Plana accompanied this savory finale, one from 2007, the other - 1996. The flavor of the wine was elegant and aromatic, we savored every drop of this cabernet sauvignon with an almost mysterious depth that was as beefy and round on the palate as you might expect from an even brawnier grape like shiraz. It's not every day that we're afforded the opportunity to drink from a bottle that's benefited from 17 years of care and controlled maturity - a real treat. Both the execution of this dish and it's wine pairing were a significant triumph.

Aged Rib Steak Tournedo, Spinach, Cherries, Pine Nuts
Torres Mas La Plana 2007 (Penedès)
Torres Mas La Plana 1996 (Penedès)

A sweet finish to the meal included lofty fried dough dusted in powdered sugar and a ramekin full of catànies, Marcona almonds enrobed in a layer of sweet white chocolate and dusted in cocoa.

Oreilletes à la Catalane, Catànies

Our evening at the Rib 'N Reef was a classy affair. Torres wines, the star of the evening, were well represented by the unifying theme of the menu and service was exemplary. Pairings though effective, were slightly predictable, but successfully adhering to the fundamentals is often a more savvy maneuver than over-ambitious, ineffective posturing. Some points of the meal, like the rib steak tournedo even managed to show that a steakhouse, celebrated for a devotion to the classics was capable of flexing their creative muscle while staying true to their genre. We found dishes to be well seasoned and executed, though some were predictably more successful than others. Don't forget that with summer just around the corner Rib 'N Reef's intimate rooftop terrace will be opening for business before long.


Rib 'N Reef
8105 Boulevard Décarie
Montreal, QC
514-735-1601

Rib 'N Reef Steakhouse & Cigare Lounge on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. Excellent menu and beautifully displayed on the plate. Congratulations to Mr..Maislin, Mr. Wiseman and the kitchen brigade.

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