With dining out getting more and more expensive, it's only natural that underground restaurants would come to the forefront. Tack on the impending HST and it's only a matter of time that there will be more of them. Tonight, I joined Jonathan, Drea, Anita, Victoria, Frank, Melody, Jessica & Mark and TS/JS for a dinner at a "secret" location. Steve of NFA (No Fixed Address) contacted Jonathan about a blogger's dinner at a reduced rate. Normally, the cost per person for a 6-course dinner (excluding beverages) would cost $50.00.
Normally, one would contact Steve via email and a location would be setup for a private meal. The place we dined at tonight is best suited for 8 - 10 guests. We had 12 and it was a bit tight. The table was set up complete with the requisite flatware and wine glasses. Diners are responsible for their own beverages. After a short while of chatting and mingling, we were presented with our appetizer - Thai Beef Salad. Steve put his own stamp on this by adding a sweet corn fritter on the bottom. The more standard items such as cilantro, mint, lemongrass, fish sauce and sweet chili sauce were all there and worked in perfect harmony. I liked the fried garlic chips on top. It added both aromatics and texture. But the star of this dish had to be the perfectly cooked beef. It was buttery tender and was the key component to this well balanced appetizer.
Next up was the Trio of Scallops presented on a long platter. The first one was pan-seared with miso dressing topped by leek and apple. The scallop was perfectly seared. The combination of the miso and the sweetness of the apples really enhanced the scallop. We thought the best variation on the plate was the scallop with caper raisin emulsion. It was topped off by a piece of caramelized cauliflower reminiscent of Nuba. It was the perfect little bite that once again let the natural sweetness of the scallop shine. The last item on the plate was scallop ceviche with ginger, avocado and radish. It was pretty good with a nice zing.
Next up was the Slow Cooked Fennel Pork Belly. This, apparently is NFA's signature dish and... it delivered. The piece of pork belly was cooked perfectly with tender flesh and sinfully delicious pork skin. I particularly liked the gelatinous and fatty layer directly under the skin. It rested on a rather dry serving of mash potatoes; however, the roasted garlic on top made up for it. Served on the side was Serrano ham and endives drizzled with a thyme vinaigrette. As a palate cleanser, we were served a spoon of Grapefruit Sorbet with Sliced Candied Ginger and Campari. This was a nice tart interlude before the next dish. Alright, I completely forgot to take a picture of the Sake Marinated Sablefish with Cantonese Vegetable Sauce because it looked strange. I thank Victoria for letting me use her picture (her fish also mushy like mine) Well, the piece of fish that I got was quite small compared to Mark's (his was perfect though) and it didn't look like sablefish. Rather, it beared a striking resemblance to pureed baby food. To be fair, we were informed that some pieces may have broken down due to the marinade and enzymes. Yet, I've never had a piece of sablefish with this type of texture before. Honestly, I didn't enjoy it. However, I did like the Chinese flavours of this dish. It was served on bak choy and topped with mui choy. Served on the side was a wonderful coconut cilantro sweet potato cake coated with panko.
Finally, we were served a Dark Chocolate Mousse with Raspberry Coulis for dessert. Apparently, the mousse was prepared with no egg or cream, so that it would be lighter. I'm not so sure about that since it was still quite decadent. I particularly liked the hazelnut praline on top, it added a nice sweet crunch. I wasn't a huge fan of the coulis because it had seeds in it. It tasted fine; but I didn't like the texture. By this time, I was bursting at the seams. Even if I had paid the actual cost of $50.00, it would've been well worth it. Most of the food was spot on (except for the sablefish) and definitely restaurant quality. I can definitely see this type of "restaurant" becoming more prevalent and popular. It serves as both a viable option and alternative to dining at a real B&M restaurant.
- Excellent value
- Food is prepared with care
- A neat experience
- As in my case, you can't send back your dish (sablefish)