Fresh off a yummy tasting of Ritual's brunch menu, we were invited back to try their entire dinner menu. Generally, this can be somewhat of a risky proposition as it is nearly impossible to serve up 100% successful dishes, even if it is an invited dinner. However, that also can mean confidence and/or they are open to constructive criticism. Whatever the case, it was an opportunity to get the whole picture in one seating. Jacqueline set things up and including myself, there was also Mimi, Diana, Sharon, Peter, Nathan and Amy.
Already sitting at the table when I arrived (I was a little bit late) was the Dinner Bread featuring focaccia served with butter sprinkled with sea salt. As much as bread can be pretty boring, this was on point with a considerable rosemary hit which wasn't overpowering either. It was nicely toasted up where the exterior was crunchy while the inside was soft and fluffy. The side of firm butter didn't hurt things either. Colourful and cleanly plated (for a this type of salad anyways), the Beet Salad was light and refreshing. I found the beets to be on the softer and less dense side where they were naturally sweet. The bacon vinagrette made its presence felt with a smoky and salty hit combined with some acidity. The creamy feta brought everything together.
I'm sure it is pretty evident that I prefer meat dishes more than vegetable dishes, but the Charred Cauliflower & Tahini was on point. Crunchy, yet cooked all-the-way-through, the cauliflower was smoky and sweet with a background acidity. The nutty and aromatic tahini was further enhanced by the almost creamy baba ganoush. I couldn't stop eating this and not only was it meatless, it was vegan and gluten-free! Okay, who brainwashed me? Well, I guess it would be Ritual because the Roasted Organic Carrots had the same effect on me. It was a super simple dish featuring sweet crunchy carrots tossed in seaweed butter. However, the flavours were impactful with a caramelized sweetness complimented by the nuttiness of the butter and umaminess from the seaweed.
Yet another meatless item was the Autumn Squash Gratin which arrived bubbling hot. Layered and baked to order, it sported parmesan and parsley. Texturally, it was predictably soft and almost creamy with a sweet Earthy cheesiness. It was definitely rich, but not heavy at the same time. Okay, we did actually get to eat some meats starting with the Yam of Your Dreams. Granted it was only a transition of sorts with equal parts vegetable and shredded beef brisket. I quite enjoyed it though as the yam was sweet and soft while the beef was tender. The BBQ sauce was also sweet but did have background heat from the habernero mango hot sauce. The salsa and pineapple balanced things off with a light freshness and brightness.
One of most visually attractive dishes was the Hot Fried Chicken that had a spicy kick balanced off by unpasteurized honey. It was tender and moist with only a mild amount of seasoning. I would've liked to see a more aggressive brine. However, the Earthy crimini mushroom country gravy added more than enough flavour and impact. The scallion mash was bordering on creamy but was mostly starchy. Loved the airy and sweet crispy butter seared honey cornbread on the side. Another solid dish was the Duck Leg Confit with einkorn risotto, almond, cranberry and buttered dinosaur kale. I found the meat to be soft and tender, yet with some drier parts. For some reason, I tasted truffle oil despite it not being on the menu description. I thought the duck was flavourful without being salty. The side of squash was intensely sweet.
Due to personal bias, I can definitely say that the Fully Loaded Vegan Baked Potato didn't really stand a chance. Of course I can understand that offering a vegan option is good for business, but for me personally, I didn't prefer it. As much as the potato was perfectly baked being soft and fluffy, the toppings did not have much impact. Naturally, they were behind the 8-ball since cashew cheese can never replace real cheese and adding tofu and broccoli on top doesn't spell b-a-c-o-n either. All was well with the Francesinha Sandwich though. This thing featured milk bread, smoked ham, andouille sausage, roast pork loin, melted havarti topped with a rich tomato beer sauce. Due to the amount of meat, this was a hearty sammie with a cheesy smokiness. I liked the tangy and zesty sauce, but the bread did soften quickly (we did take a long time to actually eat it though).
For dessert, it was all about the Almond Orange Poppyseed Cake. From its impressive six layers to the surprisingly light and only purposefully sweet creamcheese frosting, the cake as a whole really worked. The cake itself was a touch on the denser side, but it held up great to the moisture. The addition of almonds gave a textural crunch to the soft cake. Another light dessert was the Pan-Roasted Pineapple with house french vanilla ice cream, ginger and sage cookie crumble. Each piece of pineapple was intensely sweet due to the cooking process. Flavours were caramelized, yet at the same time the pineapple still maintained its texture. The addition of the crumble added a crunch to the dish.
The most beautifully-plated dessert was the Eggnog Tart with gingerbread pate brisee and black cherry coulis. The eggnog custard was creamy and silky while being only sweet enough with a touch of nutmeg. I found the gingerbread pate to be mild enough that it wasn't overpowering while the coulis was sweet and tart. These were some pretty impressive desserts considering that I don't even like dessert that much. In fact all the dishes, excluding the baked potato, were good with a twist. Although this was a complimentary tasting, I would personally have no problem spending my own dime to eat here.
*All food and beverages were complimentary*
- Familiar dishes with unique twist
- Nice balance of flavours
- Reasonable portion size
- Might want to carpool if you are driving, parking is at a premium