Saturday, November 24, 2012

"Convivial" to say the least...

“(gah-zell-ig) Dutch adj. for convivial, cosy, or nice atmosphere, but also belonging, general togetherness, or time spent with loved ones.”  This is what you’ll find printed at the bottom of the menu and if I didn’t know the meaning of this difficult to translate Dutch word before, I definitely know it now and even more importantly, have just experienced it at 337 Richmond Road.   Stephen Beckta along with Executive Chef Michael Moffat and Chef Che Chartrand has hit a home run in Westoboro’s newest gem, Gezellig.

Ever since I first wrote about my excitement and anticipation for the arrival of Steve’s third installment to Ottawa’s culinary scene I’ve been salivating at the chance to sample its cuisine.  Ever since the doors opened in late October, the restaurant has been pretty much filled to capacity and tonight was no exception; and with good reason.  This restaurant is a delicious as it is visually stunning.

The space inside Gezellig is grand and open and yet still manages to feel incredibly cozy and warm.  It literally feels like the great room of a beautiful home.  I want the inside of my home to look like this.  Sophisticated and inviting with warm colors and plenty of wood accents; gorgeous.

Like Play and Beckta, the wine list at Gezellig is stellar.  Sommelier and resident wine director Grayson McDiarmid, who I also found out teaches at Algonquin’s Sommelier program and has taught some of the staff at Steve’s other establishments, has put together an incredible collection of wines to pair with your meal. 

Tonight’s choice was a bottle of Bordeaux-Superieur, Pezat, Ch. Teyssier, 2008.  The dry yet fruity and full-bodied wine with a hint of spicy notes was the perfect choice for what Chef Che had in store.

Bordeaux-Superieur, Pezat, Ch. Teyssier, 2008

Tonight’s meal started off with a romaine salad with roasted tomatoes & squash topped with a maple-Vidalia vinaigrette.  The aroma of the vinaigrette dressing was incredible and after smelling it from the couple seated behind us, I knew I had to try it and it didn’t disappoint.  The squash along with the squash seeds and oregano balanced out the sweetness in the maple vinaigrette.

Romaine salad, roasted tomatoes & late squash,
maple-Vidalia vinaigrette, squash seeds, oregano

Whenever I see beef tartare on a menu I just have to try it.  Ever since I first sampled tartare I’ve been in love with the dish.  The tartare at Gezellig is among the best I’ve ever had.  Topped with a fried egg and some toasted home baked sour dough bread, it was bursting with flavor and melted in your mouth.  The hint of lemon and mustard along with the light garnish of chives complimented the meat perfectly.

Beef tartare, lemon oil crostada, fried egg, puffed mustard

I’ve never been much of a fan of lamb.  I’ve always found it to be gamey no matter how it was prepared and I also never understood why one always paired it with mint jelly.  Chef Che dispelled that misconception with his braised lamb shank with cinnamon spatzle, wilted coriander, preserved lemon, ricotta and Frank’s Red Hot sauce roasted peanuts.  It’s true some people really do put that sh*t on everything!  I’ve never enjoyed lamb more in my life.  It was hard to believe I was eating lamb.  This was the first time I’ve ever eaten a braised meat and the shank was just bursting with the red wine and spices it was cooked in and the meat fell off the bone.  It was incredibly tender and flavorful.   The cinnamon spatzle was also to die for.  It was my first time eating spatzle and I’d eat it all again in a heartbeat.

Braised lamb shank, cinnamon spatzle, wilted coriander,
preserved lemon, ricotta, Frank’s peanuts

Not being satisfied with just tartare, I also sampled the Wellington County shortrib steak with miso butter sauce, sautéed mushrooms and a side of parmesan fries.  Now before you ask yourself why one would put parmigiano on fries, you haven’t lived until you’ve tasted these.  These fries were by far the tastiest I’ve ever eaten.  The idea of using parmigiano as a means to salt something is brilliant!  People do it with sauces all the time and I also recently tried it in soup.  Seriously, don’t knock the latter until you’ve tried it.  I would go back to Gezellig for these fries alone, they were that good.  The steak was cooked to perfection and would rival Ottawa’s finest steak houses.  The medley of mushrooms sautéed in the miso sauce made each bite tastier than the last.  It reminded me of a dish at Beckta I enjoyed called Mushrooms on Toast, which also used variety of mushrooms with differing textures and flavors to create a unique experience in every bite. 

Wellington County shortrib steak, miso butter sauce,
sauteed mushrooms, parmesan fries

And that’s what I interpret Steve and Michael’s goal with Gezellig - to bring the best of both Play and Beckta together to create a unique yet familiar dining experience.  Gezellig’s plates are every bit as delicious as both of its older siblings and the presentation and quality of the dishes are far superior to the “neighborhood restaurant” billing Steve and Michael would have you believe.

Last but not least the meal ended with a decadent yet light “butter finger” peanut butter, white & dark chocolate cake paired with a glass of 2007 Late Harvest Cabernet, Angel’s Gate desert wine from the Niagara region.  For anyone who loves chocolate and peanut butter, this desert is for you.   The late harvest Cabernet did not have that overly sweet and syrupy flavor that most desert wines have and in fact, it was a great way to cleanse the pallet before sinking your teeth into the cake and fully appreciating its decadence.

“Butter Finger,” peanut butter, white & dark chocolate

And what would be a Stephen Beckta restaurant without the 5-star staff.  Gerry along with everyone at Gezellig was stellar, thoughtful and attentive.  Even on a busy night like tonight, I was able to take a few minutes of Chef Che’s time to thank him for the incredible meal.  He was an absolute joy to meet and very gracious and down to earth.

And that is what is at the heart Gezellig’s appeal.  At its core lies an unpretentious, friendly and inviting restaurant where the staff, food and decor absolutely make you feel cozy, warm and among loved ones.  It is “gezellig” in name and definitely in spirit.  I can’t wait to go back again!

337 Richmond Road
Ottawa, ON

Gezellig on Urbanspoon

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