Welcome to Second Ferment! Wine pairs well with life ... and food, travel, people, work and play. Grab a glass and join me as I explore the wine scene in Ottawa, Canada, and beyond. Love hearing from my readers, so please leave a comment or drop me a line. Cheers! - Bethany

Monday, December 02, 2013

Table 21

Striking decor at Table 21
157 Pitt Street, Cornwall, Ontario
While I generally don't need a special occasion to drink wine, there were plenty to be celebrated this month, starting with Mum's birthday at Table21, a fine dining locale in my hometown of Cornwall, Ontario. (Yes, you read that right - "fine dining" and "Cornwall" in the same sentence.)

Please watch your step going up the 45-degree incline at the entrance. This close to sublime food and wine, you don't want to mess up the evening with a tumble. When our party reached the top, I had to pick my jaw up off the floor, having dropped it there in an astonished gasp. Were we still in Cornwall? Seriously? 

The decor was a slick, eclectic mix of natural elements, chic lighting and bold colours. The wine "rack" behind the bar made of tree slices held several dozen bottles in a gravity-defying perpendicular arrangement. Another rack—of the deer variety—hung from the ceiling in lieu of a chandelier. The forest motif continued along one wall in a long mural of skinny birch.

Already blown away by the atmosphere, I couldn't wait to get my hands on a menu.

Table21 is all about surf n' turf. This is a serious steakhouse, raw bar and seafood joint. First courses included seashore-fresh Lucky Lime and Beausoleil oysters, paired with a zesty Red Rooster Pinot Gris. Our group loved the salt-and-pepper shrimp, an off-menu kitchen creation of hefty prawns sizzling in a blend of grilled bell peppers and slaw spiked with red pepper flakes, served communal style. We sopped up the remnants with generous hunks of fresh bread and chattered over the din of loud conversation and thumping music while we waited for the next course.

If I see steak tartare on a menu, I can't pass it up. So I ordered the dish with high hopes and visions of chopped beef chunks highlighted with capers and onions, possibly sporting some grainy mustard or similar condiment. I was not prepared for the plate to arrive with what looked like a quarter-pound of raw hamburger heaped in the middle. I was assured that the cut was, in fact, filet mignon, hand-ground by the owner herself that morning, and not even close to being the grocery store stuff of questionable providence. Still, I'm a texture girl. The seasoning was well-balanced and flavourful, and the quail's egg garnish was yummy, but it needed work in terms of presentation.

The other entrees arrived perfectly cooked to order: a porterhouse in a red wine reduction; a striploin with spinach risotto al dente; rib steak simmering in a peppercorn sauce. Dad splurged on a glass of Kitchen Sink Red, a robust California blend destined to be matched with all things carnivorous. Our generous servings finished, we were far too stuffed for dessert, and rolled out of there full and happy.

I've seen quite a few restaurants come and go in Cornwall; there doesn't seem to be much of a demand for fine dining here. But there are rumours of change, of a younger generation wanting to dial it up a notch from the usual hum-drum of 24-hour diners and fast-food outlets. Young chefs and entrepreneurs are taking a crack at the hospitality biz as the city around them continues to re-invent itself. Not even open a full two years, Table21 has obviously been well-received and successfully added to the roster of growing foodie havens in this little town.

Many thanks to the marvellous Bella, our gracious, attentive and delightful server (who needs to move to Ottawa pronto and work at Beckta, she's that damn good.)

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