I can’t think of a single open kitchen in this region where the view is of chefs in monogrammed white jacket and traditional hundred pleat toque. Most everywhere, if you do get a peek into the back, the worker bees are in tees. A skull cap keeps the locks in place. Maybe a bandana.
Not a bit of that at Le Baccara. The fine dining restaurant of the Casino du Lac Leamy is now in a class of its own. All the others of its haute French ilk have disappeared.
After fifteen years Le Baccara is a bit hotel-issue dated looking. More timeless are many of the floor staff — including the brilliant sommelier and wine manager Danielle Dupont — who have been here since Day One. But after a decade of leading the kitchen, chef de cuisine Serge Rourre left last year. He’s now at La Cité, instructing the next generation in les arts culinaires. Stepping up is sous chef Pierre Lortie.
The best way to get the very most out of an evening at Le Baccara is to point to the Grand Menu Dégustation (five or eight courses) and allow Dupont to select accompanying wines.
The show begins with bread and house made butter, and then an amuse – a rich tuna rillette refreshed with a wee green apple and cucumber salad. Course one (of five) was a lovely poached lobster, the tail and claw juicy and yielding, scented with lemongrass and smeared lightly with a ginger paste. It came supported with beet-stained rounds of daikon and a julienned salad of radish, green papaya, carrot and snow peas. Providing some salty pop, BC’s Northern Divine caviar was spooned on a taro root chip. The quivering mound of white on the plate, topped with a green chiffonade of nori, turned out to be a coconut milk foam, while intensely orange dobs of a yuzu and ginger gelée delivered a brilliant flavour bomb to the dish. It was magnificent.
One splendid scallop was the next course, iced with browned almonds on a creamy leek fondue, set in a squash velouté with truffle foam and served with a crisp strip of wild boar bacon. Then seared foie gras with three treatments of passion fruit.
The game course was a loin of Red deer, crusted with hazelnuts and juniper berries and served with a delicate tian of sweet potato, perfectly judged. The fruit with game rule was met with tart Morello cherries.
Et finalement, dessert: dark and white chocolate vying for affection, brightened with things pink and pretty. Then coffee, chocolates, et mignardises. (Such a sweet way to soften the blow of the bill.) Worth every penny. This is polished and disciplined and seductive French cooking, as fine as you’ll find in this region. You must go through the casino under construction to get to it, but you should get to it. There’s precious little of it left anywhere else.
First published in Ottawa Magazine, for DesBrisay Dines columns, March 3, 2014