It was one of those unusual summer-of-‘17 evenings when the skies were clear, the winds soft and bugs in hiding, and we felt lucky to be where we were: in Wakefield, on the large front deck of Nikosi, a ‘Bistro-Pub’ on chemin Riverside, open since January. Our table allowed a clear view of the Gatineau River, and that, combined with good pub food starters, and a well-made gin and soda with spruce syrup made us mighty happy. So happy we were not prepared to allow the two dishes that let us down to bring us down. Enough works at Nikosi, and that was enough.
Run by Gatineau restaurateur Wapokunie Riel-Lachapelle, Nikosi’s mission is to fuse homey Quebecois fare (poutine, onion soup, duck confit) with some aboriginal content (bannock, berries, game meat). Inside Nikosi, the rooms are woodsy and rustic-chic, and both the bar and floor are served by a gang of super nice kids.
One of those nice kids brought me duck drumsticks that first visit, meaty and moist, burnished with a dark, sticky barbecue sauce of ample flavour and considerable heat, served with veggie sticks and a blue cheese dunking sauce. Another delivered trout cakes, dense with lumpy fish, but lightly packed and nicely herbed, supplied with a caper sauce piqued with horseradish and a little green salad.
Main dishes that night were a completely delicious wild boar burger, topped with melted old cheddar and well caramelized onion, tucked in a seedy kaiser, served with both fries (sweet potato) and greens (thank you) and then a first dud in an overcooked trout filet, on a bed of soggy quinoa and crunchy wild rice.
Another visit, toward the end of summer, back on that deck, and a second attempt with the trout – same disappointment. We ordered as well, the pulled duck, the shreds of meat in bannock buns that were too dry. Better luck with the duck confit, the crispy leg propped up on a spinach salad with feta, blueberries, cranberries and bannock croutons.
Portions at Nikosi are generous, and prices remarkably fair. The bar makes some well-balanced drinks, the wine list is short (and pretty ordinary), the beer list longer with good craft choices on tap. And if our summer lingers (arrives?) in September, take advantage of Nikosi’s happy-making deck, with a plate of duck drums and fish cakes, washed down with a spruced-up Negroni or a glass of Quebec cider.