By Michael Lowe
Savvy diners will know that RPM, in the title above, stands for Restaurant Pearl Morissette. The Niagara restaurant has become one of Canada’s most highly regarded dining destinations.
So, how do you elevate the experience at such a unique venue? By collaborating with the chefs from the restaurant that earned Canada’s first Michelin star.
Note: Top photo is courtesy of Milestones PR, the rest are from Michael Lowe.
Five years after my review of Restaurant Pearl Morissette, I am seated at the chef’s table with a select group of chefs and media. We are there to indulge in a 12-course tasting menu. The menu is a collaboration with guest chefs Ryusuke Nakagawa and Aiko Uchigoshi from Aburi Hana, located in Toronto, and RPM’s team headed by chefs Daniel Hadida and Eric Robertson. Arburi Hana provides a modern Kyo-Kaiseki, multi-course dining experience and their chefs are here to do a kaiseki style menu using Niagara ingredients.
RPM’s first plate is Mahone Bay (Nova Scotia) sea scallops accompanied by strawberry spinach, melon sage, borage flowers and grapes. It’s a study in delicacy and balance. Aburi Hana presents a rice cracker filled with burbot liver, ginger, hibiscus marinated rice, sturgeon caviar and garden vegetables. The dishes (photo above) are paired with Ninki Ichi Junmai Ginjo sparkling sake, which instantly prompts comments about the near-perfect match-up. The sake complements the scallop dish while it contrasts the rich, deep flavours of the burbot liver. Later, in review, we agree that it is one of the best pairings of the night.
Next, an owan is placed in front of each of us. Lifting the lid, we breathe in the aromas of dashi, manilla clams, fermented carrot juice and sesame tofu (photo above). It’s a bit of a challenge to eat using chopsticks, but well worth the effort. RPM served some of their delicious, hearty sourdough bread which helped to ensure no sauces in the following dishes were left behind.
The following two courses are Aburi Hana’s salmon sashimi “rose” with daikon radish, trout roe and chive oil (photo above, left) and RPM’s butter poached lobster with Beuregard peas, Oregon giant snow peas, black currants, holy basil and celtuce (photo above- right). All accompaniments to the lobster dish, as well as many of the ingredients used in other dishes, are grown on the RPM property.
The flavours in our next two dishes are as vibrant as they look on the plate. Pekin duck with summer squash, broccoli, zucchini blossom and prickly ash jus prepared by RPM (photo above, left). The duck is paired with Thorn & Burrow 2021 Gewürztraminer which expresses tropical and stone fruit for a great match. Aburi Hana’s beef short rib (photo above, right) is marinated in black garlic with red miso. It is served with sake lees mashed potato and shiro miso marinated celtuce. Wine paired with the beef is the outstanding Pearl Morissette L’Oublié 2015 Cabernet Franc.
To finish this memorable meal, a quartet of sweets is served in succession. They are, from left to right in the photo above — Panna cotta with ginger, honey, strawberry mousse and almond sponge cake. Mille Feuille with black cherries, black currant leaf, woodruff, and pansies. Hogweed cream tartlet with white currants, lemon verbena and tangerine gem marigold and Yuzu with fermented chicory bonbon. Throughout the dinner, the chefs introduced and explained the preparation and ingredients. This dinner was the first of two collaborations between the restaurants. The second slated for Aug. 9 at Aburi Hana is already sold out. I recommend keeping an eye on the restaurant’s social media posts (see links below) for upcoming special events. We are fortunate to have an establishment the calibre of Restaurant Pearl Morissette in our midst.