Contra

Dinner – Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Jeremiah Stone and Fabian von Hauske are the chef-owners of Contra and Wildair. The latter was a finalist for this year’s James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant, but it was the set menu format at the former that tempted us. The concept is, as I seem to describe most restaurants these days, “New American” – a reflection of their ethnicities, their fine-dining resumes, and (likely) their frequent collaboration dinners held at Contra. This meal came highly recommended, and I’m glad to say that we were not disappointed.

Caramelized onion purée, creme fraiche, trout roe, fig leaf

Raw scallop, scallop roe
Nasturtium, green strawberries, cilantro, leche de tigre

This dish really packed a punch with potent yet balanced bursts of salt and acid. The peppery nasturtium and pickled green strawberries added more dimensions to an already great ceviche.

Bread, cultured butter

White asparagus
Blue lump crab, fried capers, celery sabayon, wild garlic

Oven-roasted hake
Bone foam, arugula, fennel

My dish of the night. The (seriously well-cooked) fish was covered in a bone foam, that was then dusted with wakame and matcha powder. The bitterness of the tea was immediately evident and matched well with the anise of the fennel fronds. I only wish the seaweed flavour had come through more – that would’ve made this a 3-star plate.

Chicken
Morels, horseradish cream, shaved feta, ramps

Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheese, honey

Vanilla ice cream
Strawberries, basil, wood sorrel, shortbread

Banana, rye, raspberry, grapefruit
Probably the most intense banana ice cream I’ve ever had – this was fantastic, especially after being drizzled with a verjus caramel. The rye cake and crisps added requisite texture, and a dusting of raspberry powder provided sourness to balance the earthier sweetness of the ice cream.

This must be one of, if not the best bang-for-your-buck restaurant in the country. There are places in San Francisco trying to offer a similar experience, but honestly, Contra is on another level. The concise tasting menu was devoid of duds, and each course demonstrated breadth of flavours as well as technique. As of this writing, I’d put it within our top 5 meals of 2016 so far.

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