The Catbird Seat

Dinner РThursday, December 28, 2017

The Catbird Seat has been on my list since the days of Josh Habiger (who now cooks at Bastion, which we visited the day before this meal – also excellent). The 22-seat counter-only restaurant is now helmed by Ryan Poli, whose food I last ate at Perennial in Chicago many years ago. Despite the recent acclaim, I knew very little about what he’s been dishing up since taking over The Catbird Seat, so we walked into dinner with a blank slate – a rare occasion these days, and quite exciting.

Slow-cooked butternut squash
Fermented butter, kombu oil, toasted kombu

Sunflower seed risotto
Parmigiano Reggiano, Perigord truffles

The non-alcoholic beverage pairing was an intriguing steeping of five barley varieties enriched with hops extract – rather brilliant. The risotto, too, was excellent – aromatic and creamy but with toothsome “grains”.

Wakame pasta
Yuzu kosho sauce, housemade scallop bottarga

Grilled cauliflower
Black garlic, cashew puree, poached turnip

The cauliflower had been marinated in sake lees, then dusted with black garlic powder. This course was a real umami bomb – rich and pleasurable but a little overwhelming.

Bear Creek Farms sirloin in umami crust
Beef fat, grilled carrot, crosnes, BBQ tofu puree

The umami crust is sort of like Colonel Sanders’ secret recipe – a mix of over 20 ingredients, including powdered mushrooms and candied ginger. On the palate, it came across as salty, sweet and with a slight heat. The richer ingredients (including a silky smooth, smoky tofu puree) were balanced out by two dainty lacto-fermented crosnes – one of my favourite ingredients.

Buttermilk panna cotta
Lemony olive oil, tangerine leaves

Butterscotch custard
Burnt caramel ice cream, polenta cookie crumble, Luxardo cherries

Cookies

A shorter menu than I expected, and well thought out if slightly on the rich side – perhaps due to the winter season? The beverage service overseen by Matthew Poli (the chef’s brother) was spot-on – excellent value and perhaps some of the most creative pairings we’ve seen in a while. This was a fun meal, and I’d definitely return for more.

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