Is it worth the trip to Oakville? You can be the judge after reading my review …
Sean Macdonald, a native of Calgary was encouraged by his mother, to go to culinary school at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, after a sports injury. After persevering, he found he actually loved it and had a talent for it. He worked in various kitchens honing his skill and working his way up, and garnered many accolades. So far in fact, he was eventually voted the top young chef in Canada for under 30 in San Pellegrino’s Top Ten. He then represented Canada in San Pellegrino’s young chef’s world championship in Milan Italy in 2016, all by the tender age of 24.
He claims Chef David Humm of Eleven Madison (the world’s #1 restaurant), and his cookbook, changed his whole perspective on food and developed his passion for cooking. Most mere mortals wouldn’t even attempt one of his complicated recipes. He also travelled to Croatia, Spain, Italy, Greece, Belgium and the Netherlands, and this also played a key role in his cooking.
When I dined there, Hexagon was I week old. There is no sign up yet, but it is at the back of the square. It is a handsome restaurant, designed by my friend William Fulghum, that seats about 50 people. There is a private dining room that can seat 12-18, a small upstairs lounge and an outdoor patio, with an electric awning, that faces the square. In all, it holds about 70. There are lots of natural materials, like wooden floors, blue leather banquets, grey marble tables, a beautiful agate lit wall, an open marble kitchen, and a small café in the front that will eventually serve coffee, and take out snacks. The fixtures are hexagon-shaped, and the room is dimly lit at night. Each table has a fresh flower arrangement and is candle lit. The front has a wall of glass windows that can fully open to the outside square and patio. Soft music plays in the background and it all makes for a relaxed elegance and a romantic evening. The restaurant has a high staff to guest ratio and we were well taken care of.
The menu is a take on modern French cuisine. The chef knows how to take simple ingredients and manipulate them in different ways. He looks for the texture, temperature, and proper balance to make natural flavours shine. This is a restaurant that only serves a tasting menu. There is a four-course tasting at $60, or a nine-course at $130. You can have a wine pairing with the latter at $70. These are relative bargain prices considering the amount of work that goes into each dish. On the night we dined they offered another course of our choosing for an additional $10. In each section of the four-course dinner there was ample choice. We selected the charred octopus with a water chili emulsion and a salsa negra. This was served with tiny homemade black tortillas. I can see this being a signature dish already. The summer harvest salad consisted of goat labneh, baby artichokes, pear and a pistachio miso. It is a good choice for those looking for something light. For our second course, we had a velvety foie gras in petit cake form with a preserved plum sauce and a chestnut cream. This came with a mini bagel. Loved it! We also had mini truffle shallot agnolotti in a maple glaze, with granny smith apples and spicy greens. For our third course, we had the lobster dish, a small, tender, succulent lobster in a rich bouillabaisse broth, chili butter emulsion and avocado sauce. We also tried a white fish called gilian that was grilled, with a white mole corn sauce, black sesame and water chestnuts. I found this dish to be a little too bland, and couldn’t taste all the components that were in the mole sauce. Now that I know the chef excels at duck, I would definitely try that dish next time. Everything is made in-house including the fabulous breads they serve. They have a small but impressive wine list, and a few cocktails as well. I had a French 75, a mixture of champagne, gin, lemon juice and simple syrup.
For dessert, I had the raspberry creamsicle that had so many components to it, some of which were the tonka bean mousse, the dried raspberries, and the scorched vanilla. But the showstopper was the Piñata, a Mexican take on the black banana ice cream, banana cinnamon crème Brulee and candied hazelnuts. For now, the restaurant is only open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday. The future plan is to open for lunch and Sunday brunch.
The restaurant reminds me a lot of the ever popular Alo in Toronto. But you can actually score a reservation here! I hope that Oakville will support this refined gastronomy, as it is really set apart from all other restaurants, not only in Oakville but Toronto for that matter. Chef Sean Macdonald is striving for culinary excellence, and he goes to great lengths to succeed. His new restaurant sets the stage for his creative talent.
Oakville’s gain is Toronto’s loss.