Only open less than a year, The Restaurant at Pearl Morissette, located just west of St. Catherines, in Ontario, has been crowned En Route’s Magazine prestigious Best New Restaurant in Canada.
The restaurant is on the property of the Pearl Morissette Niagara Winery inside a two-story renovated barn, at 3953 Jordan Road Station. There is no sign or name out front, but a large sculpture of a red cardinal to mark the entrance to the driveway. They’re open four days a week, Thursday to Sunday for dinner, and the same menu at lunch on Saturday and Sundays.
Young and talented co-chefs, Daniel Hadida and Eric Roberson are both Ontario natives, who have worked in prestigious kitchens from Europe to South America. They have come together to create a kitchen producing seasonal, local, organic produce from small scale producers. With an emphasis on ingredients of the highest quality, based on availability. When I say local, I am talking vegetables and herbs grown in their own garden, as well as hogs and cattle. If they don’t grow it, they personally source it. Now they are going as far as the east coast to get some of their fish. The bread, and butter and most everything is made in house. And oh that bread, a rye sourdough and cornmeal bread that is served warm out of the oven. They offer a five or more course blind tasting menu. When you make your booking they ask if you have any allergies, or food that you don’t tolerate. Then, you leave the rest in their capable hands. At $88 this is reasonably priced, and would probably be a lot more if served in any bigger city.
This 32 seat restaurant is chic, intimate, casual, minimalist and serene. Try and request a large picture window , of which they have two, that creates an indoor/outdoor feel. However, if your party is larger than two, then it is most likely you will be seated in the back of the restaurant. One window overlooks the winery and we got to see them harvesting some late Cabernet franc grapes. The other side overlooks the pond, vineyards and farm. There is an open kitchen where you see Chefs Daniel and Eric, work alongside their team to create a French and Canadian, inspired cuisine. All the ceramics and utensils are custom crafted by locals, and everything is hand washed by the chefs and staff.
I am told the restaurant is compared to Noma in Copenhagen, where they also forage and cook seasonally. Central, in Lima Peru, also comes to mind to me as well, but on a more casual level. Chef Hadid told me he worked their for a while, and I was not surprised. The food is not elaborately presented, but I would say it was beautiful, thoughtfully presented, and prepared. It had attention to detail and was multilayered.
The chefs came out themselves to present many of the courses, and describe each dish. You could sense the passion and pride in each plate. The tart, and guinea hen were my favourite dishes, but everything the chefs’ showcase is creative, and unique, with a connection between the farm and table.
There is no wine tasting or store at the winery for the foreseeable future because of their popularity, the wines are low in supply. The restaurant is one of the few places where you can taste their wines. We did a wine pairing, where we sampled a few of their own wines as well as some small batch producers from Italy and France and Spain. This cost $70. Kristen Daigle manages the restaurant and the wine program, and she is doing an outstanding job, as does Svettana Atcheva, who also selects the wines and works with the winery. But you can also order a la carte. We also tried a juice pairing, some sweet and some savoury. Something that the restaurant is instituting is a no tipping policy. The tips are included in your price. The servers could have been a little more polished and ours in particular, a little more friendly. However, the two women working there were very nice.
We liked coming for lunch, so you can explore the property as well as the nearby town, and drive home before it gets dark. Our drive was about 1 1/2 hours from Toronto.
This little barn was a fine dining destination. Highly recommend.