Chef Chris Mills of Joey Restaurants (Joey Don Mills to be more Toronto-specific, but he's based in British Columbia) was in town at The Burroughes this past Wednesday. He tested out his Pacific Rim-inspired menu on diners in Toronto before he takes it to the James Beard House later this month. The James Beard Foundation, a not-for-profit organization in New York City with a mission to celebrate, nurture and preserve America's diverse culinary heritage and future, has invited him back to cook at the House. Chef Mills was there in 2006 and, to paraphrase him, his second invitation means either he was phenomenal and they want an encore, or he screwed up and they are giving him another chance. My guess is it's the former, judging by the quality of the food - some of which Chef Mills actually foraged for himself. In my experience, he's one of the best chefs we know when it comes to fish and seafood. Living in British Columbia, he knows quite a bit about both.
We got to be his guinea pigs for that final test run before he and his team head off to NYC. We should also note this is the first time a chef has been able to bring servers with him (usually the servers are staffed by the House). So as much as the evening was about the food, the servers were also getting prepped for their big day.
Unfortunately we missed being served some of the appetizers (Peaches & Cream Chicken 'Corndog', Japanese Hummus, Chicken Tacos) but we did have the Pacific Tuna Chopsticks, which I loved the presentation of and told Chef Mills exactly that when he came around to say hi. The hors d'oeuvres were served with Joie Rose from British Columbia.
Dinner was a multi-course experience, each paired quite nicely with an appropriate wine, followed by a delicious dessert - here's what we had (in addition to a Waldorf Salad as a palate cleanser and some Blackberry/Lavender Financiers to finish off the meal):
- Citrus-cured Haida Gwaii Salmon with Dungeness Crab Flan and Cornbread - The crab flan was delightfully rich, I think some thought it was *too* rich but I personally loved it. I'm a salmon freak (raw, cured and smoked being more my favourites than cooked) and curing it with light and tangy citrus was just heavenly. This was probably my favourite dish if I had to choose one. Wine pairing: L'école 41 "Walla Voila" Chenin Blanc, Washington
- Atlantic Black Cod, BBQ Pork Belly and Squash Dumpling in a Matsutake Mushroom Broth - Never have I tasted such richly-prepared fish - I thought it would fade next to the rich pork belly, but it really stood up to it. Punched it in the snout, even. Loved it. The mushroom broth was poured over top of the dish by the servers and you could smell it wafting up from the bowl. A well-executed job at mixing fish and meat in one dish. It was topped with a ginger shoot (essentially that's what starts growing off ginger after a while, sort of like potatoes grow those "eyes" - it was a milder ginger taste, and was absolutely delicious) Wine pairing: Sandhill "Small Lots" Viognier, British Columbia (not widely available since it's part of the small lots program - this was the first time I've had a Viognier and I loved how viscous it was, plus the fruitiness and sweetness of it)
- Licorice-lacquered Duck Breast, Summer Cherry Conserve, with a Hazelnut-Crusted Korean Duck Roll - The anise lacquer on the duck breast was delicious, and cherries with duck = match made in heaven. The duck roll was good also but the real star was the duck breast, cooked just to the right doneness. Wine pairing: Sonoma Cutrer "Russian River Valley" Pinot Noir, California
- 45-Day-Aged Beef Rib Eye with Yukon Gold Potato, Braised Oxtail and Black Trumpet Mushroom Lasagna and Bellmann Farm Carrots - Delicious all around. Loved the idea of doing the "lasagna" with layers of potato rather than noodles - it was quite delicious. Wine Pairing: Efeste "Ceidleigh" Syrah, Washington (I think this was Mark's favourite wine, he was talking about it the rest of the night!)
- Vietnamese Banana Cake with Tropical Fruit Salad and Toasted Coconut Ice Cream - This was incredible, the cake was INSANELY moist, the coconut ice cream was better than any coconut ice cream I've had as it had another dimension of flavour with the toasted taste coming through nicely. The tropical fruit salad starred kiwi and banana - what a great combination that I've just never thought to put together... This item will soon be hitting the dessert menu at Joey Don Mills so if you're there, I beg you to give this a try - It's incredible. Wine pairing: Inniskillin "Okanagan" Riesling Ice Wine, British Columbia
Yours in food,