Moving is never easy. Having recently completed the great KW -> San Francisco -> KW circle, it’s curious to come back to a place and find it changed. Logical (I changed; it should, too) but a jolt nonetheless: streets torn up and old places with new names.
One new name we were told to keep an eye out for was Red House, recommended by one of M’s old coworkers as he won over our stomachs with a beautiful cod dish served in a miso broth; it brought back my year in Japan almost viscerally. Someone who cooked as well as he did (and who had steered us to gems tucked across the countless miles of Californian wine country) was someone to be trusted.
So, with a chill in the air as the sultry Ontario summer drew to a close, we made our reservation for Red House.
Finding the place filled with folks and lively conversation, we were glad we’d planned ahead. Our friendly, knowledgeable server let us know it was Tapas Tuesday, and a range of small plates were available for $5 each. We smiled, and responded: we’d take them all.
It was a delicious choice.
My favourite of the five was a roasted squash dish, served with baby kale and dollops of a slightly smoky and sweet maple ricotta. Maybe I’d just missed maple everything, while living in the Golden State, but more than anything, this dish pulled me back to Canada, and into fall.
Lardo, our next tapas, was something new: long, thin strips of salumi that were just off-white in color and with a texture almost reminiscent of thick rice noodles. It was paired with chopped hazelnuts, arugula, and a fresh tarragon vinaigrette, and we enjoyed the dish’s earthy, peppery, and savory nature. Curious? The Kitchn has a more in-depth description.
The mussel and shrimp fritters were a bright counterpoint, prettily plated with a brilliant green dill aioli and a crisp fennel slaw to complement the savory fritters. M’s not one for licorice-y flavours, so I had the slaw (joyfully) to myself. We grudgingly shared the last fritter, having quickly devoured the first two.
I had the benefit of having the patatas bravas served nearest to me, and while the smaller two-top felt gloriously if dangerously piled high when all five of the tapas dishes were served in short succession, cooperation and an attentive front-of-house staff team ensured that no dishes went flying, or sat around empty for long. I really enjoyed the pairing of caramelized onions and tomatoes with the potatoes, and piercing the perfectly poached egg on top of everything was a joyful moment. As a child, I preferred my poached eggs hard as hockey pucks; happily, this is something I’ve grown out of.
Of the five dishes, the grilled toast had some of the most memorable flavours: marinated peas, Grana Padano cheese, chilies, preserved lemons, and mint were piled on top of sweet loaf slices from local bakery Grainharvest. As you might guess, the towering nature of the toast made for a few runaway peas when we picked up the toasts, so part of me wished that some of the peas had been pureed to create a less wobbly base for the rest of the toppings, but the contrast in textures and flavours with this dish made it more than worth the balancing act.
As M and I have hollow legs, we split the lamb spaghetti for our entree: a popular choice, our server told us; that, and the ever-changing curry bowls were favorites among the restaurant’s regulars.
The regulars, we learned, have fantastic taste. With generous portions of lamb ragout, shiitake, cremini, and enoki mushrooms, as well as roasted tomatoes, the pasta was hearty, warming, and savoury: umami in the best of ways. I definitely plan to return and try it again, or perhaps one of the curry bowls, many of which whisked past our table, leaving hints of cumin and coriander trailing behind them.
Perhaps I’ll see you there.
In the meanwhile, happy fall; hope you’re keeping well, and staying warm.