Feast + Revel gets better with age…
Early tastes of the dining room of the newly opened Andaz Hotel were mostly discouraging. For every promising plate there followed a complete dud. I won’t bore you with the details, but it was, initially anyway, pretty Jekyll and Hyde.
I decided to give Feast + Revel two months to see if it could work out the kinks, and the kitchen appears to have done just that. My last two meals have been uniformly excellent. So has the service, which has improved dramatically. Still kind and welcoming – that hasn’t changed – but now more fluent on the nitty gritty of the menu.
Feast + Revel is a glassy box, windowed on two sides, modernly monochromatic in shades of grey, with touches of lumberjack plaid on upholstered booths. There are a few shiny copper accents and a dark-stained wooden pergola above a long communal table that runs the centre of the room.
In charge of the kitchen is executive chef Stephen La Salle, previously head chef at Novotel, where he put that hotel on the good-food radar with the British pub fare served at The Albion Rooms.
No Scotch eggs on this menu. Feast + Revel has a more Canadian focus, including some nods to Indigenous foods. You can begin with bannock, for example (two bucks for four buns), though the whipped arugula butter feels less historic. There’s poutine, of course, like any good Canadiana menu, updated with soft lamb and fondant potato, along with elk from The Elk Ranch and Mariposa duck. Beef comes from a family farm in Perth. There’s pudding chômeur for dessert. (Read on.)
But we start with the less local octopus, and it’s a triumph of a starter. Braised then burnished on the grill, crisp and terrifically tender, the meat is propped up on browned florets of cauliflower and Romanesco that have been roasted in seaweed-infused oil, then drizzled with an anchovy gremolata and dusted with dulse powder.
I’m seeing more carrot salads on winter menus around town, and this one is a winner. Lightly smoked, then roasted, the carrots cover a downy pillow of whipped feta, punctuated with hazelnuts, and drizzled with a vinaigrette that tastes wonderfully of fall plums.
The halibut I had in the fall has been replaced with sablefish on the winter menu. A luxurious fish, the skin is here blackened with caramelized soy and maple, and set in a shallow bowl pooled with a sticky-dark broth. With the fish are perfectly steamed middleneck clams (still hot – so rare), petals of braised bok choy, wedges of radish, and a confetti of scallion rings. We ask for a spoon to lap up every lick of the sauce. There’s a chicken dish, which bills itself as a coq au vin, and isn’t quite that, but delights nonetheless. The breast is cooked sous vide and is very moist, surrounded with pulled meat from the confit-ed leg, gnocchi, braised cipollinis, winter mushrooms, and bacon lardon. The elements come together in a wine-sauce reduced to a rich, ruby glaze, the plate finished with snipped chives.
I haven’t tried the sharing plates – there’s a bouillabaisse for two ($55), duck for four ($75), and a beef feast for six ($95) — and while I love the idea of sharing plates, particularly in a hotel dining room, I’m curious to know how many of these they sell. Or whether they amount to a great deal. Someone should let me know.
For dessert, the old-school Quebecois pudding chômeur is more a moist cake, topped with a bubbling maple syrup caramel and a blob of vanilla-yogurt ice cream. It comes from the Andaz Hotel’s neighbour, Sash Gelato, and delivers some cool tang to the hot sweet. Raspberries are plopped on top. Hardly traditional Poor Man’s Pudding, but very tasty.
I left Feast + Revel after a terrific cocktail nightcap at Copper (the rooftop lounge with its delicious view of the city) feeling much more encouraged. Mister Hyde had left the building.
Mains, $22 to $37
Andaz Hotel, 325 Dalhousie Street, 613-321-1234