Restaurants in the City of Burlington offer A Taste of Burlington as their version of Winterlicious, which is a food festival held in January to early February in Toronto. This winter event for Burlington runs from February 17 to March 10 this year. The restaurants selected by the Burlington Board of Tourism offer a prix fixe menu for lunch and dinner. No chain restaurants are included. Over the years, I have tasted some very fine food in this food festival. Red Canoe Bistro was our pick this evening for me and my family. We were offered an 8:00 p.m. reservation when I called. When we arrived, the other patrons also appeared to have just arrived, as they were still studying the menu, or being offered their drinks. Red Canoe exuded a cozy and warm atmosphere. There were about ten tables. Decor was simple yet appropriate for a bistro-style restaurant–photographs in black frames and colourful jars of preserves lined the wall behind the benches.
Three waitresses were working behind the bar and they looked busy. Someone came to offer us water, but she did not notice that we did not have the right menu and when she brought the menu, she did not bring a wine list. Finally we ordered. There were three choices for each category of the three-course dinner, and we managed to select most of them among us to maximize the tasting. While we were waiting for the food, we nibbled away the bread dipped in olive oil.
For the starter, the choices were: Ontario venison chili with Ontario beans, Roast Ontario winter vegetables and spinach salad, and Ontario carrot and celeriac soup with roast cauliflower and tarragon emulsion.
I liked my soup. It had the right texture and beautiful soup base. My husband and my son also found the venison nicely done, and not tough.
I was the only person who selected fish for the main course. It was Ontario bass with lobster and red lentil pilaf. The others all opted for the braised Ontario lamb shank. To go with the majority, we chose an Australia Shiraz, which was my favourite and always safe to fall back on. Everybody liked the shank. I felt the portion of my fish was a bit small, but otherwise, it as a delightful dish, especially the lobster and the flavourful pilaf.
For dessert, I chose the dark chocolate almond cake with soy yogurt, my husband selected the sweet ham pie and my daughter, an ice cream lover, went for maple apple strudel with maple walnut ice-cream. We all found the dessert a healthy treat with a sweetness that is not overwhelming.
It was a lovely meal in taste and in choice of ingredients, for the menu was designed to feature Ontario produce and meat. The only disappointment was the slow service, which could be condoned by the full house if not by the ample time we enjoyed for our family conversation. However, when it was really time to go since one of us had to catch an early flight the following day, we were waiting from being patiently to impatiently for the bill, while the waitresses were chatting behind the bar. I ado hope that the service will be improved when I return to the restaurant when it is not during a Taste of Burlington.
Red Canoe Bistro, 388 John Street, Burlington, Ontario.