September 1, 2011

Dinner @ Bannock

O & B's newest restaurant- Bannock (pronounced BAN-nick) is situated at The Bay's flagship store at the corner of Queen and Bay. In case you're wondering, the restaurant is named after a traditional Scottish flatbread that was adopted by indigenous people and early settlers. 
You can glimpse into the dining room from the department store. I was surprised at how small the dining area is compared to other O & B restaurants, and it was extremely loud, to the point that I often found myself yelling just to be heard by my dining companions. However, the overall ambiance had a casual charm that made the dining experience fun and pleasant. We also enjoyed a nice view of old city hall right across the street.
On the other side of the dining room, there is a grab-and-go café, similar to the one at the O & B Canteen, offering an assortment of salads, sandwiches and pastries.  
The concept of Canadian comfort food is intriguing to me because my knowledge of Canadian cuisine is limited to poutines and beaver tails. So I was pleasantly surprised at the variety of dishes offered on the menu that were "Canadian".  
I sipped on a mighty canuck — vodka, maple syrup infused lemonade, and rimmed with candied lemon while waiting for the meal. While the drink itself was quite tasty, it was a bad idea to drink on an empty stomach.
One of my friends ordered a small bbq chicken + tortilla soup to start. The soup was hearty and full of smokey flavours. I imagined that drinking its entirety would have been enough to fill me up for the meal. The soup was so thick with chicken that it was really more of a chilli than a soup. The crispy tortilla strips on top added a nice crunchy texture. I immensely enjoyed the two scoops that I sampled.
Another friend ordered a bannock caesar to start, with romaine hearts, bannock croutons, and horseradish. The salad was also very satisfying, as there was a generous splatter of cheese. I liked the substitution of traditional croutons with bannock, which added an innovative twist to a very commonplace salad. 
Since one of us had to try a bannock, my friend opted for the bannock bannock, with house -smoked salmon, onion, cumin, and cream cheese, served with a side of root vegetable crisps. My friend folded the bannock in half and ate it like a tortilla wrap. The two bites that I had were very well-balanced, with the tangy pickled onions contrasting the smokiness of the salmon. The bannock itself was slightly spongy and not very crispy, like a naan bread. Overall, I liked the bannock a lot and I would order it again, perhaps with different toppings.
Another friend ordered the pickerel taco with caviar tartar and a side of cucumber apple salad. I only tried the taco and not the salad. We expected a crispy taco shell, but instead the taco was very spongy and soft, like a Chinese steamed bun. From the bite I had, this was also quite delicious and my friend really enjoyed it. One complaint was that I wished there was more filling to go with that spongy, bun-like taco shell.
This was the boneless back rib burger with smokey tomato jam and maple mustard bbq, also with a side of root vegetable crisps. Although this was my boyfriend's order, I ended up eating most of it because I enjoyed it so much. The back rib patty was moist and flavourful, but best of all was that smokey tomato jam, which really added a sweet and tangy kick to the burger. I usually like sticking with beef burgers, but this one exceeded my expectations. My boyfriend, having been coerced into ordering this by me, was less happy with it, so he ended up finishing my entrée instead.
I went for st-canut pulled pork tourtière with honey roots, greens, and heinz ketchup. 
A tourtière is, in essence, a meat pie originating from Quebec.
I wasn't wowed by it in any sense, although the flavours were good and the pastry was nicely done. It was a little too meat-heavy for my liking, but I imagine meat-lovers would really enjoy it. I actually preferred eating it by itself rather than with the ketchup.
We only ordered one dessert to try since we had plans for dessert elsewhere, and my friend chose the canoe fireweed butter tart. I never knew that the butter tart is a quintessential Canadian dessert. But regardless of its origin, the tart was ridiculously yummy comfort food at its best! The pastry shell was perfectly flaky and the maple syrup-infused filling was super gooey and rich. It's a winning combination and a fabulous end to an amazing meal. I can't wait to return to try out other menu items, such as the roast duck poutine pizza and the warm s'mores pie!
Bannock on Urbanspoon

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