My friend and I decided to partake in Downtown Dining Week on a Thursday, but given her change of schedule, we went on a Wednesday instead. The both of us agreed that the menu of Niche sounded superb.
It is a tiny downtown eatery located right beneath the Hardwood Plaza complex just off of Jasper Avenue and 110 street (formerly Hardwood Cafe). It was a perfect location for me to have dinner that night as work is a stone's throw away and indeed I was hungry after work. My friend and I got there early and we had no reservations. I called earlier in the day to reserve a table for the both of us. No one answered but eventually went to voicemail. The voicemail message indicated that they were no longer taking reservations as Downtown Dining Week was superbusy. And given that it is only a 32-seater restaurant, it's no wonder.
My friend arrived first and I arrived a few minutes later. We were seated right by the window close to the bar. The waitress arrived shortly to explain that this table that we were seated as was already reserved for a party at 7:00pm. All their tables were completely booked, but it wasn't until after 7:00pm would these people start showing up. My friend and I agreed that she didn't exactly make us feel welcome...and we understood that she had the table booked, but her tone wasn't exactly 'friendly'. She then told us that the kitchen doesn't start serving food until 5:30pm and it was just a little past 5:00pm when she told us. Our stomachs were growling with hunger, while we contemplated whether we should stay here or not. If the menu didn't sound as good as it did, we would of bolted out the door as we didn't really feel welcomed at all...however, we decided to stick with the original plan.
The Downtown Dining Menu consisted of a soup or salad/main entree/dessert. The appetizers consisted of yellow lentil soup with braised pork or quinoa salad with roasted vegetables and spinach in a lemon tahini vinaigrette. The entrees consisted of Spring Creek braised beef cheeks in a wild mushroom sauce tossed with broad egg noodles; Confit of Brome Lake Duck with golden mashed potatoes with lemon thyme gravy; roasted pork loin in a blackberry gastrique; or curried cauliflower with sundried apricots and wild rice. And don't forget dessert-salted lemon brownie served with a lemon honey yogurt cheese.
I opted for the quinoa salad while my friend chose the lentil soup. Personally, my salad was way too oily because of the vinaigrette and that basically masked everything else; I didn't care much for it. My friend's soup on the other hand, was delicious! It was creamy without being too salty and the braised pork added a perfect touch to it.
|Quinoa salad on spinach.|
|Yellow lentil soup with braised pork.|
We both chose the Braised beef cheeks and noodles entree (surprise, surprise!) as it sounded superbly delicious and I believe it is one of the restaurant's specialities. To our surprise, the dish was very similiar to beef stroganoff. I was expecting bigger chunks of beef cheeks, but instead were small chunks of beef. the dish was tasty, but for some reason when I read the description, we failed to make the link that it would be similar to beef stroganoff.
|Braised beef cheeks in a wild mushroom sauce with broad egg noodles.|
For dessert, there was only one option-the salted lemon brownie. Very tasty and different-the saltiness of the brownie added a different twist to the conventional sweet brownie. We both literally licked our plates clean!
|Salted brownie with lemon yogurt honey sauce.|
Overall, this restaurant was good. The food was good but wasn't anything that made me jump out of my seat. For me the menu sounded a lot better than the actual taste of the food. Although the service improved over the course of our meal, we both disliked the fact how she made us feel slightly unwelcomed. With that being said, I'm not sure if I'll come back here as the food, if not on special, is quite pricey (although they have a unique bathroom though!).
Verdict: pretty scrumptious
Niche is located on 11011-Jasper Avenue