25 Oct
AquaTerra is one of those little gems that can make you think twice about Kingston’s food scene. First off, Kingston is one of those odd self-contradictory places not unlike most other college-towns. The “downtown” is edgy, modern and borderline hipster but take one step north of Princess St. and suddenly you’re teleported to pre-emancipation Kentucky. You expect the food here to be as literally bland as it is culturally monochromatic. But in reality, some of the best pho, vietnamese bun, and lamb korma is made in the mom and pop shops that litter the university and downtown district. And AquaTerra proves its contemporary Canadian fare is equally surprising in both quality and sophistication.

You can find it in the lobby of the Radisson by the waterfront and its absolutely gorgeous to see the water come right up to the picture windows. Being naturally deterred by large bodies of water, I’ve never actually had a “waterfront dining experience” and was jarred to see actual little boats bobbing up and down in the harbour. the restaurant’s “entrance” is really the lobby of the hotel which is a bargain, considering the hotel has provided shiny gilded surfaces and a marble fountain.

Kingston Waterfront from the other side. AquaTerra should be somewhere to your right. (Courtesy of TheKanqueror) 

The interior of the restaurant also confirms it as a great place to take a date–dimmed lighting, cushy corner-sofa seating and the waiters do the thing where they place the napkin in your nap for you (a service that stood out to me as appreciated by very much unnerving for anyone with personal space neuroses).

I scanned the menu and knew AquaTerra would be delicious when I saw that they really make the effort to source their ingredients locally. Truly, everything in the starters and the mains were incredibly fresh and better yet, in season.

Executive Chef Clark Day

The starters were my favourite part of the meal and were so creative that it was actually a bit weird making the transition from appetizer to main. For one, the starters seemed so much more congruous with the restaurant’s image and elegant decor. Not only were the mains a lot less inventive with presentation, it was also much larger in terms of portions (which I won’t wail about obviously). Still I think I was perfectly happy with the mains though they were more traditional (literally, meat and potatoes) but it was the contrast that was a little hard to ignore.

Despite these minor baffling details, I’ll definitely be heading back to AquaTerra for date nights and occasions when I can bother to put on pants.

Pan-seared Sea Scallops with pork belly hash, microgreens and apple julienne

Cinnamon Butter (!)
My disturbing obsession with flavoured butter is alive and well

Tuna Tartare with shallots, soft herbs, jalapeno aioli, crostini (sourced locally from Fred’s Bread) and jalapeno and lemon oil.

Escargot & Mushroom Fricassee with parmesan twist
The fricassee (meat stewed in gravy-like sauce) had the most phenomenal cream base, so rich and full-bodied.

White Stripe Lamb Rack with herb crust, roasted chipollini and tri-colour carrots, pomegranate gastrique (reduction), country potatoes and port demi-glace (rich brown sauce made with Port)

My lamb was ordered blue, which was a bit too rare in my opinion since it became hard to tell whether I was eating lamb or steak by the time I reached the cooler centre. Ideally, it would have been medium rare I think. The most impressive thing about the dish is probably its glaze and sauce, really complex and interesting to eat.

Grilled Rib Eye with peas, garlic mash, pearl onions, and bordelaise sauce.

weighing in at a whopping 16. oz. and cowboy cut, this was a might impressive steak (the picture really doesn’t do it justice, I say). The menu suggests that this should have come with summer succotash, which explains the oddly rustic selection of peas and mash. It’s a little too ‘cowboy’ when you consider how the meal began but definitely satisfying and delicious.
I’m also using a new camera! My old compact finally gave up the ghost and this one was so small and better yet, on sale. I’ve been really pleased with it so far–it’s outrageously impressive in low lighting (which is the case for pretty much every higher end restaurant) and the macro is so intuitive and easy to use.


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