Recently, I was contacted by Sherman of Sherman’s Food Adventures wondering if anyone was up for Kosher food at The Maple Grill. Being naturally curious and never having been to an authentic Kosher restaurant, the answer was…of course!
Having only a cursory understanding of Kosher food, I sought out some insight on Wikipedia. What I discovered there was, to say the least, slightly weird. Only animals that chew their cud and have cloven hooves are Kosher. Therefore, no pork. Seafood has to have had fins and scales. Therefore, no shellfish or crustaceans. The Kosher rules at Maple Grill completely preclude dairy. No butter, milk or cheese. This is odd considering dairy from Kosher mammals is permissible. Looks like no bacon-wrapped oysters in Bearnaise tonight!
The Maple Grill has a sleek, very clean and welcoming façade. Once inside, with a warm greeting, there’s a feeling of great comfort. The service here is professional and courteous without any pretense whatsoever.
For our appetizers we chose Baba Ganoush and Ima’s Hummus. Both were served with grilled pita bread.
The Baba Ganoush was tasty yet not as full-flavoured as we had hoped. Additional garlic, lemon and cumin would’ve livened this up considerably.
Ima’s Hummus was a bit more flavourful but also lacked the intensity I’m used to. As with the Baba Ganoush, this could use a larger whack of garlic and a bigger hit of lemon. The really noticeable ingredient was the tahini.
For an additional starter the four of us split two bowls of Matzo Ball Soup. Matzo is a type of Jewish bread or cracker. The crackers are ground and mixed with eggs, oil or chicken fat, seltzer, salt and pepper and formed into large. tender dumplings. These balls, however, were quite dense. The broth, on the light side, would of been great if I had an upset stomach.
For our dinners, there are six mains and eight side dishes on offer. As with the Jewish tradition of hospitality, you can have seconds or even thirds of the side dishes. Being somewhat savvy foodies, we all chose different mains and got all eight sides.
Sherman’s choice was the Maple Salmon with Steamed Seasonal Vegetables and Saffron Risotto. A rather large salmon fillet is marinated in orange juice and pure maple syrup. The fish was nicely cooked…flaky and tender with just enough sweetness. The vegetables, due to a lack of butter and seasoning, were sub-par. The risotto was just overcooked rice in chicken stock. Without Parmigiano-Reggiano, it shouldn’t of been called risotto. As Sherman mentioned, this was one step removed from congee.
Kim went with the Mezurashii Ahi Tuna with Roasted Bell Peppers, Asparagus and Rosemary Potatoes. Instead of asparagus, it looks like Kim got quartered beets. As with Sherman’s choice, the protein was excellent and full of flavour, yet the sides were mediocre and uninspiring.
Victoria decided on the Lamb Chops Dijon with Israeli Salad and Basmati and Wild Rice. In the menu lottery, she came out as the winner. The lamb chops, in an orange marinade, were a perfect medium-rare. The Israeli Salad was a light, refreshing counterpoint. The rice, although well-cooked, was basmati only.
My selection was the Turkey Schnitzel with extra rosemary. Actually, I didn’t order extra rosemary. I didn’t have to. There was enough provided to start my own herb supply company. I could’ve wrapped it up, taken it home, placed it in my freezer and seasoned my meals for the rest of the year. What a waste of good herb. The schnitzel itself was perfectly cooked. Unfortunately, it was (again) under-seasoned and somewhat bland. The sides were the same. The Garlic Mashed Potatoes were seasoned with dill and very little, if any garlic. A complete absence of butter and cream left them dry and completely underwhelming. The Szechuan Chop Suey were a pan-fried medley of bell peppers, green beans, onions and carrots…the “Szechuan” nowhere in sight.
For dessert we all shared the Poppyseed Ring with Soy Vanilla Ice Cream. After ordering this, we all sat around chatting. Twenty minutes or so went by and we still hadn’t gotten our dessert. Then it arrived, hot and fresh from the oven. It was delicious. Tender and flaky but missing the butteriness one is used to.
As this is a brand-new restaurant, I will cut them some slack. Aside from my schnitzel, the other three mains were very good, full of flavour. All of the sides, save the Israeli Salad, were bland due to lack of fat and/or spice. I fully understand and respect that there are dietary restrictions here that must be adhered to. It’s just that several integral elements of great cuisine are omitted in the process.