September 20, 2011
Félix and Helen invited Linda and me to dinner at Beckta on July 23, 2011. This restaurant was founded eight years ago by Stephen Beckta when he returned to Ottawa after working at Café Boulud and Eleven Madison Park in New York. The restaurant is in an old house in a residential area just southwest of central Ottawa. We were seated at the table in the front of the dining room in the bay window looking onto the street.
The bread selection was baguettes, whole grain or date fennel. They were served with a choice of regular or caramelized butter. Five and eight course tasting menus, with optional wine pairings, were offered, but we decided to order à la carte.
We ordered a bottle of 2009 Organized Crime Fumé Blanc. This Niagara winery gets its name from an episode of one Mennonite congregation stealing the pipe organ of another. The wine is made with 85% Sauvignon Blanc (of which 50% was dried in a tobacco kiln) and 15% Viognier (of which 100% was dried) then aged in older barrels for 7-8 months. This was eventually followed by a bottle of 2008 Quail’s Gate Chardonnay. This wine is from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. Both were enjoyable and went well with the cuisine.
Félix and Helen started with
Rice Chips, Pickled Jalapeño, Crispy Pork Belly, Nori Mayo and Grilled Spring Onion
They enjoyed this well coordinated ethnic mélange.
Linda’s first course was
House Made Garganelli Pasta
Rabbit Confit, Roasted Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes, Summer Squash, Smoked Tomatillo-Tomato Sauce and Shaved Ossau Iraty
The texture and taste of the rolled, fresh pasta provided an excellent base for the rabbit, squash and tomato sauce. The unusual addition of Ossau Iraty, a sheep’s milk cheese from the Pyrenées, capped this excellent course.
Heirloom Radish Salad
Brown Butter Sable, Black Pepper Mascarpone Mousse, Nasturtiums and Sweet Lemon Vinaigrette
The radishes were crisp with varying degrees of spiciness. They were enlivened by the brown butter “sand,” which added some flavorful, coarse texture.
The main course for Félix and Helen was
Ginger Root Risotto, Mussel Escabèche, Wilted Pea Shoots, Shaved Fennel & Fronds and Milk Foam with Ginger Crystals
They reported that is was excellent.
Linda went on to
Cornish Game Hen
Cinnamon-Dusted Spatchcocked Hen, Lemon Spaetzle, Wilted Arugula, Creamed Leeks and Espresso Beurre Pan Jus
The light cinnamon flavor gave the well prepared game hen an extra zest. The spätzle were fun and good. This was a successful combination with the small circles of leeks and wilted lettuce.
With this she had a glass of “Sideral” Altaïr, Rapel Valley, Chile 2005 red wine.
My main was
Pan Seared Halibut
Duck Fat-Roasted Marble Potatoes, Wax Beans, Hon-Shimeji Mushrooms and Sorrel Velouté
The chunk of halibut was cooked just enough to make it firm. The sorrel sauce underneath was a good tart match for the slight sweetness of both the fish and the new potatoes.
Linda’s dessert was
Berries & Milk
Tres Leches Cake, Berries, Milk Brittle, Cashew Ricotta, Blueberry Compote and Caramelized Cinnamon Honey
This was a real melt-in-your-mouth dessert, excellent for a summer evening.
Dessert for Helen and me was
Filbert & Hazel
Flourless Chocolate Cake, Hazelnut Nougat Sauce, Nocciola Gelato, Hazelnut Oil, Preserved Amaretto Cherries and Toasted Hazelnuts
I really like hazelnuts. This dessert used them five ways and offset them with dark chocolate and cherries. Excellent.
The service was always excellent with friendly, informative waiters. The pace was sometimes slow, but that was no problem as the four of us had plenty to discuss. The meal was very good. Except for the soft shell crab course, it was based on seasonal, regional ingredients. We were happy with Félix and Helen’s choice.