Jan. 10, 2013 - Issue #899: The games we play
Fine dining goes casual
Red Ox Inn owners expand with new restaurant
Red Ox Inn has a new little sister.
Well, little is a relative term. Canteen, the latest venture for restaurateurs Andrea and Frank Olson—owners of Red Ox Inn—dwarfs its 12-table older sibling with 50 seats and long, inviting bar.
The chic, inviting space—designed in a palette of greys, blacks and wood-topped tables, accenting trendy, ambient light fixtures—is a casual, laid back version of Red Ox's signature fine-dining atmosphere.
"Frank and I have been thinking about it for a long time. Timing was everything with the Red Ox and our family and everything else," Andrea explains of getting the new establishment up and running. "We've probably been thinking of doing this for five years, a casual version of ourselves. Every year, at least, we do a food trip, gathering ideas and basically we wanted to build the room we want to sit in and serve food we want to eat."
Since opening on December 15, the Olsons have been fully dedicated to Canteen, leaving Red Ox in the hands of chef Sean O'Connor, who Frank mentored for a year to get him adequately prepared for the role. Andrea says she feels the restaurant is in good hands for the time being, and the pair will be splitting their time between the two in a matter of weeks.
"I miss my first love, the Red Ox. This has been so fun, but I'm looking forward to spending time at the Red Ox, too," she says of the restaurant she's spent 16 years working at.
The adjustment to the larger space has been a noticeable one, as Andrea jokes that in the Red Ox, everything is literally six steps away, whereas Canteen's size has taken some getting used to.
"I really still see it as quite an intimate space," she adds. "I felt at home from the beginning before the build even started. There was something about this space. I don't know what it is. It's not like we have amazing windows or high ceilings; there's just a feel about this space. When Frank and I walked into this cement hallway and that's all it was, we both felt at home."
However, don't think for a second that Canteen's casual setting is synonymous with food that's any less decadent and inventive than its elder predecessor. The menu includes lunch, dinner and weekend brunch and is bursting at the seams with in-house created dishes.
"The preparation and presentation of the food at the Red Ox is pretty intense, so this is a little more free-flow," Andrea says. "There isn't a huge hierarchy in our kitchen. We've got such depth in the kitchen that any one of those guys could take over. It's a real collaborative effort."
This collaboration has produced lunch mains such as the open-face short rib sandwich on applewood cheddar toast with mushrooms and rosemary Pecorino fries; almost crusted Arctic char with pork belly, carrot orange buttersauce, green beans and grilled escarole; as well as butternut squash ravioli with sage brown butter crisp Brussels sprouts and duck confit baton. For dinner, diners can opt for a full main course or build their own dinner with numerous sharing items, such as bacon-wrapped Chorizostuffed dates with red pepper sauce, ricotta fritters with smoky maple syrup or chickpea fries with romesco.
"We thought a lot about sharing. In fact, we set our tables with sharing plates in the evenings ... we really like that way of eating," Andrea says. "We like to taste many things and share food with who you're dining with, so it was about sharing and it was about tasting and going over the menu and being able to build, if you're really hungry, a huge meal, and if not, pick away."
Brunch offers a twist on some classics with a Saskatoon pop tart with lemon cream, apple mascarpone- stuffed French toast with spiced walnuts, apple cider syrup, berries and sugar bacon; as well as a breakfast sandwich with bacon, arugula, tomato, Guasacaca sauce, fried egg and hash browns.
"We try to put a lot of effort into what we do and make sure everything's done really nicely, even if it's really simple," says Chris Tom-Kee, one of Canteen's chefs. "There's a certain finesse you have to put into it."
10522 - 124 St
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