the tasting menu

the power and privilege of surrendering your senses to the will of the chef

A tasting menu tickles a chef’s desire to exercise control, blindly teasing the taste buds of those uninhibited by dietary restrictions.

It was a privilege to be deprived of the luxury of choice in this intimate dining setting. Denied a menu to preview, the meal became a conversation; a sensory exploration of the succession of flavours and the stories of each plate told by their creator, Chef Matty Cowan. As the six of us took our seats at his dimly lit minimalist kitchen counter, only then were we able to begin to colour in the details of our individual experience. This was our long-awaited evening at The Heather. Our first night out after the first lockdown restrictions lifted — the anticipation was high and our patience soon to be rewarded in our most intimate and memorable dining experience of 2020 and arguably, to date.

Photo by @theheather357

Over the course of three hours, we were served nine dishes, eight pairings and a bourbon digestif — we tasted summer through the ripe, sun-soaked ingredients of the seasonally-inspired tasting menu. Smoked quail yolks shaved atop duck fat confit white asparagus and charred capers with a weighty Malvasia from the Canary Islands to pair. A savoury lamb leg tartare with a bout of sweet acidity from fermented wild blueberries and crisp of rice puffs — paired with a light-bodied red Alberese Rosso Toscano, that could have passed for a complex rosé. On the nose, she whispered floral notes of fresh rose petals and cherry blossoms, translating to sharp, tart sour cherry and stewed strawberry on the palate.

Mesmerized by the swift service of each meticulously-prepared plate, it was a spectacle in the least overt and unpretentious of fashions. The resounding oooos, aaahhs and laughter throughout our gustation only grew louder as we toasted, tasted and drank well into the night.

There’s power in surrender and pleasure in submission with this style of casual, fine dining. He was having us over for dinner — nothing fancy. For him, we were on display and he watched us as we sipped and savoured each bite while the lo-fi hip-hop tracks lulled us into a satisfying coma.

Matt Cowan is now the chef at Greta Solomon’s 1118 Queen Street East Toronto — a cozy, gem that serves classic French fare, wines and cocktails by the glass in a warm, charming dining room. On my last visit, my right ear sang sweet, low, sultry tones from the voice of Melody Gardot — transporting me from the post-pandemic, bustling streets of Toronto, to a little hole in the wall in Paris.

In my left ear, the hissing and spitting of my duck confit deep frying in a vat of molten duck fat, the chit machine churning out new orders and the ice clanging in the cocktail shaker drowned out the rising chatter and laughter as the 6:00 and 6:30 reservations took their seats. These were the sounds, that warmed my heart as if to say “welcome back to the world — we’ve missed feeding you.”

Greta Solomon’s is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 6pm to 10pm and you can book your reservation online or by phone +1 647–347–8640.

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