Sooooo…I’ve been eating again. As if Saturday night’s shenanigans weren’t enough, the Boy and I, along with food blogger extraordinaire Quincy and his guest Kim, took to the newest culinary kid on the block (one of the best kept secrets that everyone has kind of heard about but wasn’t sure if the rumours were true) Aioli. Well…it exists. And it’s open for business, even though there hasn’t been any star-studded launch or huge pomp and circumstance surrounding its debut. I like that, by the way. I was able to enter the apparently elusive restaurant without any expectations, just an unbiased palette and an empty belly.
Let me start at the beginning – the first impression is certainly the decor. Aioli is beautiful. The restaurant isn’t very large and to be honest, the space doesn’t strike me as ideal for this kind of establishment, but boy did the interior decorator do a fantastic job. Ambient lighting, lots of dark wood and mirrored accents complemented by the hues of green running throughout. A huge leg of ham sat rigged up and exposed on the counter top just behind our table, and only afterward did we realise (or rather, did we have it explained to us by Head Chef Johnny Aboud) that this was Spain’s answer to Italian prosciutto – Jambon Iberico, the leg of a Black Iberian pig that is fed only on acorns and forced to stand on its hindlegs for most of its life (this sort of reminds me why I stopped eating pork, but really…I don’t think any of the pork mouths at the table minded much) creating developed and muscular hindquarters that apparently make for excellent ham. That’s what the Boy and Quincy had for their appetizers, while I opted for a Shrimp Cocktail and Kim dined on an impressively presented platter of Bone Marrow. My shrimp dish was excellent. The mango salsa differentiated it from the regular old shrimp cocktails you’re used to getting at less upscale establishments. The cocktail sauce held some heat so the mango was also a nice contrast.
For our entrees, I chose the duck, the Boy chose lamb, Q chose salmon, Kim chose pork and our host Leslie Ann opted for the filet mignon. The lovely Michele Jodhan-Ayoung Chee was also on hand to assist us with selecting wine pairings for the mains we selected. I didn’t taste any other dish but I can say that my duck was PHENOMENAL. Tender and moist with a seared, crispy skin. The bok choy and edamame were just a litte bit spicy, enough to complement the sweetness of the soy glaze on the duck breast. Everything was beautifully presented, portion sizes were just enough.
Dessert was obviously a must at this point. I opted for the Basil Panna Cotta since I’m not a fan of super sweet confections. It was delicious, and really interesting given the combination of flavours…but the real star was the Napoleon. I snuck a bite of the Boy’s and was blown away by how fantastic it was. I didn’t have any of the other desserts but the ice cream received praise from Q, who isn’t even a dessert man himself.
This great review probably has everyone anxious to know the most important thing – what’s the cost of all this perfection? The prices are actually surprisingly affordable. Prices range from $45 to around $250 for appetizers and entrees. It won’t break the bank and it’s more than worth the price. Please check out the Aioli Facebook Page for more information. I’ll be heading back soon myself.
Check out some pics below (Sorry for the shoddy pics. I neglected to carry my DSLR because I wasn’t sure it would be appropriate. Bad call on my part)