November 16, 2018

Meet The Innovative Chefs Behind The Best New Restaurant In Canada

If a tiny town called Jordan Station has been popping up on your radar lately, The Restaurant at Pearl Morissette probably has something to do with it. Nestled in Ontario’s lush Niagara region, the buzzy destination just won Air Canada’s Best New Restaurant title. And it’s easy to see why.

First, there’s the dining room. Perched atop a modern barn at the Pearl Morissette winery, the sleek space puts the focus on farmland views. “The simplicity of the architecture inspired us,” says Anwar Mekhayech, whose firm, DesignAgency, partnered on the interior design.

Then, there’s the food. Run by veterans of Michelin-starred kitchens, The Restaurant, modeled after some popular Charleston restaurants, aims to surprise and delight at every turn. This means an ever-changing menu, artful plating and service that keeps experience top of mind.

We chatted with chefs Daniel Hadida and Eric Robertson about food, design and what’s inspiring them recently.

Now, who’s up for a drive to wine country?

House & Home: Many of our readers may not have heard of Jordan Station. What is it about this small town that drew you in?

Daniel Hadida: The primary motivation for me to come here was to work with [the winery] Pearl Morissette. I’d spent a long time overseas, and knew I didn’t want to fall back into the same old routine of working in Toronto after returning home. I was incredibly inspired by the farmers I worked with in France and Mexico, and wanted to connect even more to the origins of food.

H&H: What sort of experience do you hope to create for diners?

DH: One of calmness, pleasure and nourishment. And we very much try to encourage escapism. For example, there’s no written menu. If you ask for one ahead of time, we’ll have to say no — simply because it doesn’t exist yet! I want people to come here and allow us to host them all the way through the dining experience, feel a genuine sense of hospitality, and experience the warmth of the environment and the staff.

Eric Robertson: We want diners to taste wild ingredients that they wouldn’t have had the chance to taste — whether it be ones at the peak of their season, or something very familiar that’s been treated differently than usual. We want guests to feel like we pulled them from their comfort zone, but that it was for the best.

H&H: What impression do you want to leave on Canada’s food scene with your cooking?

DH: I hope to encourage authenticity, and support a holistic and regenerative ecosystem. Canada is an abundant environment with a massive bounty — something we should feel proud of, but also a part of. Asking questions, seeking new experiences, opening our minds and building strong community relationships are values that can extend far beyond the restaurant.

ER: I hope we can create an exciting work environment for our staff to grow… encouraging continued learning by visiting suppliers, learning about winemaking or even growing food. To create a culture that will have more of a positive impact on the landscape of restaurants in Canada than any cooking can.

H&H: While your plates are stunning, the restaurant itself is just as striking. Did you have a say in its design?

DH: Pat Hanson at gh3* architects established the concept for the building, working with the winery before I arrived. The interior design, however, was a collaboration with DesignAgency. We expressed a desire to respect the geometry and simplicity of the dining room, to maintain the impact of the minimalist architecture. Altogether we wanted to focus on purity: in food, in wine and in experience.

H&H: Many of your ingredients are grown and harvested locally. What do you think will inspire you this winter?

DH: Dry-aged meat — which has become a serendipitous result of necessity. It’s always a pleasure to crack into our preserves and see what time has done to ingredients.

ER: I can’t pinpoint anything yet. But I can guarantee they’ll be ingredients that we preserved from another season. We’ll figure out how to make something delicious with them, and then we’ll realize we should’ve harvested so much more! Last year, it was chicory root, ground cherries and aronia berries. Who knows what this winter will bring? That’s the most exciting part.

Author: Reiko Milley

Courtesy of Air Canada