Thursday, March 3, 2011

Niche

Charles and I ventured to Niche a couple Saturdays ago, grabbing a reservation for 7:30 the evening prior. In what has become annoyingly regular form, we stepped through the door a little after our reservation.

The space is certainly tight, with a couple high tables nearest the bar and about half a dozen tables lined up along a banquet (plus some seating along the bar itself). We squeezed into one of the tables for two along the wall amongst a fairly packed house. Finding that Niche did indeed feature a comparatively lengthy cocktail list (though I'm really waiting for a list like the one we encountered at Ferris' Upstairs in Victoria), I happily selected something fizzy and gingery, while Charles went for a pint of Yellowhead lager. Food wise, we opted to share the Bison Meat Balls ($10), and order mains of Duck Confit ($20) and Beef Cheeks ($20).

Settling into our drinks we saw the meatballs coming our way after a short wait. With a sharp tomato sauce and the addition of pine nuts, these reminded us a little of our recent adventure with the Frankies' meatballs, though without the overpowering garlic. We wasted no time clearing the plate here.

Alberta bison meatballs with toasted pine nuts, swiss chard simmered in garlic tomato sauce topped with Pecorino cheese.

Mains were out soon after. Charles' dish of braised beef cheeks, 'wild' mushroom cream sauce and egg noodles was decidedly the favourite. The meat was soft and tender, while the mushrooms and noodles provided a richness that would prepare him well to brave the cold again. I enjoyed my duck confit, though the savoury lemon thyme gravy was the hit for me.

'Spring Creek braised beef cheeks in a wild mushroom cream tossed with broad egg noodles.'

'Confit of Brome Lake duck paired with golden mashed potatoes and lemon thyme gravy.'

Dessert wise we decided to check out two options. The 'featured dessert' - a salted chocolate brownie ($5) - and the candied pear tart with brandy cream ($5). As Sharon noted, the brownie lacked a necessary richness and seemed a little dry and crumbly. That said, the salt was certainly present. The sweet, soft textured pears in the tart were certainly enjoyed, and of course you can't go wrong with brandy cream.

Service was a little rocky, though certainly friendly. Only open for a couple months now, I'm sure this is something that will improve over time as they hit their stride with the space and clientele. We did have a funny experience with photo taking that evening. One of the servers grabbed a flashlight and held it over our plates for some better lighting. Though admittedly a little embarrassing at the time, it was an interesting and likely singular experience nonetheless.

Open late, Niche is yet another option to check out downtown for dinner, drinks and plates to share. Chef Nathan Saurette hinted in the Journal recently that he's exploring other dishes for the menu (currently on the short side); with that in mind, this will certainly be a spot we'll have to check out again soon.

Niche
11011 Jasper Ave.
780.761.1011
Hours: M-W (4pm - midnight) Th-Sa (4pm - 2am) Su (Closed)
Niche on Urbanspoon

Check out Sharon's review here, the Journal's interview with Nathan Saurette here, and some really great photos from 1hundo here.

2 comments:

Leslie Holmes said...

yum!! looks so good. glad to hear you enjoyed it. i tried to make reservations for next week, but they are already booked full!! hopefully sooner rather than later I'll make it over there.

Marianne and Charles said...

Hey Lesley,

Looking forward to your thoughts! Wow, that's good to hear. I'm sure Downtown Dining Week is bringing them lots of new patrons - the deal looks pretty amazing!