Richmond Station posts the following message on their urbanspoon page: “Richmond Station is a stopping place, a bustling neighbourhood restaurant in the downtown core. We are committed to delicious food and excellent hospitality.” A simple message but one forgotten by many eateries in the area.
Upon arriving for my reservation, I was brought to a table with a great view of the open kitchen. Unlike some other restaurants which boast retro soda coolers or toque-wearing moose heads, the decor is a simple white tile, black accents and classy hardwood tables. I was impressed with the layout of the chef’s table which seats about 8 people. The wait staff were equally as classy, dressed in black. Even the chefs were traditionally dressed, donning crisp whites and black aprons.
The hostess was very friendly, sat me quickly, provided a menu and I ordered a fantastic modernized version of a whisky old-fashioned cocktail at her recommendation. The waiter arrived shortly after and immediately asked me my name which he used for the remainder of the night. His service was impeccable, making menu recommendations while confidently explaining the restaurants concepts and philosophies. He seemed by my side all night, filling my water glass repeatedly and often explaining the station’s journey to date.
Now the food.
The featured New Brunswick oysters were fresh and shucked without a flaw. The presentation was like a visual aphrodisiac, served on a bed of ice with fresh horseradish and house made condiments including a tangy mignonette, fresh marinara and spicy hot sauce. I witnessed a definite devotion to “excellent hospitality” from the kitchen when the lady beside me still received all of the accompaniments when ordering a single oyster. At $3.5 each, there may be a temptation to break the bank of these tasty critters even before tackling the main menu.
I received a lesson in what a real lobster bisque is supposed to taste like. Ignoring the trend to call any soup a bisque because it sounds better, Carl Heinrich’s team reverts to old school French methods, producing a thin but flavourful broth emulsified with classic ingredients such as cream and seasoned with tarragon. The result was a marriage of tantalizing flavours and although it did start to separate a bit toward the end, most will easily consume the majority beforehand.
Keep an eye on the blackboard. On this night there was a duck breast served on a braised duck leg. The shredded leg was thoroughly cooked but still tender while the breast was sliced a perfect medium rare. Both cuts were graced with a flavourful sauce and served with some vibrant greens. This dish may answer the old question..am I a breast man or a leg man? Based on this dish, my answer is both. Then again, maybe it’s the oysters talking.
Also on the blackboard was a 6 oz beef offering for $26. Beef is usually a safe bet and Richmond Station was no exception. The seasoned beef had a beautiful sear and was sliced medium rare but was difficult to see amidst the jungle of greens covering the perfectly cooked steak. The meat itself had a fantastic flavour but I wasn’t fond of the bed of overly buttered chopped brussel sprouts which laid the foundation for the beef, which just made the already rich tasting beef taste even richer.
The regular menu features a starter section highlighted by a $13 lobster cocktail. Lose any premonition of a tall glass overflowing with fresh, chunky lobster. Instead, expect a more measly presentation of 4 deep-fried lobster pieces served on a piece of lettuce with a dollop of cocktail sauce. Sharing means you’ll only get two (or maybe three if you can mildly distract your table mate). If you’re going to go fishing at Richmond Station, spend $14 and get 4 oysters instead of these land-battered crustaceans.
Richmond Station’s urbanspoon proclamation claim holds true lead by a well-trained, courteous staff and a trendy menu with classic French influence overseen by a proven champion in Carl Heinrich (who even came out to ask how the meal was). The classic decor follows suit, characterized by a modern but bourgeois surrounding reminiscent of the style of Candice Olson as opposed to Red Green, Bruce Wayne or Beetlejuice. In the end, both the concept and the location create a perfect storm, appealing to celebrity chef chasers, downtown dwellers, floating foodies and those who appreciate french inspired food without the confines of bistros adorning white table linen and equally stuffy service. I’ll come by again when they open for lunch, but for now I don’t mind this train stop along my voyage in search of culinary pearls.