Eigensinn Farm (near Toronto) – Maybe Next Time

Eigensinn Farm is a small restaurant run by Michael Stadlanter and his wife Nobuyo. It is the epitome of the organic/regional trend since nearly everything served was grown or raised on or near the property. It’s a complete vertical operation -> Plant, grow, pick, slaughter, and cook.

The restaurant itself has attained myth-like status. You step through some mud and enter the dining room via their laundry room. A dog and cat might be patrolling the dining room. 12 lucky people are served on Fri & Sat only for a few months a year. Dinner costs around $250/person. There’s no wine list. The service is not professional – just enthusiastic students of the farm. French music might be heard at night emanating from the barn (a happy cow makes for better food.) A lot of quirks that give the place its charm and reputation.

The cooking has been compared to The French Laundry in its honesty and integrity. It’s consistenty ranked as the #1 restaurant in Canada. Unfortunately, my meal was not on the level it should have been. They had just returned from an extended vacation and they probably needed a few more days to get into the groove.

1. “Amuses”
A plate of various shellfish/fish.
- Malpeaque oyster w/ tarragon was refreshing, crisp, touch of sea. Very Good.
- White fish w/ bleu blanc & tarragaon was good, but the fish lacked flavor. Ok.
- Pickerel w/ jersulam artchicoke & ice wine reduction was the star of the show. Slightly sweet, nice texture/preparedness for a river fish. Very Good.
- Black cod w/ horseradish & orange – ok, satisfactory, but perhaps a bit too bland to really impress. Good.
- Smoked pork on sourdough – flavorful but nothing revelationary. Ok.

2. Lobster Bisque w/ Fennel
Rules are meant to be broken. Eigensinn prefers to serve local/on-the-grounds ingredients but a shellfish can’t be bred inland. Not very creamy, intense lobster flavor. A sweetness gives way to a briny/sea aftertaste. Very Good.

3. Duck Consumme w/ Foie/Duck Dumpling
I will never live down the day I asked for a second serving of the ridiculous mushroom consumme at Regis Marcon as an alternative for the coffee/tea course. I was assured the Eigenssin consummes would be on a higher level. Sadly, this consumme, while good, did not live up to its expectations. There was no upfront burst of flavor; but it did have a solid backbone that carried the consumme through. Good.

4. Pork Belly w/ Foie
Pork belly was quite good – extremely crispy skin that yielded to a fatty/rich meat – certainly one of the better examples i’ve had lately. Foie was sauteed, no veins, but lacked any ooomph. All served in a bed of carrots, corn, parsley sauce, and chanterelle mushrooms. Very Good.

5. Grilled Georgian Bay Trout w/ Tomato-Chive Butter & Swiss Chard Compote
Nothing exciting, straight-forward fresh-water fish. Ok.

6. Black Currant Sorbet
Intense taste. Very Good.

7. Lamb w/ Sheep Cheese Raviloi
The lamb was a bit tough and my friend’s wife suggested rigor mortis was the culprit. Turns out, that was the case, as the lamb had only been sitting a week versus its customary 3-4 weeks. Ravioli was delicate & delicious. All served on a bed of green beans, roasted zucchini, beets in duck fat, and brain jous. Ok.

8. Vanilla / Armagnac Ice Cream
Sweet upfront, alcohol undertones, carried through like a good wine. Excellent texture. Very Good.

9. Apple Tartine w/ Plum
No notes, ok…….

I wanted Eigensinn to be a lot more and it should have been. I got the first meal after an extended vacation w/ the chef admitting some mistakes (rigor mortis lamb.) I would absolutely try it again (perhaps in the spring as snow and i don’t necessarily mix.) It is a *very* special place that reminds me of rural France or Spain (stylistically, the restaurant itself reminds me of a homegrown Mugaritz.) The potential is there, and considering its reputation, a second trip is justified. Next year, perhaps, before the Montreal grand prix.

If you’re in Toronto, there’s no excuse not to make the 2 hour trek up north to give it a shot.

- chuck

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/jlunar/ Jen C

    I went more than two years ago and I had a very good meal at Eigensinn, though I’d be hard-pressed to comment on any of them now, (no notes! less foodie then). However, the one dish that made me sad was the roasted pork. It was the main entree and not combined with foie, but the skin was hard, (not crispy), and it kept me wanting to go back to Chinatown and eat roast pork instead. Of all the things I’ve eaten, then and since, this is the only time that I’ve had such an urge to do so.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/sifu_renka/ Renée

    Went a while back (just like Jen C), but I agree about the overall impressions of Eigensinn. I couldn’t help but smile when Nobuyo mentioned the new litter of piglets… just after our party consumed the roasted suckling pig (which had a terribly rubbery, hard as a rock skin. Yes it’s tough to satisfy any Asian who’s familiar with roasted pork from the Asian BBQ joints). I can appreciate the love, thought and care behind each course, but I was struggling to get that little bit more. Perhaps I was asking for too much. Either way, when asked, I usually refer to Eigensinn as rustic version of The French Laundry. Did you tour the kitchen? It’s quite an interesting and quaint little space (and VERY different from that of The French Laundry!).

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