The concept of catering is not something that’s new and, historically, has definitely not been exciting. For years, dozens of catering companies have existed in Toronto. Some better than others but for the most part, all of which sell their services based on loyal repeat customers and their personal referrals.
With Toronto’s rapidly growing ‘foodie’ culture, consumers are more interested in what they’re eating than ever before and one thing is clear: if your services are not being shared on social media platforms, then they are not being talked about at all. In response to this, classic catering companies need to find ways to generate social ‘buzz’ in order to get recognized in the industry. Encore Catering is no exception. Lead by Cary Silber, Executive Chef Roshan Wanasingha and the teamt at Encore have put together a truly unique and innovative menu that might actually remind you of fine dining as apposed to catering. Using on-trend ingredients and innovative techniques, Encore’s new menu is filled with dozens of new ethnic–inspired fusion dishes. To celebrate and spread the word, they have decided to host a mini series of tasting events, which they like to call Blogger Bites.
Having been to a few Encore-catered events over the years and being impressed by the quality, I was quite excited to see what they had in store for us. However, nothing could have prepared me for the level of excellence I was about to experience from this classic catering company. Each dish was mindfully created and intricately prepared with an enormous attention to detail. When they say Food with Elegance, they really aren’t kidding.
Amuse Bouche: Lobster BELT
Seated directly in the kitchen with a spectacular view of the chefs at work, the evening began with a lovely amuse bouche: the Lobster B.E.L.T. Exactly as it sounds, this miniature sandwich was filled with slices of freshly poached lobster, hard boiled egg and a cool lettuce leaf. To finish the acronym, the tiny Lobster “E.L.” was garnished with perfectly crisp bacon bits and a tangy tomato puree. While all the ingredients were enjoyable, the star of this dish was certainly the brioche. The buttery, melt-in-your-mouth bun was absolutely decadent and married perfectly with the delicate lobster inside.
Hors D’oeuvre: Pastrami Salmon Maki Tempura
Next up was the salmon maki. This extra long sushi roll was served lined up on a large wooden plank; each individually deep-fried piece topped with wasabi aioli. Inside, the salmon was cooked to perfection and outside, the tempura batter was unbelievably light and crispy. This was
a great contrast to the naturally weightier rice that was inside.
My only issue with this dish was the lack of the promised ‘pastrami’ flavour. I was anxious to taste this rendition on a classic maki roll but, unfortunately, the notes of pepper, coriander and mustard seed that I was hoping for were essentially missing. Overall, it was certainly a pleasant course, though they might consider spicing the fish more aggressively – perhaps even serving it with a grainy mustard aioli on top for an additional creative play on the classic deli spice in the title.
Fresh & Savoury: Smoking Beet Tian
For our first plated dish, we got the pleasure of trying the smoking beet tian: easily one of my favourites of the night. Scrambling from our seats to view the chefs in action for this one, we got the privilege of seeing the tians being prepped, with the upside down jars being filled with smoke immediately prior to service. Often, with dishes like this, these added ‘wow factor’ features are simply for show. This was not the case here. The wonderfully smoky flavour absolutely enveloped the chévre mousse and was truly the star of the dish. Paired beautifully with the perfectly brunoised sweet rainbow beets and topped with savoury cashews, this dish officially raised my expectations of ‘show-stopping,’ gastro-type creations.
A simply steamed spear of bright green asparagus sat beside the beet tian. Topped beautifully with decadent black truffle puree, fragrant edible flowers and mache, crisp edamame and radish, the seemingly simple vegetable was bursting with flavour. This boat was one that anyone would be lucky to set sail on.
Hors D’oeuvre: Chateaubriand Taco
On the menu next was another passed canapé: the Chateaubriand Taco. Cooked to an impeccable medium rare, the unbelievably tender slices of beef sat atop a perfectly seasoned homemade tex-mex style tortilla chip. Finished with a finely brunoised mango pepper salsa, this hearty hors d’ouevre was a wonderful introduction to the rest of the meal. As a lover of Latin-inspired cuisine, this snack was a surprising treat for me. However, to elevate this course to sheer perfection, I would have loved to see a light avocado-lime crema. This would add an element of creaminess and acidity to round out this snack completely.
Bold & Warm: Eurasian Inspiration Braised Pork Belly Cube | Serrano Ham, Caramelized Fennel and Quail Egg Bruschetta
The second plated course was another one to remember. Wonderfully tender and filled with notes of barbecue flavour, the braised pork belly reminded me of char siu pork. Lined up beside it like dominos, the ingredients of this deconstructed bao blended brilliantly. The thinly sliced, pickled celery offered just the right amount of acidity and crunch, while the chilli kewpie added a necessary layer of heat.
Directly beside this, sit another deconstructed bread dish: ‘bruschetta.’ A tiny crostini lay, wrapped in the most delicate Serano ham which was next to bright green rapini and topped with basil pesto. Garnished with a crispy fried lotus root and a flawlessly fried quail egg, this unique take on bruschetta was yet another talked about favourite of the night.
Hors D’oeuvre: Duck Confit Beignet
For the final hors d’oeuvre, I was excited to taste another innovative creation: the duck confit beignet. Overflowing with richly flavoured pulled duck and topped with sweet, tangy rhubarb apricot marmalade, the flavour combinations were absolutely on point. My only issue with this was the weight of the beignet dough. The delicious duck meat and marmalade might have benefited from a lighter, fluffier dough that would have let the filling shine, rather than overwhelming it.
Cool & Crisp: Mango Chipotle Spiced Seared Ahi Tuna, Shrimp and Jumbo Scallop
Cucumber, Watermelon and Peach Gazpacho
The final plated course was definitely another one of my favourites. This well-seasoned spicy seafood combination of seared ahi tuna, shrimp and scallop paired perfectly with the sweet and savoury shot of summery gazpacho that sit beside it. Assembled on top of an aromatic micro greens salad, the seafood was presented beneath a beautiful ring of crispy deep fried vermicelli noodles. Rounded out with a sweet mango glaze, this tropical-inspired seafood dish was a perfect way to end the main courses with a bang.
Dessert Amuse: Gorgonzola and Pear Panna Cotta
My absolute favourite memories of eating (and in life, for that matter) are having those ‘a-ha’ moments when it comes to certain ingredients. These are the exact instants when a chef has figured out a unique flavour combination and application of an ingredient that you previously thought you disliked. This was one of those moments. An admitted hater of blue cheeses, I was anxious to see what Chef Roshan had in store for us with his gorgonzola pear panna cotta. Not only did the panna cotta taste absolutely delicious but, the Gorgonzola was actually the forefront of the dish – not at all muddled down by other overpowering flavours! The tangy notes of Gorgonzola paired nicely with the sweet pear compote which were completely rounded out by the crispy oat crumble that the panna cotta sat on. Absolutely floored and excited by the fact that I can finally say I like blue cheese, the flavours of dish were certainly memorable – not to mention the beautiful plating in the delicate hollowed out egg shell that the panna cotta was served in!
Sweet End: Encore’s Homemade Vanilla Semi-Freddo
Last but certainly not least, was Encore’s homemade vanilla semi freddo. Sitting in a delicate pool of the most wonderfully subtle strawberry basil consommé and garnished with a razor thin pink tuile and glittering vanilla bean, the unique semi freddo almost reminded me of a lighter, frozen version of a strawberry shortcake. A complex rendition on a classic, this dessert absolutely melted away in your mouth and was the perfect end to an amazingly innovative tasting meal.
Though this glamorous plated meal may not be scalable – at this point – for 500 guests, it is truly an exceptional option for small-medium sized corporate and personal events. Still, Encore’s inventive menu is obviously indicative of the team’s forward-looking mindset. Continually looking to stay ahead of the curve, you can certainly expect to see unique takes on classics. With examples such as ‘salad bars’ served in shot glasses, indulgent made-to-order cinnamon Nutella pastries and absolutely decadent alcoholic milkshakes, I am truly excited to see what’s up their sleeves at future Encore-catered events.