REDS Wine Tavern was also spotted entering the scene towards December of last year. With a dusty red brick exterior, lofty ceiling, and dark, sophisticated décor, the restaurant was the chain's first foray into the Mississauga market.
A glimpse into the kitchen piqued curiosity, paving the way for a proper evaluation of their famed "Scratch Kitchen" entrées.
A prompt welcome was extended from the hostess, and we were ushered into the dimly-lit dining area. Seating filled majority of the visible open space, whether in the form shiny black booths, two-person bar stools, or wooden group tables. Each of the 4-person tables featured a single overhead spotlight, as warm as it was harsh; glowy patches of illumination were seen on the larger ones.
The broad selection caused indecisiveness as did the absence of the prix fixe menu spotted online. Eventually, we settled on a Nova Scotia Lobster Guac to start, and a few protein-based plates to share. A Wild Mushroom Soup was also added to the order.
In less than two minutes, a different member of staff appeared at the table with two shallow acacia bowls in hand.
We couldn't quite believe our ears when she uttered the name of the dish, as it hadn't even been five minutes since the table had been cleared of irresolution. Milliseconds later, the Wild Mushroom Soup also bore its display of beige-grey chunkiness.
Where one bowl was overflowing with shards of sodium- and spice-laden tortilla chips, the other contained a puny portion of the half-smashed green substance topped with an even tinier scoop of lobster flesh. The chips were salty - horrendously so - and not even the sprinkle of paprika could counter its powers.
A lag time averaging fifteen to twenty minutes took place between the arrival of appetizers and delivery of entrées, presumably to encourage guests to order more small plates and/or alcohol while in linger.
Served alongside were string beans, a spoonful of diced golden and red beets, and a pile of mashed potatoes upholding a lone cheese shard. The shreds of red skin added texture, though insufficient butter caused the overall taste to veer from smooth to starchy. Goat cheese butter also made an appearance on top of the sirloin, looking very much akin to melted cheddar.
Personally, the Prime Rib was my least favourite item of the meal. The gravy was thick without contributing depth of flavour, the Yorkshire pudding was dry and spongy, and the overly rich horseradish cream was satiating/overpowering. Instead of sporting layers comprising of interwoven fat and flesh, the heavy slab possessed segments of inedible lard and then lean meat in other spots. Albeit tender, the Prime Rib was disappointing by lack of compexity and strong resemblance to diner-style steamed minced pork (瘦肉).
Its presentation was not unlike Swiss Chalet-esque rotisserie chicken plates, with heavily-seasoned roasted potatoes and charred brocolli on the side. Upon closer inspection, however, one was able to observe a wispy thin sheet of golden brown skin.
I stabbed the topmost piece, first piercing the crispy exterior, then sliding my knife into its interior quarters with minimal effort. Amazed at the ease of dissection, I could only fathom the profile which I was about to discover.
I had not the faintest idea where the texture had originated, nor how I was experiencing suppleness, delicate yet powerful brininess, and silky crunchiness simultaneously within the same bite.
Concealed within was a bounty of pale, tender fleshiness bearing the ideal amount of marinade. The meat was lean, unlike ramen chashu, though had been roasted to such buttery soft tenderness that all remnants succeeded in dissolving in one's mouth upon contact.
The roasted potatoes, though, were on heavily seasoned side and retained too powdery of an aftertaste for my preferences.
About twice the size of other franchises, the Scratch Kitchen's best-selling pie stunned by means of both taste and ingredient diversity. A casing of flaky puff pastry encompassed a heaping portion of softened Granny Smith apples. The filling met all the fundamental requirements of texture, temperature (ie. not scalding), and sweetness-tartness harmony. The lack of warmth in the pie aided in preventing immediate dissolution of the ice cream, which was immensely appreciated.
While the interior of the bathrooms were quite modern, points were deducted for lack of finishing (exposed wires), general absence of cleanliness (overflowing garbage bin), and insufficient pressure in the faucet. Paper towels were also nowhere to been when the hand dryer failed to remove moisture; stout guests may also find that the dryers are positioned too high for usage.
Aside from the obvious need for customer service improvement, the Flash Roasted Chicken is truly not to be overlooked. A visit to REDS definitely isn't the most economic supper choice, but a taste of its signature plate is well worth it. (Be prepared to smell like your meal afterwards, in the most literal sense possible.)