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Chef Matt Blondin (right) poses with proprietor Scott Selland.
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Chef Matt Blondin puts the finishing touches on Acadia’s scallops with watermelon rind, Parmesan tuiles and chicken crackling.
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Acadia’s scallops with watermelon rind, Parmesan tuiles and chicken crackling.
ACADIA (50C Clinton, at College, 416-792-6002, acadiarestaurant.com) Open for dinner Wednesday to Sunday 5:30 pm to close. Closed Tuesday, some holidays. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN
Dinner at Acadia, the brand-spanking new boîte in the former Langolino across from the Diplomatico on College, certainly isn't much fun.
Intellectually stimulating, a veritable smorgasbord for the senses, some of the most imaginative plates in town - no question. But a good time Acadia ain't.
The no-fun policy starts at the door, where the welcome borders on disdain. A peek in the door warrants a bark of "We're not open yet" and the suggestion that we cool our heels on the empty patio. That's "empty" as in devoid of tables and chairs, not free of customers. And they call this the hospitality industry.
Once admitted, we're shown to a table next to one of the 42-seat resto's large front windows. Our tattooed server, who likely wasn't born when the Ohio Players LP being played in the background was first released, hands us Acadia's short Southern U.S.-inspired card and brusquely advises us that it's best if each of us orders a starter, a main and maybe a side. Ya think? Hell, we might even spring for dessert.
But first, co-owner/chef Matt Blondin's amuse. Or, as we call it chez nous, the pickle platter, an upright assortment of cider-brined new potatoes, green beans, okra and hard-boiled quail eggs tossed with boiled red-skinned peanuts.
And though we've requested it as a side, a warm round of cornbread ($5) arrives with it, tickled with flowering thyme, and disappears as fast as it's spread with confited sweet potato butter.
A scallop all the way from Nova Scotia's Northumberland Strait comes properly seared 'n' quartered and festooned with lemon-pickled watermelon rind, Parmesan tuiles and crisp chicken crackling (aka skin), an artistic squiggle of arugula purée completing it ($13). Wonderfully textured Chesapeake Bay crabmeat finds its way into tempura-battered squash blossoms paired with a cherry tomato chow-chow and an incongruous blob of whipped buttermilk - crab cakes by way of the Dairy Queen ($12).
When's the last time (if ever) you saw chlorophyll on a menu? But here it is, the green foam under a slab of red grouper smothered in a N'Awlins-style étouffée of prawns, andouille sausage and mushy red peas ($20). (Tastes like parsley, btw.) And locavores will be relieved to learn that dry Nagano pork cheeks over sorghum salad dressed with fresh sarsaparilla and tobacco-infused leeks ($21) are sourced in Quebec and not Japan.
By comparison, Blondin (former Colbourne Lane chef de cuisine, and hence the fiddly bits) keeps it relatively simple with his roasted green tomato and polenta tartelette finished with "assorted" lettuces and a shower of freshly shaved parmigiano ($16), by far the most straightforward main of the evening.
A belated side of collard greens laced with pancetta, cream and licorice ($4) shows up just slightly before a sliver of retro sugar pie ($8). Heaped with boozy bourbon-soaked raisins and something called "caramelized dairy" that looks like ice cream and tastes like air, the pie's as close to comfort food as Blondin gets.
As we make our exit, we can't help but notice the raucous crowd on the patio across the way. Yeah, the Dip's pizza is just this side of edible. But the next time we're in the nabe and feeling peckish, we know which side of the fence we'll be on.