Recently, I was invited to the Media Showcase Dinner for the brand-new Muse restaurant in Kensington. Savvy foodies that you are, you’re now saying “wait a minute - Muse isn’t new – it’s been there for years. In fact, their chef competed on Top Chef Canada last year.”
Indeed he did. Xavier Lacaze did Calgary proud representing Muse on Season 2 of the program, but when he returned to Calgary, he left it to replace Geoff Rogers (now of Market and contestant on the current season on Top Chef Canada) at Home Tasting Room.
Now, this may seem like it was just an exercise in showing you how well I know my reality show contestants, but it’s not. This is all to explain how Muse, with its brand-new chef (J.P. Pedhirney) and brand-new owners, is not the same restaurant it’s always been.
This is not to say that old Muse was bad. In fact, I actually can’t say anything at all about old Muse – I never ate there. For that reason, this column will be low on comparisons and comments like ‘new and improved.’
What I can say is this: Muse now is actually doing something different. Now, all restaurants like to think they are doing something different, but it’s just not true. Those of you who have had a server try to explain the ‘small plates’ concept to you for the umpteenth time know exactly what I mean. There are only so many different things that can be done, and honestly – there’s nothing wrong with doing something familiar, especially if you’re doing it well, or best.
Muse just doesn’t happen to be doing anything familiar. Though there was an obvious classical French technique evident through the five-course meal (no surprise given that prior to Muse, Pedhirney’s most recent stint was in the kitchen at Rouge) this food is almost whimsical.
It’s upscale fine-dining for sure – the service is gracious, the three-floor open-concept space is lovely, and us lucky guests were sent home with swag bags (which rarely happens at foodie events). Still, the food is fun. I saw more unexpected things on this menu than I have on many lately.
One course, a potato risotto, incorporated a sous vide egg. Now, sous vide is a big trend lately, but I’ve never seen anyone do an egg. When you broke into the egg and combined it into the risotto, it made it fantastically rich and creamy.
Another course which really made an impression on me was grilled sturgeon served in a bowl with beet ribbons and caviar crème fraiche. Over this was poured borscht consommé, tableside. Now, being half Ukrainian, I know a thing or two about good borscht. Apparently so does Chef Pedhirney (surprise – his mother’s Ukrainian too). Even with all the other ingredients strained out, the absolute essence of borscht hit you the minute you leaned over the bowl. Fresh dill was prominent, and the caviar crème fraiche was obviously an improvement on the traditional sour cream.
The surprises continued throughout the meal. Not many places serve palate cleansers around here these days, but when they do, it’s generally sorbet. Not only does Muse serve one, but it’s homemade crabapple soda served in teeny-tiny soda bottles with teeny-tiny matching straws. There’s that whimsy again.
Dessert incorporated a sweet potato sorbet, which was also new to me, but I’ve heard of people in the southern U.S. making a dessert pie out of sweet potatoes, so why not? It was refreshing, and lighter than you’d expect.
If you’ve gotten into a restaurant rut, but prefer to take risks more with the food than with other elements of the meal, Muse is definitely a must-do. They offer the same fine-dining experience that old Muse was known for, but with cuisine that’s unexpected, refreshing, and fun.
107 – 10A St. N.W.