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Thursday, 28 March 2013

Can't Get No Satisfaction at Packrat Louie

A menu rife to the gills with buzzwords like gastrique, demi-glace, truffle puree and sauce verte, can be a tall order to fill. No paucity of such descriptors exists on the menu of Packrat Louie, a Whyte Avenue staple, but an evening out at Louie's suggested that these words can get lost in the translation between word and plate.

Supper at Packrat Louie begins with a gratis basket of white bread accompanied by a swirl of herbed butter that tastes suspiciously like it has been blended with Boursin cheese. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with this, but given that creating herb butters from scratch is far from rocket science, I would encourage the kitchen to do just that.

Scallop and Crab Cakes taste more like crab than scallop and share the plate with an agreeable melange of corn, red peppers and greens. They are moist and unobtrusive, but would benefit from a hit of citrus or wasabi.

Cornflake-crusted Halibut falls flat. The crust tastes primarily of the deep-fryer and the fish underneath is lamentably dry. A warm spinach salad with grilled mushrooms and smoked cheddar sounds better on paper. Although the mushrooms are meaty explosions of flavour, the smoked cheddar is limited to a few sprinkles of grated cheese. Tiny cubes or crumbles would have added a better interplay of textures, instead of just melting onto the spinach leaves, and elevated this salad from average to excellent.

Seared Hokkaido Scallops and Caramelized Prawns cry out for moisture and seem to be lacking the inherent sweetness that these shellfish should possess. A nest of inoffensive spaghetti squash tops a small mound of similarly forgettable risotto. A clumsily hewn collection of superfluous veggies seems to serve no purpose other than to occupy extra space on the plate.

Dessert, though its presentation is clever in the form of a stamp on the table's paper covering, follows the path set by the main course. A Chocolate Trio presents a warm brownie, chocolate ice cream in an oreo crumb cup, and a scoop of chocolate mousse. The mousse is quite lovely - pity there wasn't a few spoonfuls more. The brownie, though it is served piping hot, sports a remarkably muted chocolate essence despite its dark hue, and possesses a peculiar, dry texture that is neither fudgy nor cakey. The chocolate ice cream is grainy, but the oreo cup is retro fun.

Packrat Louie failed to deliver on many levels. Theoretically impressive big words do not automatically translate into their culinary equivalents. Less jargon and more substance, please.

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