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Monday, 11 March 2013

Canteen - Nature versus Nurture

To what, or to whom, do we owe our personalities?

Two long-standing, but not necessarily mutually exclusive, schools of thought explore this quandary. Are personalities merely a quirk of genetics, a by-product of the millions of codons that translate microscopic particles into sentient flesh? Or, are personalities carte blanche when born, and subsequently molded by their surroundings, namely, their parental figures. And hence, the paradigms of nature versus nurture, respectively. No doubt, personalities are a product of both.

Canteen appeared on 124 Street late last year and presents a unique, hip-mod addition to this unapologetically trendy strip. Canteen is also the younger sister of The Red Ox Inn. Comparisons are inevitably drawn between the two, but does the personality of Canteen present itself as a product of its genetic heritage or as the fresh-faced progeny of its creators? A meander through Canteen's menu commences with unabashedly unctuous Chicken Rillettes. Rich hits of this splendid fowl find company with crunchy toasts, dark and salty olive tapenade, and nattily dressed greens. Many assertive entities exist here but coexist quite happily.

Chickpea Fries with Romesco arrive in a quirky box replete with a miniature paper cone to retain the crispy-mealy, spicy-savoury frites. The rufous romesco sings with peppers and garlic and the exotic, hypothetical birthright of these fries draws from both France and the Middle East.

Ancho-dusted Shrimp seem a bit lost on such a large plate and, though the shrimp are plump and sweet, the fervently smoky ancho somewhat squelches these nuances.

Hush-puppies with Smoky Maple Syrup are the evening's dark horse, though its wooden vessel had more impact when it appeared with the fries. Each bite somehow captures an evening's campfire near a quite lake. Loons are probably yodelling softly to each other across the water.

Saskatoon Berry Bread Pudding is dense, moist and very sweet, but would benefit from substantially more tart berries to offset the surrounding sauce. Canteen's personality is no doubt in its emergent stages, but neatly ascribes to both the "nature" and "nurture" paradigms. Canteen draws upon enviable genes, i.e., The Red Ox, but takes a swift and fresh cue from its geographical locale.

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