CORNWALL, Ontario Several years ago, we reviewed a restaurant across the border in Cornwall called Mangis. It was a fine-dining restaurant with an unusual name and a sophisticated feel.
Now theres a new restaurant at the same 800 Cumberland St. location with an unusual name and the same aura of sophistication. Its called Eight Zero Zero, with the subtitle of fine dining.
Outside, the plain façade and squat building bordered on gloomy. Inside, we found a tasteful, contemporary interior.
Classy table settings are highlighted by white napkins tightly rolled and stuffed into the water glasses on every table, looking much like rabbit ears. A sprawling, whimsical floor-to-ceiling tree sculpted from grapevines and dressed up with white Christmas tree lights is still there from the previous incarnation.
The ambience was bright, friendly and welcoming, to a large part generated by our charming waitress, Angela sweet, engaging and totally competent. We were fortunate that it wasnt a busy night, so we felt like she was more than a waitress more like a personal attendant.
Despite the restaurants lack of a beer list or wine list, Angela compensated by not only knowing the restaurants drink inventory, but by being able to offer a firsthand description of each. She was equally knowledgeable about the food.
The chef at Eight Zero Zero is the same person who created the upscale dishes that we vividly remember at Mangis. Now hes the owner, a passionate and ingenious cook offering a menu that appeals not only to foodies but to anyone looking for an accessible, upscale dining experience.
The foodies at my table classified his food as bold, packed with flavor, hearty and sometimes heavy. He has created a manageable menu with 10 tempting appetizers, three each fish and steak entrées, five pasta offerings and a like number of signature dishes.
For appetizers, we ordered steamed mussels ($10), shrimp Pernod ($12), seafood bisque ($10) and escargot ($9). Masterful presentations along with generous portions set the tone for the evening.
A huge bowl of steamed mussels was covered with a rich, thick tomato sauce with good tomato flavor and well-balanced herbs. You could actually spoon the sauce onto fresh bread provided on the table, making a bruschetta of sorts. A light eater would be well satisfied with this appetizer as an entrée.
Pernod is an anise-flavored liqueur, the predominant taste in properly prepared oysters Rockefeller. The chefs shrimp preparation incorporated a good number of medium-sized shrimp in a delicious, thick cream sauce that had traces of shallot and minced tomato and just the right amount of Pernod to enhance rather than overpower.
Seafood bisque contained an assortment of seafood scallops, shrimp and crabmeat in a base of tomato and cream, thick and chunky and filling.
The escargot dish can be ordered au gratin or with blue cheese. We choose the blue cheese version. The snails were plentiful but smaller and softer than were used to. They lacked the usual slightly chewy texture, disappointing the escargot lover at the table. The creamy sauce, for having pungent blue cheese in it, was on the bland side.
We tried two pastas: seafood Puttanesca ($24) and Eight Zero Zero steak pasta ($24).
The seafood dish combined mussels, scallops and shrimp along with kalamata olives and capers in a tomato sauce identical to the sauce with the mussel appetizer. It was artfully presented, with the scallops and shrimp topping a right-sized pile of linguine in the center of a rimmed bowl, the mussels carefully fanned around the pasta.
The signature steak pasta featured grilled beef tenderloin, wild mushrooms, spinach, tomato concassé (rough-chopped seeded, peeled tomatoes) and linguini in a red wine and blue cheese cream sauce.
We quizzed Angela on the preparation of the tenderloin, asking if the steak was cooked to order so we could call our temperature. Its usually grilled in advance, she told us, then sliced and incorporated into the dish when the order comes in.
We were OK with that.
But after placing the order, and probably conveying to the chef that she had a table of foodie troublemakers, she came back and told us that he would grill a fresh piece of meat to our specifications. Cool!
It was a superb dish, tasting a lot like beef Bourguignon in a stroganoff-like gravy served with linguine rather than egg noodles. Whole cloves of roasted garlic were a splendid surprise. It was hearty and filling, and kept us coming back for more.
On the subject of steak, we ordered Filet au Shroom Gratinée ($34) from the Signature Dishes portion of the menu.
A hefty 8-ounce filet mignon was topped with a thin layer of cooked-down wild mushrooms glued to the meat with melted Gruyere cheese. The filet was char-grilled perfectly to our call of medium-rare.
The filet was lovely, the meat tender and tasty. It came with a bold, hickory-smoked red wine reduction that tasted more like bottled barbecue sauce than a smoky demi-glace. Luckily, it was served on the side.
The plate was completed with roasted potatoes, asparagus and carrots, each seasoned and cooked properly a side that measured up to the quality preparation and presentation of the tenderloin.
I love tuna, but the sesame-seared tuna steak ($25) seemed quite different than what Im used to. We asked to have it just barely seared, as rare as possible, leaving the center that joyous deep, dark red when sliced.
Not sure if it was the type of tuna, the age of the tuna or the preparation, but it arrived sliced on the plate a grayish brown. The plate was completed by mixed greens tossed with wasabi vinaigrette that was quite mellow and a perfect complement to the tuna.
Four of us shared two desserts, crème brulée ($6.95) and chocolate lava cake ($6.95).
The brulée was served in a broad, shallow, scalloped dish, allowing more surface area for the customary caramelized sugar glaze on top. Both the top and the custard underneath were nicely executed.
The chocolate lava cake was a nice twist on your standard lava cake, with a molten white chocolate center that oozed out as you cut into the dark chocolate exterior. The plate was painted with raspberry and chocolate syrup squiggles.
Dinner for four cost $174.90. Canadian taxes added an additional $22.74 to the tab. Beer was $5 a glass (Cracked Canoe, a light beer from Moosehead Brewery, and Labatt Blue the real deal!); house Merlot, $8; mixed drinks, $6. A well-deserved gratuity for our server was additional.
Eight Zero Zero is easy to find in the city of Cornwall, just a few minutes past the Canadian customs checkpoint.
You can contact restaurant reviewer Walter Siebel via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eight Zero Zero
800 Cumberland St.
Fine dining in a tasteful, classy setting
HOURS: Dinner starting at 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday
APPETIZER PICKS: shrimp Pernod, seafood bisque
ENTRÉE PICKS: Filet au Shroom Gratinée, Eight Zero Zero steak pasta, seafood Puttanesca
DESSERT PICK: White chocolate lava cake