Riviera is sticking out on Sparks street, figuratively speaking. The restaurant, opened six months ago by Matthew Carmichael and Jordan Holley (of El Camino and Datsun fame), has a very discreet neon blue sign and you can’t really see what’s going on inside from the pedestrian mall. If you don’t know about it, you could walk right by it without noticing.
Located between Metcalfe and Elgin, the spot actually sticks out because it is a fancy-schmancy restaurant on a stretch better known for its pub fare, cheap breakfasts and quick lunches.
It is also quite stylish. Built in 1869, the building was a bank for most of its lifespan. It features fantastic high ceilings, more natural light then you would think, an open, humming kitchen and a very long bar, spanning almost the length of the entire restaurant, with plenty of space to sit, drink and eat comfortably. I’m a sucker for old banks and the space is certainly better used by Riviera than it was by the Stamp store.
We were seated in the middle section and looked at the menu. The one-pager was simple, yet intriguing. It looks vaguely familiar, yet slightly outside the box.
My lunch date ordered the Mushrooms on toast (18$), a dish she had enjoyed before and couldn’t wait to have again.
Chanterelle mushrooms, served on a thick toasted piece of bread with a demi-glaze sauce and topped with a sunny side up egg. On the side, a simple green salad.
Her dish looked appetizing, kind of decadent because of the egg and the sauce. Said egg looked a tad overcooked, though, which she confirmed. However, she didn’t leave much on her plate…
I almost had the Big Matt, Riviera’s version of the Big Mac, but settled on the Lobster Lasagnetti ($30).
Lasagnetti is an underused ribbon noodle. A variant of the classic lasagna, it is as long but a third thinner, width-wise. It usually comes with wavy edges on both sides, but sometimes only on one side, or having straight cut edges on both sides. Most Wafflers would have encountered it by eating a can of Chef Boyardee Lasagna, a delicious breakfast item if there ever was one.
Back to my dish. It was smaller than I thought it would be, but it was very appealing. Lots of colours, lots of layers.
Nice pieces of lobster, well cooked and flavourful. The noodles were perfectly done, all dente, with a nice chewy texture. The wavy edges where a good receptacle for the sauce.
Ah, the sauce… I was expecting creamyness, instead I got depth. It was rich but fairly light, more a bisque than a sauce in many ways. Lots of deep-flavours: tomato, tarragon, lemon. I could have used a couple of pieces of bread to mop it all up! Sadly, no bread on the table except under the mushrooms. The dish was garnished with just enough freshly-grated cheese and fresh herbs to add another layer of flavours.
Riviera is a nice addition to Sparks street. The place is packed for dinner towards the end of the week, and is fairly busy at lunch time. Riviera is also planning to add Brunch to its offer, something I will have to check out, for sure.