Margarita’s Authentic Mexican Cuisine 4 King Street N, Waterloo 519-747-7800…
King Street Trio Uptown
40 King Street South
Waterloo, Ontario N2J 2W8
Cost (drinks, apps, mains, dessert for two): $110
Open: 5 p.m., Monday to Saturday
That King Street Trio (KST) has weathered various storms since it moved from its home on University Avenue some years ago is certain. It’s emblematic of the survival mode of the central part of downtown Waterloo (the so-called “Uptown” part, which must make those not “up” feel like they’re slummin’ it), where, like other businesses, KST has persevered, alongside the railway tracks, through perilous, craggy snowbanks that eviscerated street access one wicked winter and during the interminable hellishness of LRT construction.
Inside the restaurant is an eclectic agglomeration of textures and media. Overhead near large, deep windows and meandering most of the dining room’s length is a wooden-track sculpture that mimics the iron one just outside. Thick wooden tables glisten amidst pipe and steel tubing, reclaimed lumber, HVAC ducting and glass and brick that blends insouciant tech-startup savvy with industrial open concept. Along one wall, Queen Victoria is channeled through pressed tin panels recalling late 19th- or early 2oth-century decor.
The dining room looks into an open half galley-style kitchen that’s realm of chef Kyle Rennie and the two dozen or so items that are on his dinner-only menu, including a half-dozen seafood dishes (including cioppino), beef and king crab (the enormous crustacean and reality TV star which also lent its name to a former restaurant owned by KST proprietor Brian Plouffe), Moroccan-spiced lamb and truffle mac-and-cheese. There are oysters on the app menu along with escargot and tartare, the former of which kicked off an ad hoc tasting menu I had recently.
New to Waterloo Region, Rennie has cooked in Toronto, Calgary and Ottawa and started his career early with current Peller Estates exec Jason Parsons, who was then at the Four Diamond Millcroft Inn in Caledon. Rennie has been at KST since September, 2017.
His Humboldt squid is delicate and crisp, lightly rice flour-dusted and served with mild poblano aioli and pickled jalapeño. Garnishes of shaved fennel and Meyer lemon provide acidity. Lettuce, radish and citrus salad with toasted hazelnuts, New Hamburg’s Mountainoak Gouda and honey and black pepper vinaigrette is a medley of texture and flavour.
Thick and buttery, fricassee of Burgundian snails and mushrooms is nothing if not heady. Sherry-like Madeira jus adds slight sweet with roundness coming from wonderful emmenthal. There’s only a need for a touch more acidity to make this stellar.
But stellar it is for roasted salmon riding alongside butter-poached king crab — and, oh, what crab it is! — on a squash purée. Sure there are Brussels sprouts and bacon, but the delicious melted leeks with the crab is revelatory. Apple cider vinaigrette gives acidic balance to the richness.
Chicken with carrots and peas are not at all like granny’s: heirloom carrot purée is French-influenced Indian vadouvan-spiced with a rich chicken jus. The bird looks sous vide (but is not) and is moist and tender — and basted in butter, thyme and lemon. It’s first-rate, French-style poultry.
Coffee panna cotta topped with a caramel espuma-like foam, dark chocolate and sea salt is a perfect final course.
Perseverance always pays off, uptown or down.