This week, and every now and then, I’ll be teaming up with Hamilton’s Foodie Queen Chanry Thach. She’s a fantastic food blogger and writer for Hamilton Magazine. This review of The Aberdeen Tavern has been cross posted over at her blog The Hungry Gnome. Make sure to drop in and subscribe so you can check out her posts in future.
Justin: I chanced upon The Aberdeen Tavern accidentally. I was a bit overzealous in getting to Food Truck Alley a few weeks ago and was 1/2 hour early. I figured I’d take a walk and then come back. On my walk I noticed the restaurant and popped in. They were in the midst of a soft open. I had a quick word with PR Rep Andrea Cassis, She laid out the idea of a great spot where friends could come together and share a few appetizers and cocktails in a relaxed yet upscale environment.
Chanry: The Aberdeen Tavern first came on my radar when I spotted them on Instagram. I immediately went full creep mode and tried to find everything I could on them. There was nothing. I was not a happy gnome. Then came the sassy tweets. Justin: She’s not kidding Chanry: All jokes aside, I got all the info I needed and immediately made reso’s for a mini #bellymonster night. As per usual, we decided to eat family style. This time I didn’t have to bully anyone into it, they were all willing participants! Lets start with the apps first:
Grass Fed Steak Tartar – $15
Justin: I’ll be completely honest in saying Tartar is not something I eat on even a semi regular basis. I’m not adverse to it in the least and enjoyed this dish but I’m in no position to render an opinion on it. Chanry the floor is all yours
Chanry: Thanks J! I thought this was a great dish if you’re a fan of tartar. If not, feel free to take a pass. You’re really just eating flavoured raw meat. There I said it! The first few bites weren’t memorable but it kept getting better and better every time I went back for more. Would I order it again? Probably not, but I have no regrets ordering it. Sid enjoy it as well.
Oxtail Tacos – $14
Justin: So when Chanry and I were initially discussing menu items, this was by far our biggest point of contention. I wanted to get my hands on this immediately and she was well… indifferent. The sad reality of the situation is that she MIGHT have been warranted in her wanting to pass.
Chanry: I told you so.
Justin: Anyway… The Corn Salsa, Cilantro, and Red Cabbage were all fresh and crisp. I’m not typically one for Cabbage but it worked well here. The problem is with the Oxtail itself. There was nothing about this protein that said “Oxtail” to me. Coming from a West Indian background, I’m very familiar with Oxtail. It was the big reason for my initial excitement. The truth of the matter is that it could have passed for any number of shredded meats. That distinct Oxtail taste simply wasn’t there.
Chanry: Like Justin mentioned, I was very skeptical in the beginning. I just couldn’t understand what tacos were doing on the menu besides attracting the plaid wearing, beard rockin’ hipsters. When they arrived, it was clear they didn’t need to be on the menu. This was probably the least satisfying dish of the night. It was over priced and the oxtail flavour just wasn’t there. The sauce was too overpowering and you really couldn’t taste anything else. Plus $14 for two tacos? PUHLEASE! I’m not queen sheebah. I can’t afford that! Next time, I’ll leave the tacos to the hipsters.
Duck Confit Spring Rolls – $12
Justin: These were far more enjoyable. The Spring Rolls were hot and crispy. The Napa Cabbage and Caramelized Onions only served to elevate the Duck. While the Oxtail was lost in the Tacos, there was no doubt in my mind what I was eating here. The Duck was extraordinarily tender and rich in flavour. The Spring Rolls were dressed in Black Soy Bean Sauce. I was indifferent to the sauce and could have done without it.
Chanry: These were great spring rolls but were they mind blowing? No. I enjoyed them and I’ll eat them again no problem but I’m not rushing back to order them. I didn’t like the fact that the sauce was poured on top of the spring rolls. Luckily we dug into them first. If we had waited, they would have been a hot soggy mess. I don’t really see the logic of pouring sauce on top of something that just came out of the deep dryer and is meant to be crispy and crunchy. It defeats the purpose of a spring roll. Like J, I did find the filling to be very generous with duck confit and there is a perfect balance of wrapper to filling. Ya’ll know that irks me to no end when things don’t balance out.
Wild Mussels with Crostini – $15
Justin: The Mussels were thick, tender and very juicy. Let’s be real though, when it comes to Mussels, it’s broth or bust. This broth was ridiculously good. It was fused with Pernod (which I now have to try as a standalone), Bacon, and Leeks. I won’t lie, I took a spoon to this broth when we finished off the Mussels. It was that good.
Chanry: These came highly recommend by the lovely Avi Constam; The Aberdeen Tavern‘s Director of Wine & Spirits. She was kind enough to also send over a 2013 Sauvignon Blanc from Featherstone Estates (which she actually helped make. How fricken cool is that?) for us to enjoy with our meal. The mussels weren’t on my radar but ended up being moooney! Perfectly executed for such a simple dish. Again; good on ya Aberdeen! The flavours were full bodied but not overwhelming. I was also guilty of scooping up spoonfuls of that broth. I could have poured it in a sippy cup to be honest.
The Meatballs – $13 Justin: These were my appetizer winners. Sometimes simple works best and that’s exactly what these were. The Meatballs were thick and seasoned well. Each of them has a melted Quebec Cheese Curd in the center. They were then covered in melted cheese in a bed of Tomato Sauce. I really should have ordered a second one to my face.
Chanry: These were an absolutely delightful surprise. I wasn’t even looking at the meatballs till Justin made the pick and I’m glad he did.These were far from little and they were exceptionally moist, well seasoned and perfectly braised. The pool of beautiful tomato sauce was the highlight for me as well. Something so simple but executed so well. It’s a big deal for me! It’s easy to mess up such a simple dish but The Aberdeen Tavern killed it (in a good way) with the tomato sauce. I couldn’t wait to sop up every last morsel of it!
Chanry: One more app. I just had to! I saw the crab cakes walk by and that was it. They were mine. Of course being the gentlemen Sid & Justin are, they let me order.
Justin: For the record, I’m not a gentleman. I’m just scared of her.
Lump Crab Cakes – $15
Justin: While I eat Crab, I don’t really go out of my way for it. I took a small bite and at Chanry’s suggestion, added in some of the Mango Jalapeno Salsa. It was enjoyable but again, not something I’d go out of my way for. Chanry it’s all you on this one.
Chanry – YAY! More crab cakes for me. First off, these were a decent size and there wasn’t much filler that I could pick up on but it also wasn’t chucks of crab either, more like shredded crab. if you are a crab cake aficionado, this will mean something to you! I wasn’t too impressed with my first bite and neither was anyone else at the table but once I paired my second bite with the mango slaw (which I completely ignored in the beginning because that stuff is usually just garnish anyways) I was a little more impressed. The sweet tang and citrus notes from the salsa played very well with the crab cake. My only qualm was that there wasn’t a fresh wedge of lime on the plate to give those bad boys a little zing!
Chanry: I’ll just say it now because I can’t hold it in anymore – the rest of the meal was absolutely phenomenal. If you’re an avid reader of Eating Your Content, you’ll know what I mean when I say these next three dishes were “gawdlike”
Fettuccini with Lamb Shank – $22
Justin: Our friend Sid ordered this for his entree and was not disappointed. I snuck in a bite or 3 and was very pleased as well. This dish was overloaded with ingredients but at no point was ever swimming in sauce. Oddly enough though, it could have used maybe 1/2 a cup more Fettuccini as there was a very healthy helping of Lamb Ragu left over. Big props to the Pistachio Mint Pesto. I have never tasted anything quite like that. You got a hint of mint (sigh the rhyming couldn’t be avoided) but never lose the sense of that rich Pesto.
Chanry: The fettuccine was a very generous portion. They were not shy with the ragu at all! I agree with Justin that it definitely could have used more Fettuccini. But being the meatatarian I am – I’m not complaining! Bring on the lamb! I was also excited to get more helpings of that beautiful tomato sauce.
Possibly the Best Burger – $17
Justin: I ordered this as my entree. I’ve mulled this dish over in my mind for days since eating it. Let’s get the one major positive out of the way. The PATTY itself is, and I say this with confidence, the best Patty I have ever eaten. There is a very fine line when it comes to getting a burger a perfect Medium Rare and under-cooking it. More often than not, in the attempt to get a Burger M/R, it arrives cold. This patty was perfect. Now as for the rest of the Burger? Well… not so much. The Brioche Bun was light but held everything together well. Unfortunately, the toppings were unable to elevate the otherwise spectacular burger. The 5 year aged Cheddar added nothing. It’s not like they skimped on Cheese, the photo makes that abundantly clear. There was just none of that rich cheddar flavour that should come from the aging process. Red Onions, Lettuce & Tomato were just that and I got no real sense of the Onion Jam. It’s a shame, because if the toppings matched the quality of the patty, I’d say this was the best Burger I’ve ever eaten.
Chanry: The patty was magnificent. Perfectly cooked and juicy but like Justin said, nothing else about it was mind blowing. Yes the bun played a great side kick but the toppings were pretty mediocre. In order for it to be Possibly the Best Burger in my books, they need to kick up the toppings. Rings of onions and some bibb lettuce just wasn’t rocking my socks off! Sorry boo.
24 Hour Short Ribs – $22 Justin: Ladies & Gentlemen, welcome to the main event of the evening. My… GOD was this delicious. See that knife you’re using? Toss it over your shoulder. You won’t need it. Your Fork is more than enough to cut through this beef. You could ask for a spoon in fact.Let’s not short (har har) the Grits though. They were soooooo smooth. The consistency was more akin to fine Mashed Potatoes. The mushrooms rounded out an absolutely divine dish. I could gush over it forever. If I wasn’t such a nice guy, I’d have stolen it from you Chanry.
Chanry: You would not have survived to write this story if you dared Justin! The short ribs were my pick and they were hands down my fave dish of the night. Perfect grits, the jus was salty, rich, full bodied without being sticky and thick. The short ribs were suuuuuper tender – like buttah. I wish they served the dish in a risotto bowl though because then I could have tipped the bowl and realllly cleaned my plate! And for that price it wouldn’t hurt to throw another short rib too. I have no shame in admitting that I took some of Justins left over fries and dipped them into the left over jus on my plate … #noshame
Flour-less Chocolate Cake (No price listed) Justin: First off I want to apologize for the quality of the above 2 photos. The battery on my usual camera died and I had to use my iPhone5S. Natural light also wasn’t on our side by the time dessert arrived. *Shakes first at the Sun* In any case, this was fine but not something I’d go out of my way to eat. I’ve never been able to get accustomed to Flourless foods. There’s a distinct taste, or lack thereof, that doesn’t sit right. This was also overly rich. On the plus side, I could eat the Compote all evening. Props to Chan for basically saying “EAT IT” as I’d have missed out otherwise.
Chanry: Our server warned us that it would be super rich but I got it anyway and mannn she wasn’t lying. The fruit compote which I would usually chalk up to garnish or an after thought from the kitchen actually did a fantastic job of cutting the richness of the cake. And it was paired beautifully with the 2011 Select Late Harvest Cabernet Franc the lovely Avi sent over. What a sweetie right? And cute to boot! Yeah shout outs to Avi. Between her Appetizer and Wine recommendations, she really helped elevate our experience.
Chanry: All in all it was a great night for the first of many Belly Monster Battles. We had a fantastic time at Aberdeen and we will definitely be back for brunch… and maybe apps… oh and those gawdlike short ribs!! It’s a great addition to the Hamilton restaurant scene. Perfect place for a date: Fancy enough to impress but still casual enough for a girls night. The environment and the styling of the place is superb, Kudos to the owners!
Justin: I have split thoughts on The Aberdeen Tavern. My main negative is the price point of their appetizers. I couldn’t find value in any of them except the Mussels & Meatballs. Pricing on items like 2 small Oxtail Tacos ($14) and Crab Cakes ($15) vs an entree sized Burger ($17) is mind boggling. In terms of quality, I have little complaint though. Tacos aside (which Chanry warned me about), everything was strong in terms of flavours. I can’t praise the entrees enough. They were superb and worth every penny. Odds are good I’ll order the Short Ribs to my face upon returning. As for a night out, girls night makes sense but my boys are more Beer & Nachos than Cocktails & Spring Rolls. Chanry and I immediately agreed that this was an ideal place for a date though. Service and quality was top flight without crushing your wallet’s soul. If you’re looking for a nice night out, make a reservation at The Aberdeen Tavern
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