Savouring the GardenPosted by Karen Pinchin on Tuesday, June 11th, 2013
Tags for this Article: Alex Haun, Kingsbrae Gardens, New Brunswick, St. Andrews
The pathway that leads to the front door of Savour in the Garden, the new restaurant headed by Chef Alex Haun, is winding and a bit rocky. That’s fitting, actually, given how Haun ended up here. It’s no secret that it’s hard being married to a chef, and as a result his marriage ended, literally a month or two ago. In the process he shuttered his first St. Andrews restaurant, Savour, which he opened five years ago when he was 22. Instead of taking time off to relax, reflect, or even move, he plunged headlong into this next project.
“Home is where the heart is,” he said on opening night, as we sipped local beers from the chefs’ stash. “God, that’s so cheezy. Don’t write that down. But it’s true. This is where I grew up kayaking. This is where my dog is.”
So, instead of considering some of the many opportunities across Canada that presented themselves, Haun decided to stay out east and set up shop in the bucolic Kingsbrae Gardens. With only one sous chef, two servers and a dishwasher, he’s going to put out high-end cafe-style food during the day, and transform the jewelbox glassed-in dining room into a tiny high-end restaurant.
If his launch menu is any indication, this incarnation of Savour is destined for greater things than its predecessor. At a prix fixe of $65, with a decent wine list featuring a few B.C. bottles (although none from Nova Scotia, unfortunately) the value, particularly considering its components and the labour involved, was remarkable.
While foraged and local ingredients interpreted through a modernist kaleidoscope of dusts, foams and pearls is hardly novel, what is surprising is Haun’s clear devotion to his classical European-style training. (He cooked internationally with the junior Team Canada for two years.) Our amuse-bouche of braised cattail, Fundy scallop and Parmesan dust was exquisite, primarily because of the simple, perfect stock that served as the dish’s braising liquid.
The Downton-Abbey-level assortment of tablewear — “I’ve never seen so much cutlery!” exclaimed my tablemate — was outrageous but necessary as sorbets of berries and citrus fruits arrived between courses. But always, we were drawn into the menu by the details: the local soft cheese used in a fiddlehead cannelloni, the lamb bacon, made the night before on a whim, used to garnish a round of boulangere potato, or the Acadian sturgeon lovingly treated two ways, as a fresh ceviche with Bantry Bay micro greens and lemon-cucumber pearls, and sumptuously smoked on a potato pancake with creme fraiche and caviar.
“The last five years have been absolute insanity,” says the babyfaced Haun, marvelling at the gastronomic changes that have been spearheaded by New Brunswick local legends like Chris Aerni and Jesse Vergen. That’s why, he says, he only took two days off between the closing of his last restaurant and his push to open this one. The timing, according to him, is perfect.
Lucky for diners, if other than an over-salted cheese and sweet onion “cappuccino” a la Alain Chapel, it looks like much of Haun’s food is bound to be practically perfect as well. I’d try to describe his gorgeous ganache torte and semifreddo, but I couldn’t do it justice. A picture, and then perhaps a bite of your own, will have to suffice.