Burnt Butter, Italian Kitchen – and a grain of salt
Burnt Butter Italian Kitchen , a new addition to the Hintonburg scene and a dream come true for husband and wife team Steve Wallace and Gen Lamorie. Offering Italian-inspired dishes served in a slick modern room, it’s small enough to be intimate but big enough to be impressive.
Joined on a cold afternoon by a new friend and fellow writer, for a gabby, get-to-know-you-better chinwag and testing of the new flavours at Burnt Butter. The big backboard menu brimmed with choices and everything sounded so… exciting. The Pasta selection made my head spin: Swiss Chard Gnocchi, Lemon Totalini, Curry Rasta Linguine, Tomato Fettuccine and Sesame-Soya Agnolotti. How to decide?!
We started by sharing the Arugala Salad: brandied figs, toasted walnuts, plum tomatoes, purple onion and a balsamic vinaigrette. Let me start by saying I am now addicted to brandied figs, I don’t know why I hadn’t though of this combination myself, I now plan to add them to everything.
The salad itself was a delight, both in texture and flavour, tart, tangy, sweet, savory, sharp – all at once. It had edge and appeal. We both enjoyed it and found it plentiful to split, so as not to ruin our appetite.
The Sesame-Soya Agnolotti: pork, lemon grass, ricotta in a tomato-hoisin sauce was her choice (top photo). The Curry Rasta Linguine: grilled chicken & shrimp, chilies, olive oil, pineapple salsa (below) was mine. The service was professional and attentive, the food was beautiful but a couple of bites in and we two food fanatics stopped to chat.
“Is it me or is the food under seasoned?”
“It’s not you.”
“I’m not really getting the curry. On the meats yes, but otherwise it’s a bit flat.”
“Yes. I don’t really taste the lemon grass, or the hoisin…”
“It wants for salt.”
It does, but it shouldn’t.”
“No… LOVE the pineapple salsa though.”
“I expected more.”
More punch, more power and taste, our food was perfectly cooked, exquisitely plated and yet, we were left a little flat. As a consequence, I liked it, but I really, really, really wanted to LOVE it. I wanted to swoon and feel giddy but instead I felt like a little sad. I know what it is to have a dream and watch it take it’s first breath, the thrill of those first few steps and the excitement as it starts to gain independence and confidence. I want success for Burnt Butter and it’s people.
The experience left me baffled, Chef Steve Wallace has 25 years under his belt, surly he doesn’t allow something out of his kitchen without a dash of salt? In reading diner reviews, I note that others felt much the same, desperately wanting to to fall in love with Burnt Butter, but just not getting what they need to get there.
In recent conversations with other restaurateurs, I’ve been told that customers are complaining about “too much salt” (and sending food back to the kitchen), in response their food has become bland and shallow to appease.
So I sent a note to Burnt Butter owners Gen & Steve before publishing asking if they’d experienced the same feedback from customers and had therefore dialed back the food. “Is Ottawa becoming salt-phobic?” this Gypsy wants to know.
Gen’s reply: “Steve is really conscious of of health and salt intake and he is cognizant of the levels of salt when he seasons, and does tend to be on the low side (or what is perceived as low, but is actually healthy, it is just that our taste buds are pretty used to things being over salted). We do have salt for the tables if a patron requests it – we certainly do get some patrons requesting it.”
Awwwwwwe, you’re trying to keep me on the planet longer. I’m touched. But on behalf of myself the dining public Steve let me say this; throw off the shackles of minding my salt intake, I beg of you. Good heavens man, that’s too much for you to worry about! If I have a problem with hypertension or high blood pressure, I’ll let the kitchen know. (Hello, PERFECT blood pressure over here.) Please, by-all-means, season my food.
If that cuts against your grain, don’t make me ask for salt and feel like I’m insulting the kitchen, put a beautiful salt grinder on the table, a note about your health-conscious approach on the menu and I’ll salt myself, thus relieving you of all guilt and sleepless nights.
For the record: salt is not bad for you, salt is an essential element and important in maintaining good health. The key is balance, moderation and GOOD salt.
Now that we have that out of the way Steve, let me now give you permission to wow me. Let the food sing, if I order a dish with curry as the superstar, I want to taste it by-gum. Slap me in the mouth, I like my Italian a little on the rough side. I’ll be back and I’ll be happy to be playfully spanked by the kitchen. (Metaphorically speaking.)
You called it Brunt Butter… burn Baby, BURN.
1100 Wellington St.
Ottawa, ON K1Y 2Y7