Atlantica reopens with new, locally focused menu
Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s
Atlantica is located in a perfect setting. Perched on the very edge of a cliff at Portugal Cove, it provides diners with a spectacular view of the bay and of Bell Island. My compliments to whoever cleans the massive plate glass wall-to-wall windows that allow for such a stunning view. They’re spotless. A delightful bonus visual is the ferryboat Beaumont Hamel that can be seen working its way back and forth between Portugal Cove and Bell Island.
Any day is a good day to visit Atlantica. I was there on a day that seemed perfect because we arrived in time to catch the slow setting of an orange-coloured sun as it dipped behind Bell Island and out of view. There’s always something to see through Atlantica’s windows, even if it’s an intimate view of Conception Bay fog. Nature and the elements are never far from your mind at Atlantica.
The panoramic view is what gives Atlantica character. While the décor features a small number of bright, colourful paintings, whiter than white pressed tablecloths and attractive stainless flatware, it is the view that creates atmosphere in the room. Excellent service helps, too. Staff that appeared genuinely happy to see our group of four welcomed us warmly. They conducted themselves in a friendly, relaxed but professional manner the entire evening. We felt very comfortable at Atlantica.
Atlantica’s executive chef, David Battcock, took charge of the kitchen this winter and spent March, April and May doing research and development in preparation for Atlantica’s reopening last month. Battcock was offered Atlantica’s top spot early in 2013 after doing a solo run in the kitchen cooking for Atlantica’s Christmas functions.
He says he has a great rapport with Atlantica’s owner, Lana Giovanini. He admires her work ethic.
“She’s here every single day,” he said.
Battcock, 27, grew up in St. John’s and St. Philip’s. He began his culinary career as a teenager working for chef Brian Abbott at Restaurant 21 and then at Aqua with chef Mark McCrowe.
With the exception of a recent stint in the Cayman Islands, Battcock has spent most of his career in Toronto. His last Toronto gig was with Liberty Entertainment Group as executive sous chef. Liberty operates many restaurants in Toronto and several in Miami. Its Toronto venues include Ciao Wine Bar, Spice Route, Cibo Wine Bar and Rosewater.
Battcock plans to change Atlantica’s menu every four weeks and to offer a different tasting menu of up to eight courses every two weeks. He takes inspiration from Atlantica’s phenomenal view, and says he’d like to “match the food to the view.”
There’ll be a focus on local ingredients from sea and land, and an attempt to pair Atlantica’s dishes with the season. Battcock says Atlantica will be open for business until January and close for the deep winter months of January, February and March. The longer operating season will be something Atlantica’s many fans will celebrate.
Atlantica’s dinner menu has been divided into three sections, offering selections in three courses, including starters, middle courses (in small or large size) and main courses.
Before ordering, we were offered a choice of freshly baked breads from Atlantica’s kitchen, followed by an amuse bouche. The bread basket contained soft pretzels, rye and sourdough rolls. The rolls and fresh butter were brilliant. We could have made a fine meal just on the fragrant rolls we munched and washed down with a smooth, rich, fruity Barossa Valley wine, Kalleske Pirathon Shiraz, 2007.
An amuse bouche of cod ceviche arrived on individual ceramic spoons. Raw cod was essentially cooked in a combination of lemon juice, lime juice, cilantro, olive oil, pineapple, salt, black pepper, red pepper, jalapeño and sliced scallions. This very tiny portion packed lots of flavour and still managed to allow the taste of the fish to come through. Even the distinctive fresh cilantro didn’t overpower.
My starter was a delicious trio of sushi-grade tuna. In the middle of a rectangular white plate was tuna tataki (small slices of tuna seasoned with soy and citrus, according to our server) with tuna ceviche and tuna tartare on either side. The ceviche and tartare were very similar. The tartare was prepared much like a steak tartare would be, with minimal spicing to allow the flavour of the rich tuna to dominate. The tuna ceviche was made in the manner of the cod amuse, with lots of citrus.
One of our middle courses was bacon risotto. I was reminded of a café in New York called Oat Meals where they serve many different styles of porridge, including a version with bacon and apple stirred through the creamy porridge. Atlantica’s conceit was to serve supremely creamy rice (instead of porridge) with crispy bits of bacon stirred through it. To be honest, the bacon porridge idea probably came after somebody married up bacon with risotto; but I would happily serve either version for breakfast.
I was pleased to see handmade pasta on Atlantica’s menu. Patrons at high-end restaurants deserve to be served mostly things that the chef has made with his own hands.
Offered as one of the middle courses, the day’s pasta — handmade spaghetti — was available in a small version for $13 or large for $26. I enjoyed the dish, which also included fresh-tasting tomato, basil and a soft piece of mozzarella served as a decorative cap on the bright red mound. The spaghetti looked more like capellini to me because it was very thin. Despite the gauge of the pasta, it tasted very good.
Spouse chose a main of oven-baked halibut. The piece of white fish was thick and succulent. It glistened. Chef served it with slices of cooked shiitake mushroom over a lemon-coloured mousseline. The dish was adjusted because of a dietary concern, so the mousseline did not contain cream. It wasn’t missed. Everything worked, although I would suggest adding a few vegetables in future.
I had Atlantica’s lamb rib-eye. Two hefty chunks of pink lamb weighed down either end of yet another rectangular plate. The dish was finished off in freestyle fashion with scattered wilted spring onions, seared tomato pieces here and there, and stripes of olive purée. The lamb was cooked perfectly. It went well with my final glass of Shiraz. We had a good night.
Dinner for two with wine and gratuity — $215 (approximately)
* Fair * * Good * * * Excellent
* * * * Exceptional
For regular updates on “One Chef One Critic,” my Telegram Dining Out column and the latest developments on the local culinary scene, please follow me on Twitter @karl_wells.
Karl Wells is an accredited personal chef and recipient of awards from the national body of the Canadian Culinary Federation and the Restaurant Association of
Newfoundland and Labrador. He is also a restaurant panellist with enRoute
magazine. Contact him through his