Niagara Falls Dining Goes Upscale

Niagara Falls

It’s hypnotic. I can’t take my eyes off the Niagara Falls crashing and thundering into the Niagara River. The fine mist and spray, and the bright rainbows in the sun seem as unreal as an AI photograph. Visitors from many lands make the short jaunt to spend time in front of this wonder of the world. Nothing has changed here at Niagara Falls for centuries. But now, I sense change is coming.

Three times today, change has shown itself to me as clearly as if it were spelled out on the front page of the daily paper. A new sophistication that includes glamour and gourmet dining is making a break though. We’ve seen this wave in other parts of Ontario (since the pandemic) when city dwellers left the city for smaller centres and took their social habits with them.

Red Ganache pastry
Mango Puff, Red Ganache

Red Ganache

The half dozen hours between lunch and dinner loom large when four o’clock rolls around, and all I can think of is a cappuccino and cake at Red Ganache. Pradeep Dharmawardane, patissier extraordinaire, has opened an inviting bakery with a neatly landscaped front patio. Inside the glass display counters are a decadent array of cakes, tarts, croissants, cookies, bursting with freshness. They will all disappear by end of the day, making way for tomorrow’s fresh new delectables. I peruse the merchandise under glass as if they were jewels at Tiffany. I have my eye on a Pistachio Éclair (made with fresh pistachios, fresh cream, and choux pastry) and try to make an aching choice between the Red Velvet cake or Chocolate Hazelnut cake.  I may miss out. People arrive continuously to pick up special occasion cakes they have pre-ordered, or their favourite pastries to take out. But we’re eating in, comfortable at one of the four pink tables and chairs.

Pistachio Éclair
Pistachio Éclair

Our cakes are served: Strawberry shortcake first. “Farm fresh” sounds cliché, but this light and lovely three-layered cake is where that term came from. My sense-memory takes me back immediately to time spent on the farm, eating fresh whipped cream with no additives or sugar, sweet strawberries and my mom’s renowned white cake. Two of us make that cake disappear pdq. They make an excellent espresso as well. Another please. Can this Mango custard have filled tart taste as luscious as it looks? The fresh fruit flavour comes through. The cream is so smooth and immaculately enveloped in a delicate crunch of crushed almond and brown sugar crackling. A Pecan Maple Tart winked at me from the glass case, and now, it sits before me, awaiting my enjoyment. This crust is a perfect crunch that cups an ambrosial confluence of filling and crushed nuts.

Red Ganache pastry
Maple Pecan Tart, Red Ganache

Dharmawardane shares with us that, “You don’t need “sweet,” you just need flavour from using the proper ingredients; the right amount of sugar and flavour combination to balance the whole thing. That’s what we believe in.” Inspired by seasons and people, he tells us his goal is to make people feel good. Well sir, mission accomplished.

Tomorrow is another day. A box holding a very large chocolate croissant, filled with fine chocolate and Nutella and piled high with big chocolate shavings is coming home with me. I know this, tomorrow’s breakfast will probably be the most delicious part of my day.

Carpaccio Restaurant

Looking forward to lunch at Carpaccio, I envision its namesake: sparkling fresh beef, salmon or a juicy vegetable, ever-so-thinly sliced and sprinkled with fresh herbs, cheese and creamy sauces. But other people have their own gastronomic desires and as luck would have it, all our desires are about to be fulfilled.

The menu is provocative, and presentations have a personal, original yet traditional style. Veal parmigiana, a tender, crusty veal striploin, is enrobed in a lush house-made tomato sauce and layered with melting mozzarella. Perfectly al dente spaghetti completes the dish. (If the truth be known, this is the way to a man’s heart.)

I am torn between which of the Carpaccio to choose. They are all so hard to resist. The clever people who prepare the menu are familiar with diners like me, and offer a selection of all three.

Carpaccio Restaurant
Carpaccio Restaurant

I begin with the beetroot, enhanced with pecans and crumbled Gorgonzola, sprinkled with lemon honey vinaigrette. Next part of this luxury plate is smoked salmon, thinly sliced and capped with crumbled goat cheese, pickled red onion, capers and lemon oil. On to the main course of my trio, thinly sliced beef Carpaccio, capped with lemony arugula, and parmigiano reggiano.

Would we expect anything less than delicious perfection from what has been voted the “Best Overall Restaurant in Niagara?”

Table Rock Restaurant

At the brink of the Horseshoe Falls, a large modern edifice that offers souvenir shops and various points of view of one of the worlds wonders, holds something special for lovers of fine food. Seated at a table for two with the most impressive view of the Falls at night, the rushing waters lit up in red, white and blue, the sparkling lights all around and in the distance, it really does make the heart beat just a little faster. We are in a special place.

See Also

Can any menu live up to the ambience in the dining room? Chef Matt Krupa has it covered. For a true taste of place, the Atlantic lobster grilled cheese with Gun’s Hill Brie, pickled fennel and roasted garlic bechamel; Canadian Prime Rib Burger with smoked cheddar, paired with a selection of local crafts beer; and braised Ontario beef poutine with Upper Canada cheese curds, Koslik’s triple crunch mustard and wholesome cut fries are gastronomic sights to behold. But this diverse menu wows us with vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free options, too. Each one, tasty and inventive.

Ice Wine Cured Salmon, Table Rock Restaurant
Ice Wine Cured Salmon, Table Rock Restaurant

Salmon, cured in Ice-wine, with fennel pollen and five spice, is richly pink and bursting with flavour. It shares the plate with crisp, tiny balls of fresh apple (skin left on) juxtaposed with the soft flavour rich slices of salmon. A unique and special dish using ingredients all within a few miles of the kitchen.

Grass-fed Rib Eye, dusted with Maldon salt and accented with red onion jam, red wine vinegar, soy and black garlic, is as tenderly prepared as it is enjoyed. Local St. Catherine’s mushrooms and jet-black truffles elevate this delicious expression of Ontario product and reflect Chef Krupa’s philosophy of consciously sourcing and selecting ingredients.

Steak, Table Rock Restaurant
Steak, Table Rock Restaurant

Dessert is thrilling. Four layers of several kinds of chocolate: dark, milk, white and a hazelnut-chocolate combination cut into neat bars and sprinkled with fleur de sel and dewy fresh wildflower petals is simply perfect. And, perfectly simple. It takes a chef the calibre of Krupa to understand this intellectual cooking strategy of using the best, freshest ingredients and allowing them to speak for themselves. “You certainly have a talented pastry chef in the kitchen,” I say. He laughs, “there is no pastry chef–I do it myself.”

Triple Chocolate Mousse, Table Rock Restaurant
Triple Chocolate Mousse, Concord Grape Dots, Peanuts, Vanilla Ice Cream, Table Rock Restaurant

There is an obvious respect for Table Rock, and Chef Krupa, ambassador of Ontario cuisine. Beyond the Falls, Niagara has always been revered as our fruit basket, a uniquely rich agricultural region. Table Rock is a lodestone of Canadian cuisine. Through his menu, Krupa encourages our awareness of the farms, the dairies, the wineries and the breweries, and we want to visit them all.

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