- A celebrated chef who had moved from metropolitan Toronto to a farm in rural Singhampton, ON
- A prix-fixe, 10-course meal prepared with food culled exclusively from his farm, or those of his neighbours
- A dining room for no more than 30 people
- A restaurant built exclusively of local materials – clay, stone, wood, etc…
- What was on the menu for the evening
- How broken wine bottles can be such a versatile decorative element
This is Haisai.
We weren’t sure what to expect as we arrived at the restaurant. Dressed a half-step above semi-casual, J and I sauntered inside and immediately noticed the building was constructed largely with clay, stone, and wood. With no bricks in sight, it had a rustic feel that lent itself perfectly to the surroundings – farmland as far as the eye can see. That said, while the restaurant is in the main part of town, it should be noted that Singhampton’s “main part of town” seemed to be a cluster of less than a dozen buildings, huddled around a rural highway intersection.
Once inside, we took a quick peek at the adjoining bakery and its impressive collection of preserves. It’s also praised heavily for its breads, but there were none on hand when we arrived. The walls of the bakery are lined toward the top with mismatched broken dishes, and the ceiling lined with broken pieces of brightly coloured ceramic.
Satisfied, we crossed the foyer into the dining area, and were told we could choose whatever table we like. Good thing we came early. We sat along the wall, not far from the front where the open kitchen and service were.
Haisai does things differently, and it works wonders. Their clay walls and roof are supported by thick logs and beams, with carvings and etchings dancing over their surfaces. The light fixtures are broken wine bottles, planted into the ceiling alongside decorative ceramic teapots that have been blown up and transformed into shard-filled snakes slithering above diner’s heads. In the wall are embedded ceramics and stones, while art pieces decorate the fireplace and surrounding space.
The tables and chairs are all individually-made and crafted from local wood sources, and each chair is covered with an animal skin for that soft, luxurious, animal-skin feel on your back. The napkins and wine glasses are marked with Haisai’s logo, while you drink water out of broken wine bottles, blown to ensure safety around the edges.
Ladies and gentlemen, your menu for the evening:
Nova Scotia Oysters with Green Caviar:
Pan-Seared Georgian Bay Lakehead Trout with Braised Lobster, Spinach Puree, Chervil and Lobster Sauce, and Parsnip:
Pickerel Dumpling with Red and Golden Farm Beets and Tarragon Sauce:
Roasted Duck Breast on Duck Gizzard Confit with Farm Mushrooms, Corn and Carrots:
Roasted Rack of Lamb, Tomato Confit with Beans, Roasted Vegetables, and Potato and Squash Dumpling:
Three-Cheese Platter with homemade Raisin Walnut Sourdough and Pear:
Cognac-Chocolate Cake with Raspberry-Lavender Sorbet: