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CANVAS by Michael Riemenschneider
November 4, 2014
September saw the reopening of CANVAS by Michal Riemenschneider at its new site in Chelsea. Candid popped on down to the basement venue to sample the wares and experience Michael’s unusual dining experience.
Once greeted at the door, we were led down into the restaurant, which is divided into three sections – the bar, the main square dining area and a smaller side area – separated by floor-length curtains. The décor is clean, elegant and unobtrusive, with small canvases depicting labelled diagrams of dishes on offer hanging on partition walls. The venue’s colour palette is that of untreated canvas, with the dark wooden tables and red chairs acting as base tones onto which Michael is to serve his masterpieces, his signature adorning the frosted glass which hides the kitchen from view. The main feature is the glass wall at one end of the restaurant, behind which is an extensive wine cellar that the sommelier wanders through to pick out matching wines per dish.
The idea behind CANVAS’ menu is that guests are provided with a selection of 18 dishes to choose either a three course or 12 course tasting menu from. Like the restaurant, the menu is split into three sections: Sea and Coast, Land and Earth, and Guilty Pleasures.
Michael came out to have a quick chat with us and ask if we would like to choose from the menu or if he could just bring out whatever he wanted us to try. We opted for the latter. We were brought an amuse bouche of lobster ravioli with avocado. The ravioli was light and fresh with the meaty sweetness of the lobster pairing well with the slightly bitter avocado – of which there was a tad too much, somewhat unbalancing the dish.
Our first course was Scallop with cauliflower cooked several ways, beautifully presented and full of intriguing textures. The scallop ceviche was delightfully gentle but there were so many strong flavours in the juniper and caramel purees and sauces that, whilst the flavours worked together, they were a bit overpowering. However, the sweetness of the Reisling with its touch of minerality managed to clarify this.
Our next dish was also from the Sea and Coast part of the menu; we were presented with a juicy king prawn resting atop a well-seasoned, tough yet shreddable rectangle of lamb. Warm salted cucumber played with sweetcorn to complete the plate, working with the sourness and acidity of the paired Sauvignon Blanc to temper what could have been another potentially overbearing group of flavours.
At this stage, we were starting to sense a theme in Michael’s tasting menu. Each dish was intelligently composed with textures and aesthetics in mind, however, there was always a slight disconnect with one element of the dish which overpowered the others to take away from the success of each piece. The sommelier’s wine choices however were truly exquisite and, in our opinion, made many of the courses. Our suspicions were confirmed as we continued on our tasting. Lamb (belly, saddle and neck) was wonderfully cooked and smacked well against the cod it was placed alongside, yet the reduction and olives they came with were too much.
In contrast to the mains, the desserts were beautifully balanced. The lemon dessert was especially successful with the light citric cream set in contrast with the very harsh lemon jelly cubes, which in turn was regimented by the sweetness of deconstructed meringue.
Whilst the tasting menu left our taste buds slightly confused, the sommelier and the fantastic service ensured that we did not leave CANVAS with a sour taste in our mouths.
Vicky Ilankovan – Lifestyle Editor