I’ve never really loved calling it a “tasting menu” or “Chef’s menu”. I suppose we could say “carte blanche”, that would make more sense. When I describe it to guests, I prefer to phrase it as a question, “why don’t we just cook for you?”
This is the best way to eat at Richmond Station. You may not know this about the restaurant but we always have lots of food around that is not on the menu. We just simply don’t have enough of some things to write on the chalkboard or print on our pantry menu. We buy as much local and seasonal produce as we can and take a lot of pride in our relationships with the very hard-working, small farmers in Southern Ontario. But the growing season in this part of the world is very short and availability for some things is very limited. We are also a very busy little restaurant, so even a lot of food doesn’t last a long time in our bustling kitchen. The thing that sets us apart from most restaurants, though, is that we only buy whole animal. When we want to put beef on the menu, we buy a steer and when we want to put pork on the menu, we buy a pig. When we run out of bacon, we buy another pig.
Buying food this way has its challenges and its beauty. The biggest challenge is writing the menu. Since we only buy a side of beef a week, we have a limited amount of beef steaks available. The burger can go on the printed menu (the one on our website) as we always have enough beef around that is perfect for grinding into burgers, but the steaks make their appearance on our chalkboard. The beauty of buying food the way we do is that it allows us to have a lot of fun with the cuts that there are not a lot of. For example, a side of beef has eight rib steaks. That’s not enough to allow us to print it on our seasonal pantry menu or write it on our chalkboard: they would all be gone in minutes! But if you come in with a group of friends and let us cook for you, that rib steak might be yours.
I’ve always liked cooking this way, and some of our most devoted regulars have long known this about me. So much so that many among them have never ordered off the regular menu. When Lynda and Sam come in, as they have been since we opened Richmond Station, they just pull up a chair and ask what’s around. And Sam still waits for the day we get another milk fed veal in from Martin at Mapleton Organic.
So why don’t we just call it a tasting menu? The answer lies in the format of the meal. When you let us cook for you, sometimes your menu will be four courses and everything will be served family style and very rustic and sometimes it will be fifteen courses and everything plated individual and elegant. The menu changes according to what we have in the fridge, what table you are sitting at, how many of you there are, how much time you have, budget, dietary restrictions, and, frankly, what our chefs are excited about serving at that very moment. One thing that won’t change is that it will always be the best way to eat at Richmond Station. Why don’t you let us take your menus away and just cook for you?
-Chef Carl Heinrich.
NOTE: Final seating if you want us to cook for you is 9:45pm and prices start at $70 for dinner and $50 for lunch.