As temperatures drop and wind chills rise, as sweaters are broken out and you wonder whether or not you want to admit that it’s cold enough for you to be <em>that</em> person to break out the snow coat, a craving for warmth, comfort, and everything pumpkin-related comes over you. Introducing Red House, a bistro restaurant gracing uptown Waterloo. </p>
Red House is easy enough to find; its exterior is a literal red house that was renovated for the purposes of this restaurant. Surveying the restaurant, it was an eclectic mix of homey mixed with the trendy and classy, with little thoughtful touches everywhere, such as Pinterest-esque mason jarred preserves, ‘70s mood lighting, and various tasteful paintings of nature. Complimentary kale and lemon hummus with pita bread showed up and I was instantly sold. Aside from wishing that the pita bread had been warmed up, the freebie was actually quite tasty, and contained unique flavours I’d never tasted before in hummus.
I started with the squash fritters, a dish that had always interested and somehow eluded me in the past (no one else ever wanted to order them). From the first bite, I was so glad I had. It was a hit: the squash was beautifully cooked, with an uncomplicated crisp on its outer layer with ricotta cheese inside it lending a slight cheesiness that didn’t detract away from the squash’s flavour. The fritters were also accompanied by a beautifully creamy sumac yogurt with tangy micro-cilantro that lent just the right amount of zing the plate needed. As starters go, it was a lovely immersion of both varying textures and flavours; my partner and I both easily licked that plate clean, forks scraping against the plate to get more of that delicious sauce.
For entrees, I chose the chicken and prosciutto rigatoni (a type of pasta), while my companion chose to take advantage of the restaurant’s “Tapa Tuesday,” ordering sweet potato and ham hash along with cured beef tenderloin. I found my pasta interesting and tasty, but mildly disappointing for some reason. For the longest time, I couldn’t figure out why — each individual element of the dish was perfectly cooked, and fresh al dente pasta from Vincenzo’s was graced by tender roasted chicken, crispy prosciutto, and caramelized onions. A sprinkling of marinated tomatoes, sweet peas, and a light coating of roasted garlic olive oil and Grana Padano cheese completed the platter. It was simple, elegant, and subtle, and I think in its subtlety was where it ultimately fell. Perhaps I was coming down off of the high of the squash fritters, but the house’s rigatoni was ultimately a bit too subtle and “safe” from what I’d come to expect from the flavour explosion I’d experienced in the previous dish.
My partner’s tapas ultimately turned out significantly lovelier; his beef tenderloin with jalapeno-spiced pesto was cooked almost rare, which made for a curiously tasty, chewy texture that was at once bouncy and gelatinous when chewed. The sweet potato and ham hash was rich and satisfying, with the fat of the pork belly combining extremely well with the sweet potatoes and caramelized onions to make for a decadent affair.
All in all, Red House was a charming experience, and furthermore, a great place to bring a date. Cosy, intimate, and priced just a bit above normal student prices (although their pricing definitely isn’t undeserved, as Red House does a great service to local ingredients), this place is perfect for bringing someone special when Netflix and chill just won’t do.