I’m finding it hard to muster the will to eat again. On this night a few good friends joined me in, what is soon becoming, one of the best dining experiences I have taken part in.
Maybe it’s a feeling of loss, because within the present parameters I feel I may never eat another meal quite like the one we just had. I’d hate to eat again only to be disappointed with the offering. Or, maybe I’m just being too stubborn. It runs in my family and I’ve learned to come to terms with it at an early age. Just ask my girlfriend or any close acquaintance, as they’ve all dealt with it in some form or another. Even as I write this I have yet to put anything in my stomach. It’s as if I want to preserve the previous evening’s feast in my mind and not complicate it with other outside references to food.
A few days prior to our evening, I stopped by MamO to chat with owner Ryan Odette about his relentless dedication to fresh ingredients and his insatiable appetite for quality. If there’s one thing I heard over and over, and trust me, it’s not a bad thing, is the need for his creations to have an unmistakable stamp of quality. The menu has changed 18 times in just three years, giving insight into how creative this man is.
A Windsor native from birth, Ryan took to cooking as so many do: as a means for some cash. He eventually conceded to the profession and made the trip north to Niagara College to study in their two-year culinary program. Upon completing the necessary requirements to obtain his Red Seal, he ‘bounced around’ Toronto from kitchen to kitchen, gaining experience and further honing his craft. He headed back south and put some time in at Casino Windsor, but found it to be a bit too ‘controlled’. An invitation came to work in New Orleans and he took it. Initially his work visa was for 18 months, but after only a few months his then fiancée sparked an interest in a soon-to-be vacant restaurant in Windsor they had eyed up before.
“My fiancée and I had always talked about this little place on Wyandotte St. E. and how it would make a great place to do our own thing,” says Ryan. “So when word spread that it was for sale, without even seeing the inside, we secured the necessary finances and it all came together.”
And when he finally did get a chance to check out his newest purchase, he had a bit of concern.
“When I stepped in for the first time I thought ‘how are we going to do this?’ The space was so small.” The size works, though. It works well indeed.
When my girlfriend and I arrived (late, I might add), we were immediately seated with our group. The evening was a celebration in honour of two friends who are married and share birthdays only 11 days apart. A potential pitfall for anyone who studies the stars and uses them to draw conclusions. In spite of this, and the fact they’ve been together some 13 plus years, they work well together.
MamO is BYOW (Bring Your Own Wine) licensed and we took full advantage of it. In total we had 4 bottles for 5 people. It was, after all, a celebration! Our waiter Duane, who was brought into the fold right from the restaurant’s inception, checked over our selection and opened a bottle of Riesling. While we chatted and looked over the menu, Duane acquainted us with the two specials that night: a tilapia plate and a double pork chop entrée.
I opted to start with the famous Grilled Shrimp, which has been consistent on the menu, and the double pork chop for my main.
The shrimp was amazing! Built on a mixture of shaved fennel and cilantro, drizzled with soy syrup and chili oil. The spice was the perfect compliment to the dish and received rave reviews from my fellow diners. Our table went in a variety of direction with our starters. On the table in good time and great presentation was Duck Leg Confit, salad of mixed greens with shaved Parmesan, and that evening’s soup, Potato Arugula.
We made our way through the first course, which could have been quite entertaining to any onlooker. There we were, sampling everyone’s dishes and sighing in ecstasy like a bunch of fools.
And as with the first course, the choices made for the entree went in a variety of directions. There were 2 orders of the tilapia, beef tenderloin done with a blue cheese sauce and an order of beautifully done lamb chops. The excitement on everyone’s faces was priceless.
The mains made their way out in the same fashion as our starters. The plates were gorgeous and the tastes phenomenal. The double chop was served with a sweet potato mash and spinach salad. The pork had a very original and tasty reduced sweet wine BBQ sauce. Ryan later confessed to me his love of the ‘other white meat’ and provided some cooking tips on what to look for when preparing pork.
“It doesn’t need to be medium to well done anymore” he explained. That’s changed over the past few years.” It’s never easy to put total trust in a chef and some may have opted to pass on the chops because of their reputation for being commonplace, but I never once felt like they would be ‘average’. From my earlier conversations and being witness to his opening act of starters, it was apparent Chef Ryan knew what he was doing and I let that guide my decisions.
Alas, this was not to be the end. We had neared the end of our second bottle of red when we were served dessert. Each of us was treated to a star anise chocolate torte drizzled with chocolate sauce and served with a coconut ice cream.
In his book “A Cooks Tour”, Anthony Bourdain was in search of the “perfect meal”, only to find it’s an impossible concept for more than one person to agree on. Instead, he found his own perfect meal on a sandy beach under a tiki hut with his wife, toes in the sand, a beer in his hand, enjoying the local fair. I now understand his state of mind when he came to that conclusion. With a little help from the all-encompassing attention to detail that Chef Ryan Odette and his staff provided, my friends and I were treated to our own “perfect meal” at MamO Bistro.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jamie writes for pure enjoyment. He has had articles in publications throughout Windsor/Essex County. While music and photography are his passions, food ranks a close fourth to alcohol. A self described carnivore and self admitted traveler, he spends his days carving meat and thinking about writing.