Aqua’s new menu: like fine art with a playful side

I’m an unabashed fan of Aqua, as the many references I’ve made to the longstanding downtown restaurant on this blog can attest to. They just strike a lot of the right chords with me. The atmosphere is unpretentious, the attention to details sharp, and the menu always exciting.

Owner Mark McCrowe has a playful side he’s happy to explore in his culinary creations. If his crisp white plates were canvases, many of his works would be akin to Picassos and Warhols, unrestrained by contemporary expectations, yet executed with exquisite finesse and destined to leave a lasting impression.

Aqua’s latest update to their menu is brimming with such examples, like their tequila grilled shrimp and chorizo tacos that practically beg you to leave your cutlery on the table.

Their chicharon (a super fancy word for pork rinds), crispy fried and spiced with cajun honey, is another fine example of playfulness on the starters menu. While the wasabi pea crusted tuna and the tempura lobster and asparagus are no less creative, delightful and delicious.

When it came time for my date and I to choose our mains, we couldn’t resist trying the richest looking selections on the menu, namely the crispy duck breast, with potato croquette, buttered leeks, carrots, turnips and orange cardamom gastrique, and the hazelnut and dijon crusted lamp chops, with old cheddar potato gratin, bacon wrapped green beans, mint pesto and red heart shiraz reduction.

A tip of the hat goes out to a few dishes that have carried over from the previous menu, such as the “big mc” moose burger, the lobster poutine, and the black pepper and chilli fried squid with bloody mary ketchup. All signs that McCrowe is as intent on wowing his customers with new and unusual plates as he is on hearing them when something stands out with universal appeal.

There’s a lot of exciting, enticing options to choose from with Aqua’s new menu. With that in mind, it’s best you bring a friend or few with you to sample as much as possible. No doubt you’ll be returning to try more of what’s new, and revisit a few new favourites, too.