Set to Inspire

By Mike Lowe, Pulse Magazine

Niagara’s newest fine dining establishment’s logo reads simply “AG — Inspired Cuisine”. Ag, derived from the Latin word argentum, is more recognizable as the periodic table of the elements’ symbol for silver. A fitting name for the lustrous restaurant offering fresh, locally sourced ingredients that are transformed into exquisite dishes by Chef Cory Linkson. Linkson’s creations mirror the restaurant’s décor, a stunning composition of clean lines dominated by red, black and white. Both are demonstrations of classic elegance with modern influences. Only one week after opening, there are no obvious growing pains or “tweaking’ required to put this place on the map. AG hits the ground running and appears destined for success.

During our stay at AG we sampled nine of the eighteen menu selections all of which will leave most critics nodding in approval. Dinner begins with a tasting portion of seared sea scallop on a bed of couscous with cured salmon salad. A pan seared scallop, caramelized to enhance the natural sweetness is offset by a zesty lemon thyme beurre blanc. This first taste of AG begins a parade of palate pleasers that exemplify Chef Linkson’s creativity and skill. Imagine, if you will, the marriage of Jerusalem artichokes and truffle blended into a smooth, creamy, velouté garnished with roasted peppers and smoked trout. The fresh character of each ingredient is captured in a delicate yet complex dish with no one flavour overtaking the other. Beetroot Cured Salmon Gravlax pairs slices of house cured salmon with salmon tartare, salad nicoise, maple dressed sprouts and quail egg. The composition strikes a perfect balance with the distinctive essence of anchovy, olives, grainy mustard and sweet maple providing contrast to the richness of the salmon. These three dishes set the stage for an outstanding duck confit in Comfort Cream risotto. Comfort Cream is a Camembert–like cheese produced by Upper Canada Cheese Company of Jordan. The cheese enriches the pearly rice grains creating a creamy canvas for the shreds of slow-cooked duck meat while sweet potato and chanterelle mushrooms add sweetness and earthiness.

Our entrées consist of Arctic char and beef tenderloin that are every bit as well prepared, constructed and presented as the preceding dishes. A healthy portion of beef is crusted with toasted nuts, topped with brie, and partnered with foie gras and red currant jus making this offering one that could well become the house specialty for meat lovers. In contrast, the presentation of Arctic char is as subtle, delicate and aromatic as the beef is rich and powerful. The final round in this cavalcade of delights is the dessert course that offers a few decadent surprises like real honeycomb served with artisan cheeses and an interesting white chocolate Basmati rice pudding with sundried cherries. The dark chocolate torte uses quality chocolate produced by famed Belgian-born chocolatier Bernard Callebaut.

The wine list at AG offers almost 40 labels of fine Niagara wines underscoring the restaurant’s dedication to locally sourced products. Well trained, professional staff tend to every detail of your dining experience making this one restaurant worth seeking out for that special occasion, romantic dinner, or relaxing drink at the bar. Top–notch cuisine served in a sleek, contemporary, boutique hotel setting is sure to make the Sterling Inn and AG a sought after Niagara destination for discriminating customers.