Hip Teens Don’t Wear Blue Jeans: Model Milk Review

I’ve been itching to try the Sunday Supper at Model Milk for a while—it’s been mentioned in every local interest magazine (City Palate to enRoute to Macleans) as a “must try,” but the thought of rubbing elbows with the hippest of this city’s hipsters for a night deterred me greatly—especially after attending Wreck City earlier this year…don’t get me wrong, I’m all for alternative art and good eats, I just don’t like feeling so OLD and like everybody else is so much cooler than me in their tortoise-shell, horn-rimmed glasses. Most of my friends are hipstercrites so I already feel like I’m not progressive/artistic/bohemian enough on a daily basis. Eventually I ran out of excuses and made myself go to Model Milk.

The interior looks as if it every Pinterest cliché gained consciousness and congregated here for a support group meeting. Reclaimed wood? Present!  Re-purposed industrial equipment as lighting fixtures? Check (while on my way to the washroom I side eyed several rusty looking nails; please don’t fall on me and give me tetanus). Bright plastic pop-art and lucite accents? Yep. Wooden plaques with an elastic band as menus? You know it! Quirky songs? Absolutely—I could have sworn I heard a jazzed up version of Candy Shop (kind of like this but without vocals. FYI: the lyrics are probably NSFW). This place has ALL THE THINGS and I loved it.

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The Sunday Supper was about $35 for three courses and served family style. To complement  the upcoming Caesar salad, arrenchini, mains + sides, and rhubarb strusel cake, my eating companion decided to order a round of the Village Brewery WIT (white wheat ale)—he should have asked for a sample first… this stuff smelled like Butter’s pee. No joke. There was something super off about combining orange zest and coriander with caesar salad dressing. This brew was not for me.

The amuse (pictured above) was a smoked green tomato crostini with capicola. What was most unique about this dish was that the green tomato were uncharacteristically sweet, rather than tart—there was the perfect amount of acidity to balance out the dried, salty/cured-ness of the capicola (it’s like prosciutto, but cut from the neck/shoulder area). Our appetizer, a basic Caesar salad, came at the same time. All the elements of this Caesar salad were impeccable—the bacon was the right amount of salty (and crispy without being burnt!), the leaves were fresh, and the texture of the garlic croutons was tender, crunchy and golden brown. This was so tasty I wanted another!

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The salad was followed by arrenchini – Deep fried risotto? YES, please! The server described the arrenchini (which translates to “little oranges” from Italian) as being overcooked risotto that is stuffed with cheese and shallow fried. The effect of overcooking the risotto rendered the rice into a creamy and smooth texture; this was complimented by the deep fried batter, which gives the morsel a satisfying crunch. The arrenchini was served with a sweet tomato sauce and parmesan cheese, elements which imparted a nice hit of acidity to cut the richness of the rice ball and added some saltiness to the creaminess. Our only complaint was that the sauce was lukewarm, but otherwise a great dish overall.

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For the entrees we were served a pan seared Lois Lake steelhead and a (Driview Farms) roasted leg of lamb; both of our mains were accompanied by the same sides: Wagyu fat-fried crushed potatoes, warm sweet potato salad, grilled asparagus with wild mushrooms, sauteed cabbage & etuvee of beets.

I wish that I could say I was as blown away by the entrees as I was by the amuse and the appetizers—but only adequate comes to mind. I liked the flavors and the crust on the steelhead—however my fish was slightly overcooked (some say it’s a salmon, others a trout—whatever, it has the David Suzuki seal of sustainability approval so I didn’t feel bad about eating this fish!); I’ve had steelhead from Lois Lake before, and maybe I just wasn’t served a piece of the belly on this particular night, but it wasn’t what I remembered it being like: melt in your mouth tender and fois gras like in flavor. My piece of fish appeared dry and flaky on the edges—there was a slightly noticeable layer of albumin foaming in between the skin and the meat. I prefer my fish served a rare-medium rather than medium well– but this wasn’t an option apparently. While I liked the pairing of the fish with the beets and cabbage (the earthy/tangy combo of the beets brought out the sweetness of the fish), I didn’t care for the wagyu fat-fried potatoes or the warm potato salad—this didn’t work so much for the fish as it did for the lamb. I thought that the lamb was cooked through enough to bring out the  juiciness and the herbaceous-ness of the meat– while I liked the lamb, I felt that the olive oil finish was too heavy handed. I generally believe that all dishes can benefit from a splash of high quality olive oil for an additional fruity hit; but in this case, less is more: the lamb was sitting in a pool of oil which melded into some coagulated lamb fat after ten minutes had passed. The lamb was so fresh and tender that it didn’t need the olive oil to carry the flavors.

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The rhubarb streusel cake was delightful. The cake itself was moist and surprisingly warm when it came to the table. My eating companion liked it as it was not overly sweet—we both found the cinnamon ice cream to be a perfect complement as the spice cut the tartness of the rhubarb and bring out a hint of fruitiness. The cinnamon ice cream in combination with the cake tastes like a chai syrup. Yum! This dessert was a home run for our table! We devoured every last crumb.

Overall, I liked Model Milk. While the entrees weren’t standouts, everything else made up for the lackluster mains and sides. Though intimidated at first to come here, I truly came to love the too-cool-for-school ambiance (hipsters—they’re people too!) I admired the rustic appeal of the exposed brick walls, eclectic décor and open kitchen design. The tables for two were a bit small for the many plates of food that arrived—but hey now, the table top is literally made of an old dairy shack—I’ve got to cut them some slack for their efforts to recycle, right? Model Milk was a memorable experience with great service. I’ve learned to get over myself and my irrational fears of being judged by the hip teens in their colored skinny jeans; I will definitely be back to Model Milk soon to try the regular menu!

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