The Alex

Tucked away behind a small storefront facing Brant Street is one of Burlington's newest restaurants, the Alex. Located where Trendz used to be, it's easy to miss unless you're specifically looking for it. After tweeting back and forth with someone from the restaurant for a couple of weeks and being tempted by menu teases, I convinced my boyfriend that we should stop by for a mini-celebration dinner. A restaurant that speaks of bacon every second word – I needed to try it!

The Alex markets itself as small-plate fine dining. My initial reaction upon hearing that was fine dining usually comes in small portions anyway, how much smaller can it get? I thought it was a clever way to charge more for less. However, I desperately wanted to try it and devoured the online menu and drooled over the pictures as I anticipated our visit.

There is no private parking here, but we were lucky enough to find a spot right in front of the restaurant. There was also a split-second of confusion because there is a door facing Brant Street, but you have to go in through the side. Throughout the evening, we saw many others trying to come in through the front door, although there are at least three pieces of signage that ask you to use the patio door. Oops! There is a small side patio where I can picture myself lingering over summer meals with a bottle of chilled white wine. Inside, the restaurant itself is small, with seating for 30 and painted in a rich, deep brown colour with gold trim along the top. Light fixtures that look like fluffy snowballs and local art adorn the wall to round out the atmosphere. A couple of booths along the side and a few tables with dainty leather chairs line the walls.

Our server showed us to our table and offered to take our coats. The chairs are surprisingly comfortable though they looked a little flimsy at first glance. The menu is a simple one-pager – but the offerings are far from simple. Every dish sounded intriguing and we asked our server how we should proceed. As they are smaller dishes, she suggested that four or five dishes should suffice for the two of us. We opted to order two at a time and kept the menu with us in case we wanted to order more. So when reading this very long review, remember that the portions are very small and although it sounds like a lot, it probably comes out to about the same size as two entrees.

The wine menu is reasonably priced with the most expensive bottle I noticed around $50.  The boyfriend was very excited that Malbec was offered by the glass ($7) and I opted for a white wine spritzer ($7). Both of us were happy with our choices as we waited for our dishes.

First up was the Sweet Potato Perogies with Crispy Pork Belly and Sour Cream ($9).  Soft perogy dough filled with mashed sweet potato are steamed and drizzled with sour cream, then plated with cubes of pork belly with a crispy fried skin. The pork reminds me of the roast pork from Asian barbecue places, but without the seasoning. The textures of the perogies and pork were great, but I found the taste to be a little bland.

Next up was the dish I had been dreaming about since I heard of its existence – Trio of Bacon ($10).  Bacon-wrapped bacon had such potential by the sound of it, but to the boyfriend and myself, it was the most disappointing of the trio. Thick smoked bacon was wrapped around what seemed like a pork chop and drizzled with a semi-sweet sauce. The meat was cooked perfectly, but again, we found it bland and not as flavourful as we were hoping. My favourite was the pommery-glazed bacon over smoked pork mashed potatoes. The pommery glaze gave the bacon a sweet spice that was paired perfectly with the smoky, creamy mashed potatoes. I could have eaten that all night.

The Pan Roast Petite Bavette Steak with Bacon Fries, Roast Zucchini and Peppercorn Sauce ($15) was amazing. The steak was cooked to a perfect medium and melts in your mouth. The bacon fries (bacon wrapped around thick cut potatoes) were a little disappointing  – you could taste that they were fried together, but they were not as crispy as I had hoped. The roast zucchini was overcooked and cold, but the peppercorn sauce was so delicious I asked my boyfriend if it would be rude if I licked the plate (unlucky for me, he said yes).

Spicy Sausage and Cheddar Stuffed Deboned Chicken Wings ($9) were recommended by our server and I'm glad we took her advice. The wing itself is deboned but the wingtip is left to give you something to hold on to. The sausage had a tiny bit of spice to it, and mixed with the cheddar and fried into a moist chicken wing... I don't think I ever want a normal chicken wing again! The flavours worked beautifully when paired with the understated bed of potato and cabbage; it was a fantastic dish that I'm still dreaming about.

Finally, we had to try the Charcuterie Board with Pickled Vegetables ($15) since both the Chef and our server raved about the amazing cured meats that are brought in. Five types of cured meat, fresh toast crisps, pickles, olives and Dijon mustard round out the board. I can honestly say it was some of the best cured meat I have ever tried in my life.  The thinly sliced prosciutto-style meat all melted on the toast; I took to calling one “butter meat” because it was so thin and so melty that I was amazed it was actually meat. The two sausage-style meats on the board had a bit of kick to them, so if you are wary of spice you have been warned. There were desserts available, but we were unfortunately too stuffed to try any.

All in all, this is a great addition to Burlington. There are plenty of restaurant gems in town, and the Alex is definitely one of them. The ingenuity in the dishes, the quality of the ingredients and the fantastic service from the staff make this a standout in the numerous downtown–core options. This is not a restaurant you go to if you are in a hurry or looking for a quiet and intimate meal.  Chef Matthew (who is in charge of the Alex's Twitter account) came out to talk to us and it was nice to put a face to the tweets. All of the staff at the Alex are knowledgeable about the dishes and seem passionate about the food. Matthew mentioned that this is not only a place where you go to enjoy the food, but to also enjoy the company and talk to your tablemates.  Judging by how loud it got in the dining room as the seats filled, people were certainly doing just that. It made me very glad to have made a reservation, and I can't wait to come back and see what else they can do with bacon.

The Alex on Restaurantica
The Alex
480 Brant St. S., Burlington!/alexrestaurant


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