Fine dining in the Exchange

Peasant Cookery offers a relaxed setting for a novice foodie

  • Exchange your Corydon patio seat for one in the Exchange. – Kevin Legge

It had been some time since I last visited an upscale restaurant. Unsure of etiquette or dress code, I scrambled to find the proper balance of casual and formal, with the unfortunate consequence of dressing like Han Solo.

The Exchange District Restaurant (formerly Decanter’s and most recently, Oui Bistro) has a high-ceilinged, open dining room with adjoining lounge – the perfect place to wait for a table or grab a nightcap. The eastward face of the room holds large, nearly floor-length windows, with a pleasant view of the Old Market Square. The window sills are peppered with an eclectic assortment of canned olives and other vegetables; a charmingly rustic, though seemingly forced, touch.

Our server was friendly and guided us through the menu tactfully, defining such obscurities as piquillo peppers and gremolata. He explained that the menus were changed monthly, as the online version was markedly different than the current one, with the style of the mussel appetizer and one entrée special decided upon daily. For “firsts” I chose chicken livers in red-wine sauce, while my compatriot went with a pickled beet, goat cheese and arugula salad. For “seconds” we picked the aged-cheddar gnocchi and a veal/pork lasagna dish.

While we waited, our server plied us with beer, water and a basket of bread. The chicken livers were excellent: tender, but cooked thoroughly. A staunch opponent of red onions, I was impressed with the way their intensity was muted in the sauce. Two pieces of my grilled flatbread tasted slightly burnt, but not enough to bother me. The salad was warm, and the beets melted gently into the goat cheese atop the arugula bedding. Although the flavours weren’t particularly powerful, they were well matched.

With our entrées en route, we tackled the wine list. Our server was knowledgeable and frank, giving multiple options and explaining them succinctly. It is refreshing to see restaurants with sufficient confidence in their employees to allow them the luxury of a personality.

Our entrées were gracefully plated and portioned. The gnocchi was buttery and topped with a basil purée. At risk of sounding like Lucille Bluth, my dish had a few too many sun-dried tomatoes for my liking. They were quite vinegary, and towards the end, overtook the other flavours. Still, this minor critique doesn’t outweigh my enjoyment of the gnocchi. The lasagna was tantalizing, draped in a dense, aromatic cream sauce.

I was pleased with the atmosphere, decor and service at Peasant Cookery, but most importantly, the French-inspired food. It was delicious and flavourfully robust. The prices ranged from the medium to high end (though not outrageous) and the eatery’s lone weakness is a lack of many vegetarian options.

While outside of my spending range for a casual night, Peasant Cookery is an excellent place to celebrate a birthday, a graduation, or fancy evening out.

Published in Volume 67, Number 26 of The Uniter (May 29, 2013)

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