When I think about fine dining in Kingston, a narrow list of choice and correspondingly pricey establishments come to mind. Near the top is Casa Domenico, which boasts fine Italian dining and a romantic atmosphere that peeks out onto Market Square. Or at least it used to be romantic before they plopped a huge TV into the bar area to display whatever sporting event was taking place. Nevertheless, to ring in the New Year in 2010 and 2011, Casa has been our go to establishment. It’s a rare treat that we afford only on special occasions, and what’s more special than New Year’s Eve?
For those who have never been to Casa Domenico, reservations are a must, especially on popular nights such as New Year’s Eve, most weekends, Valentine’s Day, Grad season etc… From past experience, I would also recommend that you show up exactly on time, as both early and late comers will be invited to wait at the bar until a table, and the staff are ready for you. The menu boasts everything you should expect from an upscale Italian restaurant, from Caprese salad to Arancini, pasta Puttanesca to the back by popular demand Tonno Terzetto. Rest assured, in spite of the fact that the menu refers to most dishes in Italian, the mouth watering descriptions are conveniently in English.
Some might argue, rightfully so, that Caesar salad is as far from real Italian cuisine as North Americans can get. Casa’s Caesar Salad ($7.75) consists of romaine, shaved parmigiano, crisp prosciutto, focaccia croutons, and a very healthy amount of garlic dressing. Thankfully they don’t sprinkle in whole capers, which seems to be a trend at other local fine dining establishments. Needless to say, Tijuana’s little secret is well represented by Casa. However, if Caesar salad isn’t your thing, you can always try out delicious alternatives such as: Insalata Verde, Caprese, Caprino, Pera con Gorgonzola or Bella Mela.
Given the substantial portions and price of their main courses, neither salads nor appetizers are really required at Casa unless you’re going all out. Being as it was New Year’s Eve, we opted to try the Arancini ($10.00), risotto balls stuffed with porcini mushroom, peas and mozzerella with tomato sauce and basil. Having enjoyed Arancini at Olivea, and successfully produced it for our family’s Christmas dinner this past year, I was a bit disappointed by Casa’s interpretation. That’s not to say that it wasn’t delicious, but I did find it heavy on cheese and light on Arborio, or whatever rice they use. I wouldn’t be quick to order this dish again at Casa, but I would recommend you try it to see how their recipe stacks up against your favourites.
Onto the main course, where I opted for the Manzo ($33.00), a grilled AAA beef tenderloin, served atop a carmelized onion potato cake, and swimming in roasted garlic red wine sauce. This is my go-to main course selection at Casa, and although it has never happened, if they were to tell me that it was unavailable, I might get up from the table and walk out. Don’t get me wrong, I know they do pasta and other dishes really well, but ever since I tasted this on my first visit, I’ve never strayed when ordering. Bottom line, if you put Casa’s mouth-watering, perfectly grilled Manzo up against any other gourmet steak in Kingston, you’d likely come away giving top marks to Casa. The crispy onion potato cake and colourful sauce also make this dish really special, giving it a richness that encourages you to savour each and every bite.
My dining companion also ordered her favourite main course dish, the Tonno Terzetto ($32.00). As you can see in the photo above, there are three distinct servings of tuna, prepared as follows:
- Black peppered tuna (rare), caramelized fennel, tomato oil, citrus mayo;
- Mustard seed tuna (rare), marinated red onions, potato crisps; and
- Tuna crudo, capers, extra-virgin olive oil, arugula.
While each preparation offers a unique comination of flavours and textures, I surprisingly enjoyed the mustard seed encrusted tuna above the rest. My wife on the other hand, couldn’t make up her mind which one she liked the best. Needless to say, this dish is great for those who have trouble making up their minds with respect to ordering. It’s hard to believe that Casa removed this dish from their menu for a short while, but encouraging to see it back.
Casa Domenico is a pricey treat that you will likely splurge for on the most special of occasions. Rest assured, that when you decide to take the plunge, your tastebuds will be overwhelmed with soulful Italian flavour, which strikes a perfect balance between conventional recipes and fashionable interpretations.