Science Applied to Culinary art
Koosh Bistro | Hamilton, Ontario
This article also appears on TripAdvisor and Urbanicity.
Tucked in picturesque Hamilton’s Westdale, Koosh Bistro has glazed front with a yellow awning on Main Street west.
The interior is truly Bistro like and oozes charm with a contemporary décor yet comfortable with understated elegance.
Although small, it feels as if there is enough privacy for patrons to engage in conversation without eavesdropping on their neighbours. The smallness is no accident. It was deliberate from the start. Koosh, the Proprietor and the bistro’s namesake, wanted complete control over execution and most of all control over quality and consistency and that, in his view could only be achieved by keeping the whole thing small.
The Bistro was open in 2009. A Chef , an artist and a scientist , in computer science no less, Koosh’s love for food stems from a number of influences. His Persian background taught him the extensive ingredient list available to us and the various cooking techniques from simple to very complex. i.e the exact same dish can be prepared in 4 different ways by just switching herbs, cooking method or adding a different finishing. From his mother, as many other Chefs have, he learned to identify the smells, the right herbs and spices , the patience to cook for the family from scratch involving hours of painstakingly elaborate steps. This is after all a multilayered culinary tradition and as ancient as it comes.
While pursuing his scientific education, he didn’t like me using engineering as it may have conveyed a less flexible style while science works through experimentation and validation rather than prescriptive standards and equations. He is in his kitchen everyday and cooks every dish “a la minute” in other words the pasta you ordered is made in house that very day and will be cooked when ordered. He leads a small team of very effective staff. The front of the house is led by his wife Kim. Once again we see a very similar pattern in all the good places in Hamilton where family run restaurants are a husband and wife team but who does what is not always easy to guess.
Then the question how could a science graduate be in a kitchen cooking Italian cuisine ? well firstly one has to understand that Koosh started working in a restaurant kitchen in Ottawa as a teenager washing dishes and within less than two months he was in the kitchen working. At that age he was already showing quite an entrepreneurial spirit as he managed to convince the owner that he was more valuable in the kitchen helping prepare dishes than wasting his talent on dish washing ! Then while pursuing his formal education, he was also progressing in that other world of food and beverage. He worked in all possible capacities up to becoming General Manager of a steakhouse in Toronto.
But bigness does not equal greatness at all. That’s why he pursued his dream of having a place he could call his own where he could adhere to his basic principles about how food should be sourced cooked and served.
There is not much room for compromise at Koosh, the veggies are sourced locally and whenever possible in season. Sources may include Waterdown farms or the local farners market. If imported only recognized Italian products such as San Marzano tomatoes , dry cured Venetian pancetta ( I tried it and it did melt in the mouth…) and Prosciutto Di Parma as well as Parmesan Reggiano…These are recognized traditional Italian delicacies , the result of centuries of knowhow. Before we briefly review the menu, please remember that the pasta is made fresh everyday from durum semolina and the fingers going into making the Tiramisu are in Koosh’s kitchen , how’s that for dedication.
Now let’s have a look at the dishes offered: as any traditional Italian food menu you have your antipasti, Primi, Secundi, Pizza and dessert ( Dolce). I tried the mixed salad .It came with a beautifully balanced dressing not too acidic not too sweet , obvious result of chemical / molecular knowledge. The grilled calamari tasted creamy yet featured grillmarks , a delicate barbecue flavour complemented the dish. An there are many other beautifully prepared dishes , including red and white meats as well seafood and fish but there are too many to describe in details. I hope that this Bistro’s story has intrigued you enough ,dear reader, to prompt a visit and choose from a menu that has an extensive list of options , prepared in a variety of ways designed to suit nearly every palate.