ORA Restaurant at the
Executive Chef: Romeo Oloresisimo
Restaurant seats: 140
Price Range: $$$
I was fortunate to have dinner at ORA the night of an event at the Kamloops Convention Centre. When you purchase a pair of tickets for one of their events you get $20 off your bill. That in itself is a great start to any meal.
It was an incredibly busy night with the event sold out and all 330 seats reserved for dinner. They were turning people away at the door. In most restaurants that would be taken as a sign to expect slow service; fortunately this was not true at ORA.
We were promptly seated and asked for our drink order. I will admit I am somewhat of a martini snob. There are very few places in North America, let alone the Thompson/Okanagan that can make a martini to my satisfaction. Think James Bond, shaken, not stirred. I am happy to report ORA is one of those places. James would be pleased.
My dinner companion ordered the house red; which as it happens, comes with the ORA label. I just had to have a taste and was pleased to find the ORA Red to be hearty with great fruit flavours and a mild black pepper bouquet. I could not put my finger on the type of wine, so I asked. It turns out it is a specialty blend from Desert Hills in Oliver of five different red wines. Cost $10 a glass or $36 a bottle and well worth it.
We started with the Panko Crusted Goat Cheese ($10). The menu lists it as warmed goat cheese served on sautéed spinach, topped with a Sambuca basil blueberry compote. Delicious as that description sounds, it didn't touch what was happening in my mouth when I took my first bite. The mild goat cheese is perfectly balanced by the sweetness of the blueberry compote. There's a slight heat to the dish from the red peppers, paprika and chili's in the cheese, but not enough to overpower the creaminess. Just writing about it makes me want to go back for more. The dish is served with Panini crustinis, crispy bits of bread to add a crunch to the smoothness of the cheese.
Then there was the Dungeness Crab Cakes ($12) with spinach basil pesto and chipotle aioli. The cakes were served sitting on a dollop of aioli with a healthy drop of pesto on top. The chipotle added just a hint of heat and would be fine even for the fussiest of eaters. The cakes themselves are crispy on the outside and well blended on the inside. The crab is mixed with pepper, cilantro, parsley, garlic, and breadcrumbs. On the side was a spring greens salad with a lemon honey vinaigrette. This would make a nice little meal in itself if you weren't that hungry.
Next up was a delectable Macadamia Nut Crusted Pacific Halibut ($27) served with butternut squash and wild mushroom risotto, crispy leeks and mojito sauce. This dish was also served with some candied parsnips. These are not your mother's parsnips - oh no, no no. These parsnips were sweet with the tang only a parsnip can provide. I'd tell you more about them but apparently I gobbled them up before I realized I should be making notes. The halibut was the perfect combination of flakey on the inside and crunchy on the outside. The risotto is dangerously rich but well worth the risk. What tied it all together was the mojito sauce, which delivered on essence without drowning out the delicate flavours of the fish or the creaminess of the risotto.
Last but not least was the signature ORA Chicken ($22). Now it is hard to make chicken sound really good, after all, it's chicken. However, if you stuff said chicken with poached pear and Brie cheese and serve in on a potato gratin with seasonal vegetables, it gives a good argument for being the house favourite. As with most things in life, it all has to do with the preparation. The pear is poached in white wine, cinnamon, brandy and fresh rosemary. Then it is added to the Brie and stuffed into said chicken. This dish was cooked to perfection with all the subtle flavours given equal time on the taste buds. Again the veggies that accompanied this dish were perfectly done.
There was no room for dessert, but I know if what I ate that night is any indication, they will be scrumptious.
It is also important to note that ORA is an Ocean Wise restaurant.
A special thank you to our server, Gavin Murgatroyd, who was super busy and still found the time to make time for each of his customers.