Regatta features a global menu served on the lake
By Dianne Park Thach
In Muskoka there are a number of restaurants that feature lakeside dining, but there aren’t many restaurants where one can dine right on the water.
At Regatta Steak and Seafood Grille you can cut into your New York strip loin as the gentle waves from the bay of Lake Muskoka lap up under you, says executive chef Darren Hehir.
“There are a number of restaurants that promote that they are water side, close to or looking out at water but Regatta is actually half suspended over water,” he explains.
Situated at Gravenhurst’s Muskoka Wharf, the 240-seat restaurant fills a niche in the market.
“We didn’t want to create competition here and we wanted to complement the other restaurants,” says Regatta owner Kevin Brown.
“We felt the need for an upper-scale restaurant and after we opened we received an overwhelming response.”
The home port of the Segwun and Wenonah II is located across the bay. “Seeing the steamships go by is also a nice element,” he adds.
Brown says the goal for Regatta was to create a relaxed atmosphere with an upscale feel and believes they have achieved that through the restaurant’s interior, menu and staff.
“Our service levels are that of an upscale restaurant but the price point of our menu doesn’t reflect that,” he says.
When searching for a head chef Brown says they were looking for someone who was familiar with the Muskoka marketplace but also possessed some worldly experience.
Chef Darren Hehir has worked in the Caribbean as well as at a full-service resort in Muskoka. Having opened a restaurant before, he fully understood the challenges that come with an opening.
As a member of Savour Muskoka, Regatta’s menu often features seasonal Muskoka and Ontario ingredients. Everything is made in-house, and Hehir describes the menu as a global type of cuisine that covers all the bases.
“We have such a diverse clientele that I thought it was important that I put a global menu together,” he says. “There are people from all walks of life visiting and a lot of our clientele are from the Greater Toronto Area. It also gives the locals – that live up here and dine with us – an opportunity to experience food from different styles,” explains Hehir.
The seasonality and availability of local items are a large part of the chef’s inspiration and it pushes him to be creative.
One of Hehir’s signature creations is the Regatta Steak Slider – a four ounce, AAA-grade strip loin on a Bermuda onion ring, layered with goat’s cheese mashed potatoes and topped with a mushroom cap, sundried tomatoes and a creamy Gorgonzola cheese sauce.
The slider is one of their best sellers and has been featured on the menu year after year since the restaurant opened.
Regular diners, especially those Brown refers to as extended family, rave about Hehir’s soups. The daily specials menu features a soup of the day plus often includes out-of-the ordinary items like an unusual type of fish or a dish containing a very seasonal ingredient.
A few of the more international items include a Thai shrimp spring rolls starter, a salad with Mediterranean greens, tamarind-glazed Atlantic salmon, jerk pork pappardelle, and sea bass served with a green curry and peanut sauce. If opting for steak there are a number of chef’s signature sauces to choose from.
The dishes on the menu aren’t the only items that are diverse at Regatta. “Our wine and beer selections, like our menu, are very worldly,” says Brown.
Each year they feature a different Ontario winery and Brown has been pleased with the recent product from the smaller wineries. In beer, there is a selection of domestics in addition to the Irish, German, Italian and a couple microbrewery choices.
While enjoying this culinary experience, a view of the lake is a given from almost any seat in the house.
“We’re a year-round establishment so we can afford to give the experience of a Toronto area restaurant with the epitome of the Muskoka feel, view and atmosphere,” he explains.
A tall, stone double-sided fireplace is the first thing you notice when you enter the dining area and it anchors the room. Much of the cozy atmosphere is created by the brown, gold, and red colour scheme as well as with the few plush, mini crescent-shaped booths.
Historic black and white photos of Muskoka life by the lake and the steamships line the walls throughout.
Dining outdoors on the post and beam deck, which is dotted with teak furniture, gets guests a little closer to the water and the action.
New to the restaurant’s deck is the addition of an outdoor kitchen to dish out lighter fare during summer afternoons and late nights.
Whether it’s the warm greeting from the hostess or attentiveness from your server, having a great staff team adds to the quality of Muskoka’s hospitality.
“Our goal from the beginning has been to bring on professionals,” says Brown. “We’re very fortunate to have a few staff members who’ve been in this area for 30 plus years.”
The back of the house (kitchen area) often secures staff members that come from post-secondary hospitality programs throughout the province. Hehir’s experience makes him a natural teacher for the students, says Brown.
Banquet space is located on the upper floor of the restaurant, accommodating anywhere from 150 to 240 guests. Brown explains that they offer the space to service groups in the area at cost and stresses the importance of being involved and supporting the community.
Regatta also has close ties to the steamships as well as with Residence Inn and has hosted numerous weddings.
Hehir challenges the restaurants that claim to have the one million dollar view. “Well we’ve got the two million dollar view because of our surroundings and where we are logistically,” he says. “We’re literally right in the heart of all the activity.”
But whether you come to Regatta for lunch after shopping at the farmer’s market or come for a night out, Brown says your visit will be special.
“We’ve tried to capture everything that people have viewed of Muskoka,” he says. “By dining here they get to experience it all.”
Regatta Steak Sliders
3 - 8 ounce strip loin steaks
1 pound mashed potatoes
1 large Bermuda onion
2 ounces sundried tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 bunch baby spinach
1 ounce Gorgonzola cheese
2 cups 35 per cent cream
6 large mushroom caps
Beer Batter ingredients:
2 cups flour
1 tbsp corn starch
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup beer
1 1/2 cups water
salt to taste mix all
Cut steaks into 4 ounce portions. Grill steak and mushrooms to desired doneness. Meanwhile, cut onion in half making six large rings. Dredge the rings in beer batter and cook until golden in fryer. In a pan reduce 35 per cent cream and Gorgonzola cheese until sauce consistency.
Lay spinach leaves on centre of plate, add onion ring over spinach and spoon hot mash into centre of the ring. Next place the grilled strip loin on mash, place mushroom cap on steak, and spoon gorgonzola sauce over all. Garnish with sundried tomato and rosemary spike and serve.
This recipe serves six people.
YOUR GUIDE TO FINE DINING IN MUSKOKA
Arowhon Pines Resort & Restaurant
– Km 16 Algonquin Park. A peaceful resort nestled in the woods of Algonquin park. We are independently owned and operated, open spring, summer and fall. Our dining room is open to the public for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu changes daily and seasonally. We have impromptu weekday barbecues on hot sunny days by the lake and famous weekend lunch buffets. Should you wish to know the day’s entrées, it’s best to call that morning! Meals are served in our gorgeous six-sided heritage log dining room with central stone fireplace and wraparound views of the lake and forests. Bring your own wine – we'll uncork it for you – there is no corkage fee. Arrive early and enjoy your wine overlooking the lake. Dress is casual. 705-633-5661 www.arowhonpines.ca
Bartlett Lodge - Algonquin Park
Find out why our dining room is becoming a “not to be missed” evening out, while in Muskoka. Take a boat ride to dinner and experience exceptional cuisine. Revisit Algonquin’s past, recreated in our tabletop models of former Algonquin resorts. Dinner is served at 6 and 8 p.m. Call for reservations, 705-633-5543, or visit our website: www.bartlettlodge.com
Chefs Richard and Julie Lalonde welcome you to Crossroads. Come enjoy our breathtaking view of Lake Rosseau, extensive wine list, welcoming staff and our wonderful cottage feel. Our upscale, casual cuisine features dishes made with love, using the best of what nature has to offer. We are open year-round and are now booking private functions and meetings. We are now baking fresh pies, cakes and breads. We are also taking orders for birthday and wedding cakes. Please call 705-732-4343 for reservations.
Since 1935, Killarney Lodge has earned a reputation for friendly, attentive service and fine country dining. In the dining room, the original fireplace casts a warm glow over the diners, creating a relaxed and rustic atmosphere in the intimate log rooms. Join us in the heart of Algonquin park for lunch or dinner. Please call 705-633-5551 for reservations.
There is no better way to celebrate a birthday, anniversary, or just a night off than with a Lunch or Sunset Dinner Cruise on board the RMS Segwun or Wenonah II. Our staff will pamper and indulge your every whim as you ply the gorgeous waters of Lake Muskoka. Unforgettable evenings are created aboard as you admire the gleaming polished brass and varnished gumwood interior of the ship’s one-of-a-kind dining salon. For smaller gatherings, enjoy our private Commodore’s dining room found on the upper deck of the Wenonah II. Step back in time, and discover the romance of our dining rooms featuring the fine cuisine of North Restaurant, and the fine brews of Muskoka Lakes Cottage Brewery, Sleeman Brewery, and the Pelee Island Winery. For information on our dining cruises call 1-866-687-6667 or visit www.realmuskoka.com
When you enter Rebecca’s Casual Fine Dining, it’s almost like stepping into the home of owners Rebecca and Charles Penwell. Located on Highway 118 in Port Carling, this cozy and charming restaurant is warm and inviting with its pine wood floors, large baseboards and wood finishes. The restaurant is known for its extensive 50-item menu. Everything is prepared fresh daily – from the soups, to sauces and desserts. The chef’s style of cooking is French continental with a Caribbean influence. Key Largo crab cakes, pork Gorgonzola, pecan chicken, pan-seared rainbow trout, lobster as well as steaks are found on the menu. The daily specials feature entrée specials, appetizer specials and sunset specials. The sunset specials range in price from $12.95-$18.95 and include a choice of soup or salad. Rebecca’s has expanded to offer fresh, bottled soups, sold both at the restaurant and at a gourmet specialty store in Port Carling.
Regatta Steak & Seafood Grille is Muskoka’s newest dining experience located at the Muskoka Wharf in Gravenhurst. This Steak and Seafood Grille offers a comfortable dining experience with classic views of Lake Muskoka year-round, catering to guests with discerning tastes and high standards. The dining room, patio and banquet facilities serve to entertain and delight with culinary creations that are second to none north of the GTA. Join us for lunch or dinner and experience the best of what Muskoka has to offer. For reservations, please call 705-687-9410 or visit www.regattamuskokawharf.ca
At Taboo Resort, Golf and Spa, guests enjoy a wide variety of dining experiences. Experience an evolution in dining at Elements – three unique dining atmospheres in one unique space. Elements and the Culinary Theatre offer guests sophisticated cuisine and a one-of-a-kind culinary experience. Relax and unwind in the Elements Lounge for casual fare and stunning panoramic views of Lake Muskoka. During July and August, be sure to visit The Boathouse for pub-style fare and enjoy a sunset vista and wraparound deck. 705-6887-2233, www.tabooresort.com
Teca is the spot for “simply Italian” cuisine at The Rosseau, A JW Marriott Resort & Spa in the heart of the Muskoka Lakes. It begins with the delightful option to valet park the car. Once inside this cozy little bistro, the atmosphere is at once lively and relaxing, as guests are welcomed to a total experience for the senses. Diners hear the banter of chefs while watching them throw pizza dough made from imported Italian flour – catch the scent of fresh basil coming from the woodstone oven – and feel a wonderful sense of anticipation as the risotto is presented in a copper bowl, or the antipasto is served on a board, for sharing. Desserts made from the resort bakeshop, including gelatos, tiramisu and tiny cookies complete the evening.