This big-budget restoration of a bank building is defiantly contra- trend. The glammed-up art deco dining room seats more than a hundred. The double-sided drinks list is the size of a broadsheet newspaper. The bread service features fluffy slices of brioche-sweet Pullman loaf. What happened to intimate spaces and short menus and long-fermented sourdough? But Riviera’s most impressive trick may very well be reanimating the nightlife dead zone of Sparks Street, a short hop-skip from Parliament Hill.
The baseball-capped kitchen crew turns out finessed reinterpretations of power-dining staples for a loud-talking crowd that knows how to pull off pinstripe suits and strapless dresses. A juicy wedge of iceberg lettuce comes slathered with bagna càuda, Nordic shrimp, grated egg yolk and meaty bacon bits. Sour cherries punch up a deep-purple venison tartare, with added pop from roasted pumpkin pepitas. Chicken Kiev, panko-fried with the wing bone left attached for drama, seeps sharp garlic butter over buttery mashed potatoes and Tokyo turnips.
In the background, Stephen Flood stirs a Scotch-based Penicillin behind the long brass bar like some kind of cocktail angel, his greying Hemingway beard captured by pendant spotlights. There’s a throwback vibe to Riviera: Justin and Sophie are regulars, but you half expect to see Pierre and Margaret in the glass-walled manager’s office that serves as a private dining room. They call the old models classics for a reason.
Editor’s note: This review has been modified to reflect a change in leadership that occurred at Riviera after publication.