Inspire Restaurant is a little eatery with a big heart. Located on the north side of Main Street in Markham, this unassuming and cozy joint serves up Western comfort foods with an Eastern flair. It's fusion, but without the fussiness usually conjured by the term.
Walking in, it's hard not to be impressed by the custom woodblock walls that adorn the head table area, complete with a model of the New York skyline. The ambience is relaxed but still retains a slightly chic atmosphere.
I start with the Extra Butter Coconut Shrimp ($13), and I have to say, they're not kidding when they list "extra butter" as an ingredient. Succulent fresh shrimp is basted in copious amounts of butter with hints of ginger.
I also order the Duck Taco ($12) appetizer. While I feel that the duck confit itself would have benefited from more seasoning, the slight sweetness of the orange salsa and the creaminess of the fennel aioli more than make up for it. Both blend very nicely with the extremely tender duck meat.
For the mains, I get the Udon Carbonara ($18). The dish substitutes thick, chewy udon noodles in place of traditional Italian pasta. It is mixed with a creamy mushroom sauce and comes with spicy Italian sausages and braised beef. All the components work very well together to deliver a dish that's both delicious and satisfying.
I must admit I squealed with delight when the Chicken & Waffles ($16) arrived. Ridiculously tender yet crispy and well-marinated chicken is paired with freshly made waffles, then augmented with a berry jam that is both sweet and slightly spicy. It's an excellent take on this popular Southern dish.
For meat aficionados, there is the INSP Burger ($15). The beef patty is fresh and loose, just like how a proper patty should be. The burger's flavours are further enhanced with the slight fattiness of the pork belly and the creaminess of a fried egg. It gets messy, but it's worth it.
Finally, there is the Inspire Luau ($30). Inspire's take on a Hawaiian favourite, it's a dish that comes with many deconstructed elements. I found both the smoked hickory ribs and crispy pork belly to be out of this world, especially when mixed with the fennel aioli. The centerpiece of the dish is a delicious duck confit leg rolled in panko breadcrumbs .
Though some of the other components, like the coconut taro mash, are a bit average, overall the dish is a highly satisfying (and impressive) feast.
When it comes to dessert, you can't go wrong with the Banana Bread Ice Cream Sandwich ($12). By using waffles made using banana bread mix, the dessert injects a new flavour into the already-delicious peanut butter ice cream that serves as its base. It's a flavour combination that simply works well together because who doesn't like banana and peanut butter?
Those in the mood for something different can try the Green Tea Chili Cheesecake ($9). The small tartlet-shaped cake is sweet with strong but not overwhelming green tea flavours, and meshes very well with the with the interestingly sweet and spicy candied ancho chilies. The spicy aftertaste is a great palate cleanser.