Canteen – Downtown Edmonton

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Karen was visiting me in Edmonton and this was our first night out together. We picked Canteen because it looked like a great place to try. It is located on the western edge of downtown.  Its decor is dark and grungy with a modern twist with the back-lit wall, the modern hanging light fixtures, and sofa seating along the back row. The cloth napkins were nicely held together with a Canteen elastic logo. Overall we thought the decor was good but not exceptional.

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We ordered a few appetizers, The first was a tomato salad with creme fraiche. The tomatoes were the standard hothouse tomatoes you can get at grocery stores. They could have used on the vine tomatoes for a more earthy and richer tomato that would certainly have improved the dish. The addition of the cherry tomatoes was a plus though. The creme fraiche could have been more light and airy, but instead was more of the consistency of light cream cheese. Overall, it was a good salad but could definitely be improved.

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Gull Valley Tomato Salad with Creme Fraiche, Thyme Oil, Greens, and Balsamic

The biggest disappointment of the night was the mussels.  To start, for $17, you get a very very small amount of mussels. To make things worse, the mussels themselves were tiny (about 1/3 the size of the shell). A few of them were not even opened either, which means that the mussels were not fresh. Another thing that is lacking is the sauce. The mussels were virtually dry. They give you two pieces of bread, but we weren’t able to eat it because there was no sauce to dip it in. The smoked bacon flavour was prevalent, which made the mussels taste quite rich, but the white kidney beans did not go well with it. Overall, terrible dish with a terrible price to go along with it. I would not recommend it.

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P.E.I. Mussels, double smoked bacon, tomato fennel sauce

After that disappointment, we were hoping that our mains would make up for the appetizers. For the most part, they did. Karen had the Scotch Egg. The outside is deep fried mashed sweet potato and on the inside, is a semi-done hard boiled egg. It sort of reminded me of a croquette but with more filling and a softer shell. The egg was placed on top of a bed of spaghetti squash, which was delicious and crunchy. Karen did not like the roasted lobster mushrooms due to the earthy taste. The sauce tasted like a creamy, less viscous tartar sauce that went well with the dish. Overall, Karen thought this dish was very good.

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Vegetarian Scotch Egg, spaghetti squash, marinated chanterelle, and grilled lobster mushrooms

I had the pork chop with roasted pork belly. I thought this dish was really well done. First off, the presentation is nice. The pork chop was done very nicely because it was very juicy and tender. The roasted pork belly was also very good. It was very moist and rich tasting. My only complaint was that some portions of the outside were roasted unevenly resulting in a few dry and tough spots. The Gnudi Succotash was delicious. They are these gnocchi-like pasta dumplings made from corn and beans. They have a doughy like texture when you first bite into them, but they quickly break apart and release the flavours of its ingredients. First time having them and they were a delight. The roasted beet bbq sauce had more of a sweet beet taste than bbq, but the sauce went well with the roasted pork belly. Overall, great dish that I quite enjoyed.

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Irvings Pork Chop, Crisp Pork Belly, Roasted Beet BBQ Sauce, Gnudi Succotash

Canteen follows the style of recent new restaurants. They are casual, modern, and creative. I really enjoy the style of these restaurants because you can really try something that you have never tried before and at these restaurants it really brings out your adventurous side. The food at Canteen is good, but their appetizers need a lot of work. Their mains, on the other hand, were absolutely delicious. The prices were generally reasonable for the quality of food you are getting (only exception being the mussels). I would recommend this restaurant.

Service: 3.5/5
Food: 8.5/10
Atmosphere: Casual, grungy, modern
Price: $30-40 per person

Canteen on Urbanspoon

~Thomas

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Wing Chicx – Edmonton (Ellerslie & Summerside)

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Edmonton isn’t known for their Korean food, but there are a few restaurants with decent variety. Once in a while, my crave for Korean food kicks in and I need a quick fix. My friend and I ventured out to the south side of Edmonton to try Wing Chicx, a Korean restaurant famous for their chicken, as their name suggests. The restaurant is located in an obscure location in a small plaza just off the Anthony Henday. It is a small restaurant that you could honestly drive by and not even know it was there. It was pretty difficult to find especially at night since there were no signs that said Wing Chicx. Finally, after a few u-turns we found the restaurant and went inside. The restaurant was not typical of small Korean restaurants that are old and grungy, which commonly have several tvs playing popular Korean music videos. This restaurant was modern, bright, and extremely colourful. A good change from what I am used to. The waitress brought us to our table, which was unfortunately covered with grease, She quickly cleaned it up and apologized.

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Side dishes: From left to right, fish cake, cabbage, kimchi

We ordered their famous fried chicken (half order) and their Spicy noodle soup with seafood. After we ordered, a few of the Korean side dishes arrived. We first got a small bowl of congee, which is a rice porridge (not shown above). The congee was thick, almost like rice that had been boiled with too much water, compared with Chinese congee which has an almost soup like consistency. It was mixed with a bit of parsley to give it an enhanced aroma. The other dishes were a fried fish cake, cabbage, and kimchi. Their kimchi was ok, a little bland and lacking spice. The cabbage was pretty poor side dish, but the fish cake was good. I was a little disappointed that their was no pickled cucumbers or bean sprouts, which are my favourite side dishes.

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Spicy noodle soup with seafood

The spicy seafood noodle came first. For $12, it was a decent sized portion. The soup was spicy, but not overly so.  I was able to taste the soup and not just the spice. The soup base was a spicy and rich tomato flavoured broth. The Korean udon was done well, not too soft or hard. This dish would have benefited more from a ramen instead, which would have been able to soak up more of the flavours. The amount of seafood in the soup was lacking. There was more soup than there was noodle or seafood. The seafood also was likely frozen seafood that you can get at the grocery store, definitely not fresh. This dish was OK, but not amazing. Gozen, in London Ontario does an amazing job at their seafood noodle soup, which is double the size, loaded with seafood, and only $8! But, that’s another topic for another day (Gozen, London Ontario review to come).

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We were warned that the chicken may take up to 20 minutes to prepare. When you hear that, you know the chicken is prepared fresh and made to order. When it arrived, the fried chicken was piping hot. The sauce is a sweet and sour mixture that is both spicy and tangy. I thought it worked really well together and tasted great. They relied on this sauce for the taste, since the chicken itself had very little of its own flavour. The chicken was fried very nicely. The outside was crispy and the inside was moist, except for a few pieces of the breast meat, which I found to be a little dry and over cooked. Overall, I’d say this dish is good. It is the best Korean spicy chicken I’ve had in Edmonton, but definitely does not compare to elsewhere.

Wing Chicx is a good little Korean restaurant that I would say is worth the drive if you have not been to before. The chicken and the seafood noodle soup are good and worth trying. However, If I come back, I would venture and try other things on the menu. Their prices are not unreasonable, especially since a lot of effort goes into preparing the dishes, but a lower price point would certainly be much more justifiable for the quality of the final product that gets to your table.

Service: 3/5
Food: 7.5/10
Atmosphere: Modern, Korean
Price: $10-25

Wing Chicx on Urbanspoon

~Thomas

Duchess Bake Shop – Downtown Edmonton

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On a quiet Sunday afternoon in Edmonton, Duchess Bake Shop is far from tranquil. Karen and I were looking for a place to have some lunch and sweets. Duchess immediately came to mind.

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The decor is  elegant yet simple. The bakery gives you this Victorian feel. It is bright and vibrant, yet classical and comfortable. The environment is perfectly fitting for its name and for the food they serve.

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You can see that every table is full. Karen and I had to split up: she waited by a couple who looked like they were about to leave and snagged their spot, while I waited in line to place our orders. It took about 15 minutes before it was my turn, but by then I had just enough time to decide what I would like to order from their extensive array of sweets and hot food. Their hot food options were not as robust as their desserts, but there were definitely a few to choose from. We ordered the Pear Tartine with Potato and Leek Soup and the Quiche Lorraine.

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Pear, Cheese, and Peanut Spread Tartine w/ Potato Leek Soup
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Quiche Lorraine

The Tartine was composed of a bed of chopped lettuce, under warm cooked slices of pear, on a toasted piece of rye bread, covered with a light melted cheese and garnished with fresh pepper. This combination gave a sweet and savory flavour to the tartine that was very appetizing, but not too heavy despite the cheese.  Our only complaint was the the hardness of the bread which made it difficult to eat. The potato leak soup was fragrant and had a good combination of the two ingredients (potato and leek). However, the soup was a bit watery for my liking and lacked the consistency of a creamy potato based soup.

The quiche was amazing. It was fluffy, light, and moist. Combined with the perfectly browned surface and the flaky, rich, and buttery crust, this is hands down the best quiche I have ever had. Every bite was better than the last and Karen and I had to fight over who got the last piece. I highly recommend the quiche at Duchess.

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Cafe Latte

To wash down our delicious lunch, Karen had a Latte and I had a iced Americano. There is nothing special to say about their coffee. Moving on to dessert, we ordered half a dozen macarons, a lemon tart, and raspberry white chocolate scone.

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Macarons: Pistachio (front), Hazelnut (left), Coconut (centre), espresso (back), Rose (back right), Watermelon (right)

The first thing we noticed about these macarons were that they were handsome. The colours they used were not too vibrant, but instead resembled more of a natural look that closely followed the flavour of the macaron. Also, the addition of pistachio and hazelnut on their respective macarons gave them bonus points for presentation. The meringue was not too crunchy on the outside and not too light or airy on the inside, which gave the macaron a bit of chew to it. This was great as we dislike macarons that become almost like a hard candy texture when you bite into it.  All the flavours were great and none of the macarons were too sweet (the pistachio and hazelnut stood out as the best ones). The only thing I would change would be to replace the buttercream with a ganache filling, which would give the macarons a more rich flavour and more physical support/structure to them.

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Lemon Tart

The powdered sugar and the blueberry just completes the presentation of the Lemon Tart. The tart had a fresh lemon zest flavour that you notice as soon as you take a bite.  The sourness is perfectly balanced by the sweetness. The filling was creamy and almost runny, which is a change from the typical jello-y lemon tarts that I’ve experienced. The crust was more on the hard side and not as crumbly as I would have liked. As a result, it was very difficult to cut with a knife.

Unfortunately we did not take a picture of the raspberry white chocolate scone, but we felt like we had to talk about it because it was that delicious. The outside was crunchy and the inside was soft, moist and crumbly. The pairing of the white chocolate and the raspberry was amazing. Both flavours were present and one did not overpower the other (the raspberry and the white chocolate flavour in the scone was in perfect harmony). The scone’s combination of the crunchiness and the softness as well as the perfect balance of the white chocolate and raspberry really impressed us.

Duchess Bake Shop is a great little bakery and cafe. With their beautiful decor to their amazing desserts and hot food, Duchess is a must try if you find yourself in Edmonton.

Service: N/A
Food: 9.2/10
Atmosphere: Elegant, Simple, Victorian
Price: $15-30

Duchess Bake Shop on Urbanspoon

~Thomas

Three Boars – Garneau Edmonton

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Three Boars is a small two storied restaurant located on a busy street in Garneau. You could honestly walk by and not even notice this restaurant and the interesting tapas they serve inside. Outside, there is a nice patio for the summer where you can enjoy the beautiful weather while dining here.

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When you first enter, you see the bar immediately to your right and a small open kitchen behind it. It is definitely a nice area to have a drink and chat with some friends and enjoy some tapas. I really like their open concept area on the main floor and on the patio.

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The upstairs, is quite different. It is much more closed and gives you a cabin homely sort of feel with its wooden walls and table tops. The decor is simple, inviting, and comfortable.

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Sauteed Mushrooms, Egg Yolk, Toast
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Pork and Chicken Liver Bomb

Now, onto the food. Everything is tapas style and so the food comes one at a time and everything is meant to be shared. We started with the Sauteed Mushrooms on Toast and Pork and Chicken Liver Bomb. The Sauteed mushrooms came served on a small piece of french toast served with a raw egg yolk on top. The presentation was nice but the sauteed mushrooms were not that flavourful and did not stand out to me. On top of that, the egg yolk didn’t really add anything special in terms of flavour or complexity to the dish and was just more for decoration. The Pork and chicken liver bomb was good but lacked any liver taste. Inside was shredded chicken and pork mixed with a light mayo and celery bits, which reminded me of chicken salad sandwich.

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Oyster Braised Beef Chuck Flat, Congee Pudding, Cilantro Puree, Charred Rapini
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BBQ Pulled Pork Poutine

Here is the star of the night. The Oyster Braised Beef Chuck. The begin, the presentation was wonderful. The colours from the beef,  cilantro puree, and congee just go really well together in this dish. The beef itself was very tender and juicy and had a very deep and rich flavour. The congee was rich and creamy which complemented the beef well. Combined with the cilantro puree, which added a very refreshing taste, this dish was perfect. On the other hand, we have the pulled pork poutine, which lacked the elegance of the last dish. The fries were large potato wedges and on top was the pulled pork slobbered all over. There were two distinct sauces in this dish, which contradicted each other. One was a rich beef flavour and the other a light bbq porky flavour. The sauces drowned the potato wedges which resulted in a “soggy” poutine. My biggest pet peeve about poutines is the use of regular mozzarella cheese instead of cheese curds. Unfortunately, the cheese melted immediately, and I was unable to hear any squeaks while eating this poutine.

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Lamb Sirloin, Peppercorn Hibiscus Gastrique, Kale, Confit Chanterelles, Organic Greens, Anchovy Vinaigrette
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Blue Crab and Potato Salad, Smoked Mayo, Arugula, Italian Flat Bean, Pickled Sea Bean, Sesame, 63C Egg, Togarashi

Our last 2 dishes arrived. They were the Lamb Sirloin and the Blue Crab and Potato Salad. The lamb sirloin was complimented with a Peppercorn Hibiscus Gastrique dressing, which had flavours of rose and fruit. It was more of a salad than anything else and so it was fitting that it was served cold. At first, you expect the lamb to be tender because it is quite soft when you “forkit”. But once you bite into it, the meat was quite tough to chew. I would compare it to a blue raw steak. Although the lamb had good flavour, I would not recommend this dish. Finally, we had the Blue Crab and Potato salad. There was not much crab in the dish at all. The smoked mayo had a flavour like tuna salad sandwich, which did not really work for me. All in all, this dish was not too impressive even though it looked great.

After the 6 dishes between the 4 of us, we left still hungry and unsatisfied. Although three boars has very intricate dishes with a lot of attention to detail, the only dish that impressed our palates was the Oyster Braised Beef Chuck.  The rest of their dishes did not taste special to me. In addition, their service and decor was average. Apart from a few beautifully presented dishes, three boars is an average tapas restaurant with nothing special to boast.

Service: 4/5
Food: 7.2/10
Atmosphere: simple, wood, comfortable, open concept
Price: $20-30

Three Boars Eatery on Urbanspoon

~Thomas

Tres Carnales – Downtown Edmonton

Here we are, one of the most talked about restaurant in Edmonton: Tres Carnales. When you enter, you see the menu written up on the boards in colourful, graffiti-like chalk. Below the menu you see the kitchen and the cashier.

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The rest of the restaurant feels very open, with only a few tables. The decor is very interesting to say the least. The star chandeliers are eye catching as well as the large monkey wall painting. Along the wall there are a variety of Mexican decorations and toys.Image

Famous for their tacos, we decide to try 3 of them. We order the Pescado – Red snapper, the Carne Con Chile – Beef brisket, and the Al Pastor – Marinated Pork. We also added a side of Guacamole and Chips. We ordered, paid, received a number, and found a seat to wait for our food. Unlike a fast food restaurant, the food is brought to your table. I thought it was a nice touch.

The Guac and Chips were good. The chips were thick and crispy, which were perfect for scooping up the guacamole. The guacamole had a conservative amount of onion and garlic. It was creamy and not too thick. All in all the guac was good, but definitely not worth the ~10 price tag.

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GUACAMOLE Y TOTOPOS (House-made Guac & chips)

Now for the Tacos. Lets start with the tortilla itself. These are very likely mass produced tortillas and not freshly made in house. They used 2 tortillas for the meat tacos and a single one for the fish taco. The reason for this is because the meat tacos leak a lot of juices and a single tortilla would get soaked and the meat would probably fall through. Their tortillas are soft and not grilled. Personally, I prefer them a bit crispier so that they don’t get soggy as quickly, which was exactly what happened with all the tacos. Nobody likes a soggy taco.

The beef brisket in the Carne Con Chile was soft and tender. Beef brisket is a fattier beef and so there was a lot of beef flavour. The added kick from the chiles in the sauce was a nice touch. The raw onions and fresh cilantro helped balance the heartiness of the meat. The Al Pastor was very similar to the Carne Con Chile. The only difference is the lack of spiciness and more of a pork flavour instead of a beef flavour so I will not comment too much on it. Although this was my least favourite taco, it still tasted good and was enjoyable. Of the three tacos, the Pescado was the best. Although you only get 3, the taco’s are much bigger. Each taco consisted of a very large piece of battered pacific red snapper and topped with a salad of tomato, onion, cabbage, lettuce, and a slice of radish. The fish was cooked just right and the toppings made this taco taste very refreshing. My only suggestion for this taco would be to avoid battering and deep frying and just go for a pan-fried fish instead.

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From left to right: CARNE CON CHILE (Beef brisket slow cooked with beer,
chocolate, chiles and tomatoes), AL PASTOR (Slow roasted, marinated pork), and PESCADO (Lightly battered and fried fresh Pacific Red Snapper)

Having been to Mexico, I can see where the inspiration from this restaurant is coming from. They make a very good attempt at serving real Mexican food with a modern North American twist. But, their tacos are far from being close to the real thing. Having said that, the food here is still very enjoyable. Even though this is one of those restaurants where you order, eat, and leave within 30-45 minutes on a lunch break, I did not feel rushed. If you are in the area, I would recommend that you give Tres Carnales a try.

Service: N/A
Food: 7.5/10
Atmosphere: Themed, Casual
Price: $10-20

Tres Carnales Taqueria on Urbanspoon

~Thomas

Corso 32 – Downtown Edmonton

It was a great weekend. Karen came to Edmonton to visit me and we do what we both love to do: try new restaurants together. Our reservation at Corso 32 was at Sunday night at 9pm and this was the only reservation available even though I had called in a month in advance. Not that surprising since Corso 32 had been rated as Edmonton’s best restaurant by AvenueEdmonton and of course we were both very excited to try it. As we walked into the Corso 32, the dimly lit restaurant gave us a very relaxing and homely feel. The restaurant itself was very small and the tables for 2 were spaced very close to each other, which felt like we were almost eating with the couple next to us. The hostess greeted us with a friendly welcome and let us know that there will be a bit of a wait. However we ended up waiting an extra 25 minutes. When we were finally seated, the waitress did not even apologize for the long wait. We concluded that because of Corso’s popularity, waiting is almost expected.

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Wild Arugula salad with roasted hazlenut, fennel and parmagianno

Since they did not offer us any bread, Karen and I decided to order quickly because we were getting hungry. We decided to share the Wild Arugula salad and the Arancini. The salad was perfectly dressed. The cheese was not too overpowering, which can often happen in salads, especially with the large amount of cheese in this dish. The roasted hazelnuts added complexity, flavour, and texture to the salad. None of the ingredients were the star, which made for a very well balanced salad. In addition, the Arugula was warm, which matched the temperature of all the other ingredients in the salad and gave the salad a homely feel that matched the restaurant. This shows Corso 32’s attention to detail and their goal in making this salad feel harmonious. The Arugula Salad was absolutely delicious.

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Arancini – Porcinni Mushrooms with Risotto and Fontina

On the first bite of the Arancini, it had a very rich flavour of cheese and mushroom with the added thickness of the risotto all covered with a crunchy deep fried outer layer. It was very tasty, but by the second one, we felt like we were getting full very quickly and were almost overwhelmed by the flavour of the Arancini.

For our mains, Karen ordered the Roasted Pumpkin Ravioli and I ordered the Full Hen. The Ravioli was accompanied by a flavourful buttery brown sage sauce. The pasta itself was thin and soft, which is something that Karen really enjoyed. Once you start tasting the pumpkin inside, it begins to stand out. The pumpkin was not too sweet and was blended very consistently, but not to the extent that it became creamy. This pasta was absolutely amazing and we both agreed that it was the best pumpkin ravioli we have ever had.

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Roasted Pumpkin Ravioli with Pistacchios
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Game Hen “Alla Mattone” – Green Beans, Marcona Almond & Lemon Gremolata

The hen was very generously portioned. The outside was crispy and well seasoned. The lemon zest in the seasoning gave the hen a very refreshing taste. When you bite into it, you get the crispy texture from the skin as well as the juicy and tender meat inside. Overall, I thought the hen was very good, but I must admit that it was a little bit too salty and over-seasoned because seasoning overpowered the flavour of the hen. Feeling full, Karen and I decide to skip dessert. We were very satisfied with our meal at Corso 32. All the ingredients were fresh and the dishes were innovative. The decor was very homely and their dishes matched that style. The attention to detail is very evident in their dishes and everything tasted great. Corso 32 is a gem in Edmonton and I will definitely be coming back for another try.

Service: 4/5
Food: 8.8/10
Atmosphere: Cozy, Hipster
Price: $30-40

Corso 32 on Urbanspoon

~Thomas