Tfung was doing some work in Ottawa, and I had the chance to take a small getaway from a stressful time at school to visit him in the capital of Canada. We booked for Albion Rooms, which is advertised as a farm-to-table restaurant. Fitting with that edge, the interior had a very rustic-chic feel, with an interesting juxtaposition between their slightly more feminine pillows with the very manly reclaimed wood plus iron combo. Each table was lit with an obligatory mason jar center candle, and the water glasses, down to the menu was very modern-rustic and simple.
We ordered the scotch egg, which was a mix of chicken, pork and herbs enveloping a 6 minute fresh egg, breaded and fried. It was served on a bed of apricot, apple, pear mix and some microgreens. The herbs created a very sharp flavour, which both balanced with the gamey taste of the meat, but still standing out on its own. The breading was done well, and the egg was runny enough without soaking the whole dish.
I ordered the squash pasta with shaved aged cheddar and rapini. I was a little disappointed in the flavour of the dish, as I had a craving for a saltier, more hearty pasta. The flavour was weak, but was therefore able to showcase the pure taste of the butternut squash as well as the flavour of the pasta itself. The pasta was cooked al dente and was freshly made. The rapini was a little too burnt/smokey for my tastes, but definitely added the heartiness that I had wanted.
tfung ordered the beef short ribs, on baked potato and asparagus. The beef ribs were incredibly tender and melt-in-your mouth. The sauce was sweet but smokey at the same time. I definitely thought it was a plus that there was enough sauce to try it with all the other ingredients in the dish. The asparagus was cooked well, with the outside still slightly crunchy and the inside thoroughly cooked. The baked potato was nothing fancy, although they put a slight twist to the regular sour cream and mixed in whipped butter and herbs.
Overall, I loved the atmosphere, the service was acceptable, and the food was good. I didn’t think it was anything phenomenal, but given that it’s inside Novotel, and right next to the Rideau Canal Center, it was definitely a good stop for us after a day of shopping. If you’re into farm-to-table concepts, I would take some time to check out at least their appetizers and alcoholic drink menu here!
Joined by tfung’s roommate, an avid foodie as well, and his girlfriend, we ventured out to the talk of the town: RGE RD. There was actually much debate about how this restaurant was pronounced, and in the end, we were told that it’s “Range Road”. Something I’ve seen pop up quite a bit out West are these amazing “Farm-to-Table” Restaurants. I’ve studied this form of business model in dietetics and how economically healthy it can be.
We were promptly seated, right near the entrance, where we were given a good view of the whole restaurant. There was also a small window through which we were able to peer into the kitchen, which was a nice treat. The restaurant was decorated like a farm with wooden tables, chairs, and wall fixtures, which was perfect for its advocation in farm-to-table foods. In fact, there was a faux fur pelt where tfung was sitting (we made a joke that the pelt made him very fabulous).
Our waiter was very inexperienced. He stuttered and struggled with naming all the dishes they were offering (as some of them do change from day to day), and had to refer to his small piece of paper for notes. However, given the young age of the restaurant, I thought that was tolerable. He was very kind and checked up on us frequently, but not enough to be annoying.
We started off with three appetizers. It wasn’t too hard for the 4 of us to decide on which ones we wanted. The first appetizer was the apple-fennel sausage. The sausage was very succulent and fresh like it was prepared just as we ordered. There was a slight hint of fennel, but unfortunately we were not able to appreciate the apple. As you bit into it, the juices and the meat exploded from the restraints of the casing. Along with the sausage was a very nice mix of squash and greens, paired with a mustard seed sauce. The sausage was certainly made to order and tfung really appreciated how fresh it was. The difference between a sausage that had been prepared days ago and a sausage that was prepared hours ago is significant.
Our second appetizer is the hunter’s stew. In the dead winter of Edmonton, after experiencing one of the coldest weekends I’ve ever had, I thought this dish was very satisfying. It came with bison, meat balls, mushrooms and gnocchi. Everything was very hearty with rich flavours in a bold, meaty gravy. The bison was so tender and absolutely delicious with the gravy. The meatballs were certainly different. It was compressed meat with no fillers leaving them firm and rough, but were still enjoyable. The sauce wasn’t too salty or overwhelming and complimented the wild game very nicely. Overall, a very enjoyable hearty stew from RGE RD.
As for our final appetizer, we had the beet salad. Honestly, I wasn’t so impressed with the beets. I generally enjoy large whole slices of beets, where I can get the texture and flavour of the beets as I bite into them. Here however, they served two dollops of beets that were diced and therefore losing the firm texture that I enjoy so much. That being said, the salad was quite good, and the vinaigrette was excellent – not too sweet and not too sour. What I was most impressed with was the crème fraîche in the cucumber, which was excellently displayed. It was extremely fresh, smooth and added that dairy that balanced the sourness of the salad.
For me, I ordered the bison as my main. Having had the hunter’s stew, it already foreshadowed that the bison would be delicious. And it definitely was. I had it cooked medium rare, and the balance between tenderness and chewiness was absolutely amazing. With each bite of tender and rich, perfectly aged bison, I was excited for the next! Underneath the bison was a bed of spätzle, which is a type of egg noodle/dumpling in a small uneven ball shape, that originates from central Europe. It was an extremely interesting texture, that added the starch that was needed for the dish. The charred carrots were very sweet and done so that they were just perfect.
Tfung had the duck breast, which in my opinion was not as enjoyable as the bison, but still good. It had bold duck flavour and a hint of smokiness. However, the duck was lean and therefore a bit too tough to chew. The beets were much more to my liking in this dish as they were in whole pieces and were roasted to perfection! Interestingly, the onion dumplings were almost like a gnocchi, but a little less starchy and had more of an onion consistency. It was very bizarre and we didn’t know what to make of it. It was an odd pairing in a dish like this, but certainly nothing to complain about.
Overall, we thought that the food was fantastic. I also love the fact that they take produce and meat from local farms, promoting good farming practices. The service can be improved, and I’m sure that with time, the staff will be more comfortable with the menu. I can certainly see why this is rated as Avenue Edmonton’s #1 restaurant of 2014. If you are a carnivore like myself, like a cozy relaxed environment, and love great food, give Edmonton’s newest addition, RGE RD, a try.