Cibo – Edmonton (Oliver Village)

Cibo is quietly located in Oliver Village just north of downtown Edmonton near the Macewan University City Centre Campus. It offers excellent Italian food made from fresh local and in house ingredients. The result is an excellent food experience that satisfies the palate. DSC_0768

Inside, is a cozy, candle lit environment, which can be intimate, yet casual enough for gathering with friends. Tables are wood finish with a central modern looking bar and an open concept kitchen. There is also a large table tucked away in a semi-detached room giving you more privacy for a larger party. The servers were friendly and knowledgeable.

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Polpette – veal and pork meatballs, tomato sugo, dried apricots, peperoncini, pine nuts, Pecorino

We started off with the veal and pork meatballs. The appetizer presented simply yet elegantly. There were three very large meatballs topped with microgreens and pecorino romano. To start, the sauce was a robust and spicy tomato, which packed a punch but was not overwhelming. The meatballs themselves were quite delicious. They were soft, moist, and flavourful. The incorporation of the dried apricot gave it a nice fruity sweetness that complemented the veal and pork flavours very well. Together with the tomato sauce, these meatballs were excellent. The serving size was quite generous as well. Overall, it was a very good start.

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Brussels Sprout – sautéed with garlic, shallots, fresh lemon, and pancetta

With our mains, we ordered a side of Brussels sprouts. The sprouts were sauteed with pancetta to add a buttery and peppery flavour. Although the Brussels sprouts were a little undercooked, they were quite enjoyable and was generously portioned.

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Pappardelle – braised lamb, sugo pomodoro, mint, Pecorino Romano

For our mains, we ordered the pappardelle and the gnocchi. The hand made pasta was cooked al dente and gave a perfect bouncy texture with each bite. This is how pasta should be done. It was coated lightly with a garlic tomato sauce. On the first initial bite, you taste the soft tender lamb and the warm tomato sauce. Immediately after that you notice a refreshing flavour of mint which fills your palate and nostrils, but not in an overwhelming sense. It adds freshness to an otherwise warm dish, which gives this dish such uniqueness. I have to say, it was an excellent pasta dish and I would highly recommend this dish to anyone.

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Gnocchi – Truffled cream sauce

My better half ordered the Gnocchi, which was excellent as well. The gnocchi was soft and tender and “melted” in your mouth. The filling was quite light and fluffy. The cream sauce is not at all heavy. The initial flavours are light and subtle hints of the romano cheeses and the gnocchi filling followed by the rich and earthy truffle. The soft gnocchi and the flavours of the romano and truffle make this a very comforting dish. If you are a fan of gnocchi, this dish is a must try.

Cibo is an excellent asset to Edmonton’s growing restaurant scene. Their ever changing menu provides fresh local and house made ingredients that cater perfectly to the season. Their dishes are simple, yet unique and creative, and focus on providing complementary flavours. I would highly recommend this restaurant to anyone looking for a new contemporary Italian restaurant and excellent pasta.

Service: 4/5
Food: 8.9/10
Atmosphere: Contemporary, Bistro, Cozy, Romantic
Price: $30-40

~Thomas

Cibo Bistro on Urbanspoon

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Tzin Wine and Tapas – Downtown Edmonton

Tzin and wine is a fabulous little restaurant in the heart of down town and makes for a great night out either with friends or with a date. The restaurant holds about 20 guests and has a very artistic vibe to it. The restaurant’s main website will illustrate that quite well. The staff are very friendly, knowledgeable, and have excellent recommendations for wines and food.

Karen and I ordered the mushroom tart and the seafood paella for two. The mushroom tart was phenomenal. Sauteed mushrooms and truffle were made to be paired together, but add a warm crumbly tart, melted Gruyere cheese, and a bed of crunchy spinach and you have heaven on a plate. You have to try this.

The seafood paella was loaded. Lots of huge tiger shrimps, scallops, and perfectly done mussels. However the rice itself was not that impressive. There was too much sauce making the rice overly soaked and wet. The rice in a good paella should not be this saucy and this mushy. We were a definitely a little disappointed with the paella. Unfortunately we did not order any other tapas, but seeing what other guests ordered looked delicious.

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Warm Wild Mushroom & Spinach Tart – Gruyere Cheese, with Merlot-Truffle Vinaigrette

 

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Seafood Paella for Two

 

This is a great little Wine and Tapas restaurant with great service, friendly staff, and very decent food. I will certainly be back again to give the other tapas a try and to pick out a few interesting wines that Tzin offers.

Service: 4.5/5
Food: 8.2/10
Atmosphere: cozy, artsy, lively
Price: $30-40 (food only)

Tzin Wine & Tapas on Urbanspoon

 ~Thomas

Tavern 1903 – Edmonton Downtown

 

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Tavern 1903 at the Alberta Hotel is the new addition to the famous Hardware Grill. They focus on a modern twist on traditional food. It has two feels to it. The bar side is bright and lively, while the dining room side is a mellow and comfy. Both sides are decorated differently and both sides catering to different crowds. This gives the restaurant a sort of black and white variation, which gives the restaurant uniqueness and character. My companions and I sat on the dining side, but we realized soon, that we would have rather sat on the bar side. I think the causal ambiance on the bar side matches both the personalities of the staff and the food.

We started with 3 appetizers to share: the pork belly, the cauliflower, and the crab cakes. Starting with the pork belly, it was done well, albeit slightly overcooked to the point where the meat portion was a little chewy. That being said, the pork belly was actually very good. It was rich and the combination of the of the smoked ribs gave it an extra kick. Of course the fatty part of the pork belly melted in your mouth and when it does, you get the full flavour of the pork that is so satisfying. I felt that the pretzel bun was out of place. It didn’t add anything to the dish that was not already in the pork belly. It was odd since it was difficult to cut into pieces to eat with the pork belly and even if you were successful, it didnt pair well with it. I think a soft steamed sweet bun would accompany this dish much better than the pretzel did.

Moving on to the highly recommended Korean Fried Cauliflower. The cauliflower was fried in a crunchy batter and covered with a sweet, sour, and spicy sauce. The sauce was great. It was a perfect balance of all those three flavours. Also, although had been soaked in sauce, it still remained crispy and very enjoyable. My only issue with this dish is that we were unable to taste the cauliflower despite a non-overpowering sauce.

The final appetizer that we shared was the crab cakes. I’m going to have to say I was disappointed in these crab cakes. They were devoid of flavour and worst of all, they lacked crab meat.

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“PIG-NIC” – Crispy Pork Belly, Hickory Smoked Ribs with Bourbon-Molasses Glaze, Shoulder Confit Style, Coleslaw, House Made Pickle, Pretzel Bun
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K.F.C. – Korean Fried Cauliflower, Sesame Seeds, Scallions
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BLUE CRAB CAKES – Corn Relish, Chipotle Aioli

 

After some good conversation over a bottle of red from their excellent wine list, our mains arrived. One of my companions and I ordered the short ribs and my other companions went with the crusted salmon and the chicken and waffles.

The fries were great. They were fried to perfection and flavoured with truffle oil to give it boldness. That was as far as I go in complimenting this dish. The short ribs were very disappointing. With my first few bites, I noticed that it lacked the flavour and moisture that I would expect from slow cooked short ribs, especially after trying the short ribs at Wildflower Grill. Here I was, constantly reaching for my glass of water to wash down the dry, bland beef. This dish would certainly benefit from more sauce and some seasoning for the beef. Even the accompanying vegetable medley which were seasoned with salt and pepper had more flavour than the beef.

Unfortunately, I did not try the salmon nor the chicken and waffles. However the consensus was that the chicken and waffles lacked flavour as well. The salmon was more enjoyable. It was crusted well and paired well with the sauce, but my companion was not overly impressed by this particular dish.

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Short Ribs – Red wine sauce, truffled fries with Parmesan, corn, green beans, and mushrooms
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CHICKEN ‘N WAFFLES – Rustic Creamed Onions, Paprikash Sauce, Chipotle-Maple Syrup

 

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POTATO CRUSTED SALMON – Braised Spinach, Seed Mustard Cream

For the #2 rated restaurant of 2014 in Edmonton, I was not impressed. The atmosphere and the wine selection was great, but the food that we ordered was neither innovative nor satisfying. Their dishes lacked flavour and attention to detail. On top of all that, the prices were on the expensive side. With appetizers around ~$10-15 each, ~$30 main dishes, and $1 each for still water, we were looking at close to $50/head before the wine. This restaurant requires some major fine tuning before I can give out any recommendations.

Service: 3.5/5
Food: 6/10
Atmosphere: cozy/tradition, bright/lively
Price: $40-60

Tavern 1903 on Urbanspoon

 ~Thomas

Japonais Bistro (Kaiten Sushi – Mobile Sushi bar) – Downtown Edmonton

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Kaiten Sushi (name of the catering service), which is operated by Japonais Bistro, was hosting an event to promote their mobile sushi bar catering. They offered all you can eat of a select items on their menu for $30 + 15% gratuity, which includes sushi, sashimi, maki, and a variety of cooked dishes that they have created. If you didn’t know, kaiten sushi in japanese means conveyor belt sushi. We decided to give it a try since the menu looked pretty interesting and it was a good price as well.

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The setup was very interesting. If you have ever experienced any type of kaiten sushi before, it is similar to that, except in this case you have to walk up to get your own food from the rotating conveyor belt as opposed to having the food rotate around you at your table. This was sort of expected since it is a mobile sushi catering service and it would be impossible to set up something like the ones in japan. The decor is modern and vibrant. The sushi bar is brightly lit so you can see the sushi chefs hard at work.

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We started by trying one of each of their special rolls of the night and a few of their regular rolls. All the rolls generally tasted very good. They were all very elaborate and used a very unique combination of ingredients that I have never seen used together. Here are the ones we tried below:

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New York Roll – crab, avacado, salmon roll with chop scallop, parmesan cheese, sliced cheddar cheese, sweet soy and spicy mayo sauce on top
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Mt Fuji Roll – Shrimp Tempura, chopped scallop roll with spicy tuna, avocado and ginger vegetable dressing
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Green House Roll – Crab, avocado, spicy tuna, shiso leaf and fish eggs wrapped in a cucumber crepe with yuzu sesame sauce
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MK Roll – Smoked salmon, tempura, cucumber, grape, soybean paper roll with wild salmon and ponzu onion on top
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TNT Roll – Shrimp tempura, tobiko, TNT sauce and sesame seeds on crab and avocado roll
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Flamingo Roll – Tamago, tuna, avocado, red pepper roll with BBQ eel, mango, yam chips and sweet soy on top
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Harbour Moon Roll – Grilled salmon skin, organic greens and cucumber roll with tuna and avocado and sesame balsamic sauce on top
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Sunshine Roll – Shimp Katsu, cucumber, avocado roll with wild salmon – tobiko, bonito flakes and spicy mayo sauce on top
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Red Flower Roll – Avocado and cucumber roll with salmon, seaweed salad, coconut flakes, fish egg kamikaze sauce on top

All the rolls were 10/10 for creativity and uniqueness . I have never had any of these rolls before and each and everyone of them were worth trying. Some were obviously better than the rest. My favourite 3 rolls, in terms of taste and flavour, were the MT Fuji, Sunshine, and TNT. The MT Fuji shines because of the scallop, which gave the roll a very pleasant sweetness. The Sunshine was amazing because of the torched wild salmon on the top mixed in with the bonito flakes, which gave it a very smokey rich flavour. The sauce is on the TNT roll was outstanding and really made a very typical roll stand out and gave it that pop that landed it in the top 3. My least favourite roll was the MK roll. The combination of smoked salmon and fruity ingredients didn’t go well together for me.

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Beef Tataki
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Glass Noodle Salad
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New Style Sashimi – Tuna and salmon seared with hot olive oil, yuzu soy, thin sliced ginger, garlic, green onion and sesame seeds
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Tuna Nachos – spicy sesame tuna with tobiko, avocado, sesame seeds and jalapeno on crispy wonton chips
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Sushi Tortilla – tuna on crispy tortilla with avocado, red onion, cherry tomato, cilantro, jalapeno, and arugula

The beef tataki was good but not great. The quality of the beef itself was done well, however it was a bit too thick for a beef tataki. Also there was too much ponzu sauce to the point where the beef was swimming in it. It was also a bit too sour for my liking. The glass noodles were done well and the sauce wasn’t too overpowering. The new style sashimi was great. They used very fresh tuna and salmon and I liked how they torched them on one side. The yuzu soy had a very subtle hint of yuzu flavour in it which added to the freshness of the sashimi. Tuna nachos were good and interesting to say the least. The combination of the avocado, sashimi, and a deep fried chip went really well together. However, I couldn’t say the same for the sushi tortilla. It was dry, bland, and poorly put together. Now onto the main menu items.

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Pork Cheek Tempura – with wasabi sour cream and yuzu salsa
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Seafood black sesame cream udon – mussels, prawn, squid, spinach, red pepper, onion, and udon noodles in house cream sauce
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Bob “Ishiyaki bowl style” – Sukiyaki beef, seaweed, shitake, greens, onions, tobiko, parmesan cheese on rice in a hot stone bowl and spicy butter soy
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Traditional shoyu ramen – tonkotsu soy soup base, egg noodle, kombu, bok choy, egg, red onion, and pork slice

To start, we tried the pork cheek tempura. It was delicious. The outside had a lightly crispy batter and on the inside, there was a very tender and moist pork cheek that was relatively lean. It was topped with a wasabi sour cream and yuzu salsa. Although we couldnt really taste the wasabi or the yuzu flavour in the salsa, it was a very good dish and innovative. The seafood udon was not enjoyable. The seafood was not fresh (likely frozen) and the sauce resembled a condensed can of Campbell’s mushroom soup. It was not something you would expect at a Japanese restaurant. The Bob “Ishiyaki” bow was great. It came in a hot stone bowl which gave the rice at the bottom a very nice crispy layer. The sauce was excellent. It was soy based but the addition of the onions, seaweed, shitake mushrooms and butter gave it a very nice aroma that gave the dish an excellent flavour. I highyl recomend that dish. The ramen on the other had was very poor. The noodles taste like the frozen ramen you can buy at the grocery stores and the broth was bland and boring.

For dessert we had the Matcha Crème Brûlée and the Double Cheesecake brownie with yuzu yogurt icecream. The Crème Brûlée was delicious. The green tea flavoured custard with the hard caramel top was a real treat and a must try. Yuzu yogurt icecream had a very strong yuzu flavour but was very good. Unfortunately it was almost melted by the time it arrived. The cheesecake brownie tasted neither like cheesecake or brownie and was frozen solid. I wouldn’t recommend it.

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Matcha Crème brûlée
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Double cheese cake brownie with yuzu yogurt ice cream

Dining at Japonais Bistro and sampling the mobile sushi bar by Kaiten sushi was a very interesting and delicious experience. The food was certainly very innovated and intricate. There was a lot of attention to detail applied in creating the dishes as well the presentation of it. Most of the food tasted as good as it looked, however there were a few not so great ones. Although the servers were extremely busy at the event and were unable to attend to us consistently, the experience was very positive. There is another Kaiten sushi event next Wednesday, November 27th and I would highly recommend everyone to try it out.

Service: 3.5/5
Food: 8.9/10
Atmosphere: modern, Kaiten
Price: $30

Japonais Bistro on Urbanspoon

~Thomas

Glasshouse Bistro – St. Albert

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Well here is an interesting restaurant. Located on a country road in St. Albert near Edmonton, is a restaurant that is part of The Enjoy Centre, which includes a market, spa, and boutique shops. The restaurant is decorated beautifully, with a style that is young, modern, and fun.  The entire restaurant is covered with glass and filled with trees and shrubs, which makes you feel like you are dining in a greenhouse. You can see in the pictures of the restaurant below.

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View from our table

I ordered the fresh pressed juice with orange, apple and ginger. The juice was fresh and the combination of apple and orange went well together. I was worried about the amount of ginger in the juice but the taste of the ginger was not overwhelming and it pleasantly added a bit of kick to the juice. The only issue was that for $5, you get very little juice with a large glass, which makes the quantity of juice seem even smaller.

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Karen ordered the yogurt. It was delicious. The yogurt and the berry compote were as fresh as it gets. Mixed with the house granola and raisins, it was the perfect yogurt combination. Definitely worth the $4.

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Local Yogurt & House Granola w/ house-made fruit compote

For my main, I had the baked eggs. I was a little disappointed with this dish. The eggs themselves were good. However the sauce underneath the eggs, which was a heavily spiced cumin tomato sauce was not. It was too heavy on the cumin and too salty, which ended up masking the taste of the eggs and feta cheese. All I could taste was the spicy sauce, which wasn’t good in the first place. The house hash wasn’t bad but nothing spectacular to boast about. It was a bit bland and the potatoes were too soft for my liking. The bread, which was likely made in house, was great though. Overall, a poor dish, but definitely deserves credit for having such fresh ingredients.

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Baked Eggs – 2 eggs soft poached in roasted garlic tomato sauce, feta cheese, sauteed kale, house hash & rye toast

Karen ordered the farmers scramble which included turkey sausage, scrambled eggs, winter vegetables, and hash (sweet potato and yellow potatoes similar in my dish). This dish was ok. The sausage was definitely the star of this dish, but the hash was similar to mine in that it was a bit bland and too soft. The eggs were also a bit overdone and dry. It was a pretty average dish and not worth $16.

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Farmer’s Scramble SandyView Farms turkey sausage, local eggs & herbed winter vegetables w/ hash & whole grain toast

Glass house bistro is a beautifully decorated hyper-local restaurant that cultivates and utilizes its own organic foods to create wholesome dishes. There is no doubt that the ingredients that go into the food are as fresh as it gets. However, their creativity with their ingredients in making not only a dish that is fresh, but innovative is lacking. There is nothing amazingly special about their dishes and that is certainly one area that they can improve on.

Service: 3.5/5
Food: 7.5/10
Atmosphere: hyper-local, bistro, modern, fun
Price: $20-30

Glasshouse Bistro & Cafe on Urbanspoon

~Thomas

Buck-A-Shuck @ Von’s Steak House & Oyster Bar – Strathcona Edmonton

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Von’s Steak House and Oyster Bar offers a buck-a-shuck during certain times of the day. We decided to give it a try since you can’t really get oysters that cheap anywhere else in Edmonton. We went on a Sunday early evening. It was right at the beginning of the buck-a-shuck so it wasn’t very busy.  We probably didn’t need to make a reservation at 4:30 but if you went a bit later, it would start to fill up.  The waitress showed us our seats and explained the buck a shuck to us.  $1 an oyster was obviously too good to be true. The catch was that each person had to order a drink (an alcoholic beverage, a soft drink, or a tea). Also, each type of oyster has to be ordered in the half dozen or the full dozen so you can’t just order 2 of each. In addition, mostly the west coast oysters were $1, the rest were $2. Finally, there is an extra cost of a few dollars for special sauces (which includes a mignonette,  a dill vinaigrette, and another sauce which I can’t remember). We get our beverages but pass on the sauce since cocktail sauce, lemon, and horseradish was included and good enough for us.

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We were very happy to see the Royal Miyagi since we had them in San Francisco and enjoyed them very much. We decided to stick with the West Coast oysters since they would be the freshest anyways. We ordered the Royal Miyagi, Komoguay, Chef’s Creek, Deep Bay.

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Rows from Top to Bottom: Royal Miyagi, Komoguay, Chef’s Creek, Deep Bay

All of the oysters were very fresh. The first, Royal Miyagi, were very good. They are a medium sized oyster with a mild brine taste and a slightly sweet finish. They are very rich tasting and one of our favourites. The Komoguay were very good as well. They had a lighter brininess than the Royal Miyagi but had a very strong cucumber taste that lingers on. Although they were are on the smaller side, it was a very refreshing oyster. The third was the Chef’s Creek. This was my personal favourite. They are very large oysters with a very creamy texture. Not a hint of fishiness and a very sweet finish. These were very fresh oysters that I would definitely order again. The final and our least favourite were the Deep Bay. These are a small-medium sized oyster which are pretty bland with a hint of watermelon finish. We weren’t a big fan of the watermelon taste. The lemons that were provided were a bit dry and was tough to get the juice out of them. The horseradish was very poor. It was dry and lost its pungency. Either the horseradish had gone bad or they froze the horseradish for too long resulting in dryness and tastelessness.

The Buck-a-shuck is available Monday to Friday in the Oyster Bar and on our patio from 4:30 pm – 6:30 pm and all night Sundays. The oysters were very fresh and were shucked in a reasonable time frame. However, the catches to the buck-a-shuck make the bill a bit more expensive than you originally thought. It is a bit of a scam, but still ends up being a decent deal overall. They definitely need to step it up and provide fresh lemons and horseradish. Those condiments are very important compliments to the oysters and needs to be fresh or else it diminishes the quality of the oysters overall. Otherwise, with a group of friends, this can be a very good oyster experience where everyone can try a large variety of oysters at a very reasonable price.

Service: 3.5/5
Food: 8.3/10
Atmosphere: Steakhouse
Price: $1-2/oyster + $5-10/beverage + $3 sauce
Von's Steakhouse & Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon

~Thomas

Wildflower Grill – Downtown Edmonton

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We were most excited to try Wildflower Grill because we had heard some amazing things about this restaurant. Our first impressions were good ones. The decor was inviting and warm. However, for a grill, it was a bit more formal than expected, but we were quite ok with that. With a higher price point and more of a formal environment, we were treated with service that passed our expectations. After ordering, we were given Amuse-Bouche to start, which consisted of grilled salmon, feta cheese, and roasted peppers. All I could really taste was the feta cheese and a heavy dose of cumin spice. We did not really enjoy it.

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Amuse-Bouche – Salmon, feta, roasted peppers

But, then came the fresh baked Brioche with a side of sea-salted butter. They could have done without the measuring cup, but we very quickly let that go because the brioche was amazing. It was fresh, hot, moist, fluffy, buttery, and just melt in your mouth – basically all of that good stuff that just makes brioche amazing. Hands down the best brioche we’ve ever had.

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Fresh Baked Brioche

We ordered 3 appetizers and 1 main to share, mostly because we were more interested in trying different dishes, but also because the mains did not really appeal to us as much as the appetizers. Our first appetizer was their famous braised beef short ribs. The two very large pieces of braised short rib were melt in your mouth good. They had a very strong beef flavour. You can tell they use very good quality Alberta beef. The reduction and celeriac puree together with the beef gives the beef a sweetness that brings out even more of that beefy goodness. A very delicious appetizer.

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Braised Beef Short Ribs – celeriac puree, port demi glace & white balsamic reduction

Our next dish was the Cioppino. After visiting San Francisco and having the Cioppino at Taddich Grill, I was craving for another one just as good. Surprisingly this one delivered, but in a different way. As opposed to Taddich Grill, which stuffed their Cioppino with loads of seafood, this one used a very conservative amount of seafood – only a few small pieces of salmon, 2 shrimp, and a few mussels. The flavour of the broth however, was absolutely amazing. The broth was a very rich tomato based broth that tasted like it took hours to prepare. Flavours like fennel, tomato, fish and italian spices realy made the broth very tasty. The seafood was very fresh, but again, lacked in quantity. But really, the star of this dish was that wholesome broth.

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Cioppino – salmon, prawn, clam, mussel, charred tomato sauce, fennel

Last to arrive was the mushroom ravioli. The dish comprised of ravioli stuffed with a puree of three mushrooms, on a bed of asparagus, topped with a creamy peppercorn truffle oil sauce and shredded cheddar cheese. On our first bite, the fragrant and rich truffle oil kicks in with the flavourful peppercorn sauce. The ravioli are loaded with mushroom but unfortunately, the mushroom flavour just wasn’t as prominent as we had expected. The sauce itself is very good, but that is all that you really taste. For a mushroom ravioli, we expected more of a mushroom taste. The dish was good, but could definitely be improved.

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Three Mushroom Ravioli – truffle, smoked applewood cheddar fonduta, asparagus, piave vecchio

Now onto our main course: The Bison Tenderloin. The bison was very tender and moist. The outside crust was not that noticeable so you don’t get that crunch with the softness that you get with a really well grilled steak. However, the bison was very tasty. The blackberry sage reduction and the butternut squash puree complemented the bison very nicely as the reduction was fruity  and the puree was salty, making the dish sweet and savory. It was another very well prepared dish by Wildflower Grill.

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Peppercorn Herb Crusted Bison Tenderloin – fig & chanterelle bread pudding, butternut squash puree, blackberry sage reduction

Wildflower Grill is more than just a grill. They are a very refined and unique restaurant in Edmonton that puts out creative, top-quality, delicious dishes that really impressed us. Everything was intricate and detailed in their preparation and presentation. Their quality really justifies their high prices. It was a real treat dining here tonight.

Service: 4.5/5
Food: 9.4/10
Atmosphere: Grill, Formal
Price: $40-60 per person

Wildflower Grill at the Matrix Hotel on Urbanspoon

~Thomas

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

King Noodle House Pho Hoang – Chinatown Edmonton

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King Noodle House Pho Hoang is a small Vietnamese shop in Chinatown Edmonton. Their speciality is pho, and let me tell you, they do a really good job at it. It is also known as the restaurant with the owner who has a very intricate beard (shown in the picture above).

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The restaurant is built into a larger building so it was very difficult to notice it despite the large sign. It is a pretty small shop and can seat maximum of 40 people. The restaurant’s decorations are awkward to say the least. The walls are decorated with a fan,  a painting of a boat, and wooden model of a boat, and a random array of plants. The light fixtures look like they are from the 70s or 80s.  The plastic tabletops are flimsy and the chairs are all mismatched. I wouldn’t say that this is the worst I’ve seen, but its definitely up there on my list. But for a pho place, it doesn’t really matter. All that matters is if the pho is good.

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I ordered #10, the Large Pho with raw beef, flank, and brisket. A few minutes later, the owner (The guy with the beard), brought us some tea and our pho condiments which included bean sprouts, fresh basil, chili peppers, and lemon. Lemon? Pho is usually accompanied with lime, but I’m just being picky.

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The pho was delicious. It was garnished with green onions, cilantro, and yellow onions. The broth was rich, flavourful, and devoid of any MSG that I could taste. To my pleasant surprise, there was a very buttery taste to the broth that just made this taste amazing. They also did not skimp on the beef, which a lot of pho places tend to do (There is also the option to double the beef for $1-2 more). This one was loaded with beef and the beef was very good. The brisket was the beefiest tasting, with a buttery taste from the fats that surround it, The flank was leaner but had a good flavour to it as well. The raw beef was extremely tender since it cooked to perfection in the broth.  The noodles were also cooked perfectly. Not too chewy, not too soft, and the right thickness. The size of the pho was pretty fair as well. For ~$8.50, its a decent size with a very generous amount of meat.

This is the best well rounded pho I have had in Edmonton. I’ve tried the raved about Tau Bay and was disappointed. King Noodle House’s noodles, amount of beef, and quality of the beef wins over Tau Bay. The guy with the mustache is also definitely worth seeing, My only complaint was his customer service.  It feels like he is rushing you out and didn’t even want you there in the first place. Firstly, he isn’t very friendly when he takes your order. Secondly, he takes away your dishes, i.e. the bean sprouts, 10 seconds after your pho arrives, when you haven’t even finished adding them to your dish. He doesn’t even ask if  you are finished with it before he takes it away. But hey, their pho is amazing so I can let that go. Give it a try.

Service: 2/5
Food: 8.8/10
Atmosphere: Typical pho restuarant
Price: $10-15 per person

King Noodle House Pho Hoang on Urbanspoon

~Thomas

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