Cured Wine Bar

A great charcuterie is a beautiful thing. And its recent popularity, Edmonton’s growing need for meat, cheese, and selected accompaniments, has stemmed additions to menus all across the city. Every aspiring restaurant, pub, and gastropub has a variation of charcuterie on offer—and the sad thing is that many of them are supremely disappointing.

I mean, sure, you can stick a few slices of salami and a chunk of cheddar on an oddly-shaped slab of wood and call it whatever you like, but a great charcuterie—a charcuterie you go 25km out of your way to enjoy—is a work of art.

Cured Wine Bar, a recent addition to south Edmonton’s Ellerslie and Summerside neighbourhood, clearly takes pride in their art. Similar to Ampersand 27 on Whyte Avenue, Cured offers a build-your-own charcuterie and cheese board, with a variety of cured and dried meats, seafood, paté, and imported and domestic cheeses to choose from. Partner that with a selection of shared plates, from simple olives and pickles to clams with double smoked bacon, squash salad, and phyllo-wrapped brie, and you’ve got a well-rounded menu to appeal to even the most pretentious self-proclaimed foodie.

The restaurant also offers an excellent wine list, including two bottles of red priced at $1000 for the big spenders and an enomatic wine system, which allows them to offer small (as tiny as 1oz) tasters of select fine red wines.

I’ve dined at Cured twice now and each time I have been wholly satisfied with their charcuterie. While Ampersand charges per item, Cured lets you choose five meats for a set price and an addition of cheese at $5 an ounce. The “small” board (1-2 people) is $32 and the “large” (approx. 3-4 people) is $46, although you can get all of the meats on one board for $125. Each board automatically comes with accompaniments such as crostinis, condiments, and dried fruit, so you don’t have to pay extra for mustard like you would at Ampersand (thankfully, since Cured’s mustard is unbelievable).

Between my two dining experiences at Cured, I’ve decided that my favourite meats were the spicy soppresata, smoked salmon, and smoked duck prosciutto. I’ve yet to try one of the patés, though, and am dying to give the rabbit and blueberry terrine a taste.

Cheese-wise, you can’t go wrong with favourites such as the smoked gouda, seven-year aged cheddar, and gorgonzola. The highlight of the cheese section, though, was the saganaki. We saw the server walk by with a sizzling, fiery pan of some kind of cheese and knew we had to try that for ourselves. It’s a beautiful addition to any charcuterie and I strongly recommend you give this cheesy Greek delicacy a try.

It should be noted, however, that Cured only takes walk-ins and the dining area is fairly small. We’ve never had any issues going before 6pm or going a bit later in the evening, but it fills up fairly quickly during peak hours, particularly on the weekend. It is a beautiful dining room, though, and the ambience is romantic, slightly bustling, and perfect for any number of occasions, from date night, to work meetings, to drinks with a close friend.

Cured Wine Bar
2307 Ellwood Drive
Edmonton, AB T6X 0A9
(780) 756-3722

5/5

The Parlour Italian Kitchen & Bar

I have a particularly bad habit of neglecting to review restaurants that I regularly frequent. Which is silly, of course—if I’m eating there all the time, then there must be a reason why I keep coming back.

Parlour, by Century Hospitality Group, is one such restaurant and hopefully they’ll forgive me this oversight.

I’ve been regularly dining at Parlour for a year and a half, partly because they’re the best lunch option within walking distance of my office, and partly because their pizza always keeps me coming back for more.

Situated in the midst of downtown between MacEwan University and construction-riddled Norquest College, Parlour offers a modern take on classic Italian cuisine. As they say on their website, “The Parlour is where modern meets tradition, where Italian dining meets Century Hospitality.” The restaurant interior is stylish and comfortable, with two levels for diners to choose between: a brightly lit, window-heavy downstairs portion that revolves around the central bar, or the more intimate, quiet atmosphere of upstairs.

I’ve tried their regular pizzas, which are made in the Neapolitan style from Organic 00 pizza flour that’s shipped over from Italy—they’re delicious. And I’ve tried their gluten-free pizzas, which had a bit of a rocky (i.e. salty) start when the restaurant first opened but which have since blossomed into a great and tasty alternative to wheat-based dough.

The crust is important, as purists will tell you, but I’m very much a toppings kind of gal. Parlour uses high quality ingredients for each of their pizzas, including prosciutto, braised beef short rib, and shaved truffles. The Sonny Boy is a lunchtime favourite, with soppressata salami, fior di latte, mushrooms, tomato sauce, and fresh thyme, as is the Hawaii 5-0, with farm fresh Canadian back bacon, fresh pineapple, tomato sauce, and provolone.

If you’re going for the pizza (which I strongly recommend you do), you have to try one of their Dippers. My favourites are the truffle dip and the black garlic aioli. They’re stunningly rich but go perfectly with a piece of dry pizza crust.

Gluten-free Create Your Own pizza

Gluten-free Hawaii 5-0 and Create Your Own

If you’re just in the mood for cocktails and appetizers, you can’t go wrong with the antipasto board. The smaller size is enough for up to four people and is great when paired with one of their wines on tap.

I’m very impressed by the way Parlour is willing to accommodate alternative diets, such as gluten intolerance. During my last visit, Chef Tony Le, Executive Chef for Century Hospitality Group, brought us complimentary plates of the flourless chocolate torta dessert, which was served with berry coulis, blueberries, and a raspberry sorbet. I was full…but I still made room for this delicious treat.

Flourless chocolate torta

Overall, I’m a huge fan of Parlour and I’ve no doubt that I’ll be back. Next week, probably. And again next month. Man, I love working downtown.

The Parlour Italian Kitchen & Bar
10334 Capital Boulevard
Edmonton, AB T5J 1L9
(780) 990-0404

4/5

Ampersand 27

A short while ago, I was invited to the Ampersand 27 media night on November 13th, where a number of Edmonton’s magazine editors and restaurant critics came together for a tasting of the new restaurant’s sharing menu.

As the new inhabitant of the space that was formerly Murrieta’s, Ampersand 27 is in a prime location on Whyte Avenue, occupying a portion of Varscona Hotel’s ground floor. The restaurant is the newest venture of Chef Nathin Bye, of Wildflower Grill and Lazia fame.

As for the name–well, it’s an unusual one. There’s a story behind it that you can read on their website; a cute tale that involves the ampersand as the 27th letter of the alphabet (prior to the 19th century). Chef Bye stated during the media event that he was a big fan of fonts, which explains the quirky name. As a copywriter (and not a graphic designer), I personally hate ampersands; thus, despite the restaurant’s use of alternative typography within their name (&27), I will humbly defer to the 21st century letters of the alphabet for this post.

I wasn’t sure what to expect before I visited. I’d heard that the charcuterie was the thing, but that portions were akin to many higher-end fine dining restaurants (i.e. teeny). I’d browsed the menu online and wasn’t sure whether to be amused or exasperated at some of the hipster-esque terminology (i.e. specials that were “evolving daily”; bread options that are referred to as “flour & water”; a menu item called “The Living Salad”). Was the restaurant aiming too high? It’s vision of uniqueness too grand?

Charcuterie

In a word: no. Chef Bye has crafted something incredible with Ampersand 27–a stylish and unique concept that feeds off a family dining experience, variations in texture, and edgy menu items that offer just the right amount of daring. I came, I ate, and I was charmed.

There’s nothing quite like walking into a stunningly decorated restaurant and being presented with two plentiful charcuterie boards: wooden platters overflowing with an abundance of Ampersand 27’s specialties. Cheddars, bleus, chevres paired with mounds of your favourite salumi: chorizo, prosciutto, genoa–accompanied by pickles, mustards, grains, and the most decadently creamy duck and chicken liver pate you’ll ever taste.

Charcuterie

Their cocktail list is just as inspired as the menu. I tried the Flora cocktail, made from gin, elderberry liquor, hibiscus raspberry shrub, and tonic. I’m a huge fan of gin cocktails when done well; this one was a little sweeter than I usually drink, but it was delicious and the hibiscus shrub was a cute touch.

Flora Cocktail

After the charcuterie boards came a flurry of tastings from their menu, as per below.

Beet Texture: A dainty salad of roasted, gelled, and crisp beets, served with sous vide and goat cheese ganache. Beautifully different for those who don’t usually eat beets, or who generally think all beets are served pickled. I thoroughly enjoyed the sweet and savoury flavours of this dish.

Beet Texture

Confit Parsnip: Sliced parsnip served with gremolata, pine nut, red pepper dust, and jam. A creamier take on the average parsnip and one that combined flavours together that were completely new to me. A nice dish, although I did prefer the Beet Texture.

Confit Parsnip

The Living Salad: Ah, The Living Salad. Order this and you’ll be presented with a mini tree trunk hosting a plant pot of local micro greens and a jar of cold pressed canola emulsion. And scissors, so that you can harvest your own salad. It’s a really cute concept, especially for those who think the novelty of cutting your own salad at dinner is exciting. For $15, though, it’s a fairly pricey novelty–especially for just a handful of micro greens.

The Living Salad

Maple Butter Pork Belly: It’s pretty difficult to screw up pork belly. Add some maple butter and Chef Bye’s inimitable talent, though, and you’ve got a winner of a dish. A true homage to the south, the pork belly was served with southwestern mesquite corn, baked beans, green peas, and fritters. Lovely and savoury.

Maple Butter Pork Belly

Pastrami Pork Cheeks: I feel like this dish is Chef Bye’s sharing menu’s understated pièce de résistance. Coming out under a glass dome (reminiscent of the one covering the rose in Beauty and the Beast), the pastrami pork cheeks are unveiled amidst a heady, charcoal-scented haze of smoke–the smell of which will incite memories of barbeques, smoked meats, and everything good and smoky and tender. Served with braised red cabbage, rye spaetzle, and sauerkraut creme, this dish is delicious and exciting. I strongly recommend giving it a try.

Pastrami Pork Cheeks

Seared Albacore Tuna: Almost every restaurant in Edmonton has a version of seared tuna or tuna tataki at the moment. It’s become a popular dish, particularly for those who aren’t quite ready for sashimi but want the flavour and texture of not-quite-cooked tuna. Ampersand 27’s version takes the seafood aspect a little more seriously than most, serving the tuna with pickled hearts of palm, citrus, seaweed, and cashew puree. The result is a seared tuna dish that’s a little more fishy than I’m used to, but that combines some interesting textures and flavours together that will surprise even the most veteran of seared tuna-goers.

Seared Albacore Tuna

The Seashore: I missed out on a photograph of this dish, which offered scallops, prawns, smoked trout brandade, and sea asparagus. A lovely option for seafood-lovers, The Seashore combined some of my favourite under-the-sea items and made them taste spectacular. Scallops. I’m always for the scallops.

We were also given the Pressured Octopus, which I only nibbled at because I despise the thought of eating octopus or squid (they’re two of the few things I won’t eat). Nevertheless, I tried the dish’s sea salt crusted potato and slices of chorizo. The chorizo tasted as most chorizo is wont to taste and the potato was delightfully seasoned. There were some concerns from the table that the potato was too salty, but I thought the salt level was just fine.

Rocky Road: For dessert, we were treated to a taste of Ampersand 27’s Rocky Road, a selection of “rocks” that have a hard shell and liquid interior and are served on edible “moss and sand.” In continuation of the restaurant’s attention to textures, this dessert is unique and delicious with a beautiful presentation. The “rocks” come in chocolate, mint, mango, and lychee flavours.

Rocky Road

Neaveau Misu: The restaurant’s most popular dessert is a modern take on tiramisu–a toffee pudding served with coffee caramel, amaretto, hazelnut, and brown butter, topped off with a side of macaron and ice cream. Bring me any kind of toffee pudding and I’m satisfied, but this one was exceptional. This was my favourite dessert of the evening.

Neaveau Misu

Citron Bleu

Citron Bleu: The Citron Bleu is a light, delicate serving of lemon buttermilk mousse alongside a portion of blueberries, earl grey gel and milk crisps. Lovely and sweet, this dessert is a must-try for those who like fruity and tart flavours.

There were so many things to taste and try that I’m certain I’ve missed out a few in this post, where I’ve simply tried to focus on the things that stood out during my experience. Regardless, I was very impressed by Chef Bye’s vision come-to-life at Ampersand 27. I look forward to returning to try a full-blown charcuterie, filled with my favourite things. And, in the future, I’d like to give some of their “Larger Provisions” a try–doesn’t a lacquered leg of duck and duck fat potatoes sound amazing?

I strongly recommend this restaurant with one small word of warning: it isn’t cheap. Like most other high-end restaurants in the city, the price point can be higher than most. A single charcuterie with two meats, two cheeses, and a few accompaniments can easily shoot past the $20 price range into the $30s and $40s, depending on what you order. Sharing plates range from $11 to $19 and the full meals start at $23. It’s not overpriced, by any means, but be wary of those charcuterie boards if you’re on a budget.

Ampersand 27
10612 82 Ave
Edmonton, AB T6E 2A6
(780) 757-2727

5/5