SUSHI TRAIN

As my coworker so eloquently put it, “Chew chew! Climb aboard the Sushi Train!”

Edmonton’s newest rotation sushi bar restaurant, Sushi Train, opened its doors on July 12th in a modest location by MacEwan University on 104 Street. The premise is simple: the chef makes a variety of different kinds of sushi and places them on a conveyor belt using different coloured plates. The plates reflect the price (blue = $3.50; red = $4.50; green = $5.50; black = $6.50) and each one is placed within a time slot on the conveyor belt so that you can tell how fresh everything is–for example, if you arrived at 12:30pm, a dish situated behind the 10-20 marker will have been made between 12:10pm and 12:20pm.

It’s a unique concept for Edmonton, but kaiten-zushi (conveyor belt sushi) is a pretty standard style of restaurant in Japan. Edmonton has seen train-style sushi restaurants before (Sakura in WEM), but they don’t seem to last. Due to the nature of how they serve food, kaiten-zushi requires a steady stream of customers during opening hours to avoid waste–too few customers, and food will have to be tossed. Too many, and the chef/kitchen will be overwhelmed.

It’s a delicate balance, much like the one between fish and rice on a perfectly made piece of sushi.

Luckily, MacEwan is home to a number of hungry students, including sushi fanatics, so Sushi Train certainly has a chance.

There aren’t many seats, since most are placed around the rotating bar, but luckily it wasn’t that busy when we arrived for lunch. It’s a really fun experience waiting to see what the chef will place on the belt next and there’s the nail-biting few minutes when you see something you want that’s just out of reach. Will it come around again? Will someone snap it up before it makes it to you?

As for taste, I was satisfied. The sushi was fresh (as we could see) and there were a number of options to choose from. Octopus balls, red snapper, crispy California rolls, gyoza, and much more. The quality isn’t quite the same as Kyoto or Mikado, but it’s still very good. A solid choice for sushi, in my opinion.

Price-wise, I could see a meal at Sushi Train getting very expensive, very quickly. For lunch, I tried five different dishes (2-4 pieces per plate, depending on what I ordered) and my total came to about $23, with no drinks other than water and green tea. A whole dinner at Sushi Train could easily get up to $50 per person, so be wary of those plates.

All in all, I’d definitely recommend this place, especially if you’ve never tried a kaiten-zushi before. The crispy California rolls are worth a visit alone!

Sushi Train
10725 104 Ave NW
Edmonton, Alberta
(587) 521-7788 

 3.5/5

HONG HUONG VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT

It’s a weekend morning. Or afternoon. You’re not quite sure because the pounding behind your eyeballs is making it difficult to focus on your cell phone. You’re feeling a bit rough (but who wouldn’t after all those shots of Belvedere and your stint as queen of Flip Cup?) and you know–you just know–you need to eat some pho.

It seems as if pho is rapidly overtaking dim sum as the most popular brunchy Asian food and, luckily for Edmontonians, there’s no shortage of places to park your butt and eat some noodle soup.

We recently decided to give Hong Huong Vietnamese Restaurant, a small place on the outskirts of Clareview, a try. To be concise, it was pretty good. It didn’t blow me away, but I did have a good, solid meal.

One of the things that I really liked about this restaurant was the amount of natural light streaming in through the restaurants windows, which covered most of the building’s facade. It makes the restaurant seem more friendly, while also setting the scene for some great food photography.

Our table may have been sticky, but the service was decent. They were reasonably fast with our orders: a 6-colour bowl for Taner and soup with rare beef, flank, and brisket for me. The bun bowl exploded with meats: pork, beef, chicken, shrimp, and meatballs, all accompanied with the usual spring rolls. The pho was less colourful but just as tasty. I generally prefer a darker, full-bodied soup for my pho (as I like my wine)–Hong Huong’s soup was much lighter but was full of flavour. The rare beef had unfortunately already cooked to well done by the time it got to my table, but I ate it with relish regardless.

The vietnamese coffee was much too sweet for either of us to drink, so that was left mostly untouched. Everything else, though, was great. We were happy with the food, content with the service, and pleased with our overall experience. As with most Vietnamese restaurants, the prices are extremely reasonable. For two meals and a coffee, our bill came under $30. Bargain!

If you live in the south or west end of the city, you probably won’t need to make the trek to Clareview for a great bowl of pho. If you’re a northsider, though, give it a shot. It’s about time that you tried something other than Namao Centre’s Pho Hoan Pasteur or 97 Street’s Pho Song Huong.

Hong Huong Vietnamese Restaurant
14425 Miller Boulevard NW
Edmonton, AB T5Y 0L4
(780) 476-3024
Sun-Thurs: 11am-9pm
Fri-Sat: 10am-9pm 

 3.5/5

Food Blogger Tweetup at La Ronde

On Tuesday, April 15, a host of local food bloggers–including yours truly–was invited to a Food Blogger Tweetup at Chateau Lacombe’s La Ronde Revolving Restaurant. As a promotion for their new Tieless Tuesday events, which include an evening of jazz and half-price bottles of wine, the restaurant offered our group of bloggers a complimentary three-course meal.

We were tasked with simply tweeting or blogging about it at our own discretion. La Ronde, while generous, did not ask anyone for a good review.

So here’s the honest truth: La Ronde is classic. It always has been and it likely always will be. The food, while good, is traditional. It’s not a place you’d go for the latest duck confit-kimchi-truffle salami innovative creation. It is, however, somewhere you’d go for the time-honoured classics: beef wellington, osso bucco, or pan-seared salmon.

And, to be fair, La Ronde does these well.

Scott Parker, the restaurant’s Pastry Chef, has an affinity for great desserts that have stood the test of time.

“I started baking when I was really young. A lot of the things I’m baking are things I had when I was a child,” says Parker.

“I do a lot of different things…trend things. But as far as flavours go, I suppose you’d call me a traditionalist.”

Below are the options we were given for our three-course meals, along with my selections and a brief overview.

Starter
Choice of
: Seafood Trio, Escargot Vol au Vent, or Crab Cakes.
My selection: Seafood Trio – sashimi-style tuna, chilled spiced scallops, and marinated shrimp served on miso ice, wakame, and tempura “crunchies.”
The verdict: very good. The spiced scallops were my favourite and, as YEGFoodie pointed out, there were a number of unique textures combined in this dish. The crunchy wakame complemented the silky smooth sashimi; the tempura “crunchies” gave substance alongside the whipped wasabi. I thoroughly enjoyed this dish.

Main
Choice of: Alberta Rack of Lamb, Deconstructed Beef Wellington, Cyclopene of Alaskan Scallop and Prawn, or Free Run Supreme Chicken Breast
My selection: Alberta Rack of Lamb (of course) – mustard and herb-crusted with a triturate of potato and Tuscan jus.
The verdict: not bad. The lamb was cooked perfectly and had a nice flavour on its own, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the herb and mustard crust. This might be due to the fact that I’m a purist when it comes to lamb–rosemary, garlic, pepper, and rock salt is all I need–but I just found that it added too much, overpowering the flavour of the meat. Some bloggers found the dish too salty, but I’m a salt fiend, so that didn’t faze me.

Dessert
Choice of: all of the desserts.
My selection: Chocolate Torte
The verdict: classic. Beautiful chocolate with a very thin, delicate crust on the bottom. This was lovely when paired with the berry compote and sorbet accompanying the dish.

Overall, it was a very good meal. The service was attentive, the Samurai Caesars (made with sake) were fabulous, and the company was top notch.

Tieless Tuesdays? Worth checking out, if only for a great atmosphere, soothing jazz, and a half-price bottle of wine.

Many thanks to Linda for organizing this event!

La Ronde
10111 Bellamy Hill
Edmonton, AB T5J 0S1
(780) 428-6611

4/5

2 Canteen | by Steve Munro

Guest post from local writer and blogger, Steve Munro.

When a friend texted me birthday plans for supper at Canteen, I couldn’t say no. It’s a relatively new arrival in Edmonton’s restaurant scene, has an easy to find location on 124 Street, and didn’t have a problem with a reservation for ten guests.

We were off to a good start when the servers took our coats for us at the front door before showing us to our long table with a leather cushioned bench seat at one side. Behind us, the bar was circled with hand-crafted metal bar stools with contoured steel backs. Once settled in, the birthday girl ordered herself a Bee’s Knees: a gin and honey drink that she enjoyed. I opted for a simple Americano coffee.

Unfortunately, my coffee was delivered in a mug that needed another run through the dishwasher, but our server quickly took it away and brought me a fresh brew in a new mug. The coffee itself had a strong, bitter aroma, but went down surprisingly smooth without leaving an aftertaste.

Our group decided to try almost one of everything off their “Small Stuff” menu, which seemed to be an alternative to the standard appetizer menu. I was very surprised by the pea falafel and spicy yogurt dip. The falafel was made with sweeter green peas rather than the typical chickpeas, but still maintained the same consistency, crunchy exterior, and texture. The spicy yogurt was fantastic. It had a smooth start and a gradual build to the spice delivery. The spicy flavor mixed very well with the sweeter green peas, and didn’t linger too long after the appetizer.

I also sampled one of the corn fritters with smoky maple syrup and seriously wondered which was better. I still haven’t made up my mind.

Most of our table ordered the Korean beef striploin. My medium-rare steak was excellent. The meat was just tender and juicy enough behind a firm cooked outer layer. It was served with a kimchi cake and yam puree that was surprisingly sweet. The kimchi cake was cut into triangles and cooked with a crispy outer skin to conceal a smoother mousse-like interior. There was an unfortunate mix up between two orders and a rare striploin ended up going to someone who ordered a medium-rare.

Another guest in our group decided to have some fun with her order and asked for all three of their dessert selections as her meal. Somewhere along the way, this order wasn’t processed with the rest of the group’s orders. It wasn’t until we checked on the progress of the dessert-as-supper order that our server realized the mistake.

As far as the desserts go, I loved the dark chocolate ganache – a rich, dense slab of smooth dark chocolate presented in a tart berry sauce. The portion size looks small but is so satisfying that a larger piece would only be a waste. When our friend who asked for all the desserts finally received her order, the only one she reported an issue with was the Poached Pear Verrine, which came across as a bit bland.

If you’re planning on visiting Canteen with a large group of people, say, more than four, you may have a few problems hearing each other. The modern layout and décor takes the form of textured concrete walls and concealed indirect lighting. The restaurant itself is long and narrow, and this tends to create a noticeable echo, which makes a conversation across ten people nearly impossible to participate in. The service staff seemed friendly and courteous enough but, at the same time, unsure and hesitant with a lack of confidence.

Overall, if you’re in no rush, can be patient with your order, and don’t mind the background noise, the menu itself is worth a try!

Canteen
10522 124 Street
Edmonton, AB T5N 1R9
(780) 485-6125
Tues – Fri: 11:30am-10:00pm
Sat – Sun: 10:00am-10:00pm

3.5/5

Canteen | by Steve Munro

Guest post from local writer and blogger, Steve Munro.

When a friend texted me birthday plans for supper at Canteen, I couldn’t say no. It’s a relatively new arrival in Edmonton’s restaurant scene, has an easy to find location on 124 Street, and didn’t have a problem with a reservation for ten guests.

We were off to a good start when the servers took our coats for us at the front door before showing us to our long table with a leather cushioned bench seat at one side. Behind us, the bar was circled with hand-crafted metal bar stools with contoured steel backs. Once settled in, the birthday girl ordered herself a Bee’s Knees: a gin and honey drink that she enjoyed. I opted for a simple Americano coffee.

Unfortunately, my coffee was delivered in a mug that needed another run through the dishwasher, but our server quickly took it away and brought me a fresh brew in a new mug. The coffee itself had a strong, bitter aroma, but went down surprisingly smooth without leaving an aftertaste.

Our group decided to try almost one of everything off their “Small Stuff” menu, which seemed to be an alternative to the standard appetizer menu. I was very surprised by the pea falafel and spicy yogurt dip. The falafel was made with sweeter green peas rather than the typical chickpeas, but still maintained the same consistency, crunchy exterior, and texture. The spicy yogurt was fantastic. It had a smooth start and a gradual build to the spice delivery. The spicy flavor mixed very well with the sweeter green peas, and didn’t linger too long after the appetizer.

I also sampled one of the corn fritters with smoky maple syrup and seriously wondered which was better. I still haven’t made up my mind.

Most of our table ordered the Korean beef striploin. My medium-rare steak was excellent. The meat was just tender and juicy enough behind a firm cooked outer layer. It was served with a kimchi cake and yam puree that was surprisingly sweet. The kimchi cake was cut into triangles and cooked with a crispy outer skin to conceal a smoother mousse-like interior. There was an unfortunate mix up between two orders and a rare striploin ended up going to someone who ordered a medium-rare.

Another guest in our group decided to have some fun with her order and asked for all three of their dessert selections as her meal. Somewhere along the way, this order wasn’t processed with the rest of the group’s orders. It wasn’t until we checked on the progress of the dessert-as-supper order that our server realized the mistake.

As far as the desserts go, I loved the dark chocolate ganache – a rich, dense slab of smooth dark chocolate presented in a tart berry sauce. The portion size looks small but is so satisfying that a larger piece would only be a waste. When our friend who asked for all the desserts finally received her order, the only one she reported an issue with was the Poached Pear Verrine, which came across as a bit bland.

If you’re planning on visiting Canteen with a large group of people, say, more than four, you may have a few problems hearing each other. The modern layout and décor takes the form of textured concrete walls and concealed indirect lighting. The restaurant itself is long and narrow, and this tends to create a noticeable echo, which makes a conversation across ten people nearly impossible to participate in. The service staff seemed friendly and courteous enough but, at the same time, unsure and hesitant with a lack of confidence.

Overall, if you’re in no rush, can be patient with your order, and don’t mind the background noise, the menu itself is worth a try!

Canteen
10522 124 Street
Edmonton, AB T5N 1R9
(780) 485-6125
Tues – Fri: 11:30am-10:00pm
Sat – Sun: 10:00am-10:00pm

3.5/5

CRAFT BEER MARKET

A review of the food and drink at CRAFT’s pre-opening event on December 18th, 2013. I’ve already written about the history, foundation, and philosophy of CRAFT Beer Market, so this post will strictly cover the food and drink I (and a few friends)

UNDER THE HIGH WHEEL

Under the High Wheel is a cute, hip diner that serves simple comfort food made from local ingredients. Under the High Wheel reminds me very strongly of the Glasshouse Bistro in St. Albert’s Enjoy Centre: both serve an amazing brunch, both utilize

ALL HAPPY FAMILY RESTAURANT

For years, Chinatown’s Garden Bakery was my go-to Chinese food hotspot. The dishes were delicious, the service prompt, and the bakery downstairs always sold my favourite curry puffs and peanut balls.

Dining there recently was a huge shock. I don’t expect to be eating food cooked by a Red Seal chef, but I do expect that my noodles will be fresh and al dente, rather than microwaved into a gelatinous blob reminiscent of an antagonist in a 1958 horror film.

When a restaurant goes downhill to this extent, it’s time to take up shop elsewhere. In my case, I moved my loyalties next door to All Happy Family Restaurant.

All Happy is best known as the place to go after a wild, drunken night at the bar. They’re open till 4am, allowing you to fill your junk food cravings after spending the night dancing and drinking your face off at Knoxville’s or Central Social Hall. It’s cheap, the food is served within minutes, and it’s a delicious alternative to a packed McDonald’s drive-thru.

However, unlike many of my friends, I also like to eat in Chinatown during the day whilst still moderately sober. I visited All Happy for a dinner with my friend Amanda–my usual date for a Garden Bakery romp–and we were sold. The noodles were as good as the Garden Bakery’s used to be and had all of the flavour that its next-door neighbour appears to have lost.

Amanda and I are purists when it comes to our Chinatown dinners: we order the same two things each time (but don’t worry–as a halfer, I’ve tried a variety of Cantonese cuisine and a smorgasbord of Mandarin delicacies throughout my life).

The Seafood Chow Mein was beautiful. Crispy, fresh noodles served as a bed for a mound of crunchy gai lan, tender scallops, shrimp, carrots, and squid. The sauce, which can turn to jelly if old, left sitting on a counter, or microwaved, had a perfectly thick consistency and was full of savoury seafood flavour.

The Beef Chow Fun with Gai Lan–my personal favourite–was so fresh and hot that I burnt my mouth slightly in my haste to devour it. This version of Beef Chow Fun is the ‘wet version’ (something you should mention if you order it in a restaurant), which differs from the usual ‘dry version’ that is stir fried in spices. I prefer the sauce on my noodles, which is why I order this version. It’s tasty and a nice change from the usual if you’re feeling only slightly adventurous. Gai lan is my favourite of all Chinese vegetables; known as ‘Chinese broccoli,’ it’s crunchy and has a distinct flavour similar to kale.

I also ordered a Litchi (lychee) Cooler, a refreshingly sweet drink full of litchis, which are great as an impromptu after-dinner dessert.

Dinner for two at All Happy came to under $25–a bargain and perfect for those who love a cheap and cheerful Chinatown snack. If you haven’t managed to stumble into this restaurant in the wee hours of the morning yet, give it a shot. Maybe even try it during the day. You might just like it.

P.S. They deliver! Just make sure to order an hour in advance.

All Happy Family Restaurant
10011 106 Avenue
Edmonton, AB T5H v2S1
(780) 421-8297
Open 11am to 4am daily

3.5/5

Edmonton’s First Secret Supper

Edmonton’s very first Secret Supper took place on Monday, November 4th, 2013. Hosted by Dishcrawl, the event served up 8 courses of Cajun cuisine, including an icy-tart Intermezzo, at Creole Envie in Edmonton’s Highlands district.

Edmonton’s first Secret Supper has come and gone! On Monday, November 4th, 40 people arrived at Creole Envie to indulge themselves in Dishcrawl’s inaugural Underground Supper Club event. Guests were informed of the restaurant’s location only two days before the event and all dishes were kept secret until arrival.

The Secret Supper was a unique experience and we tried some new and interesting dishes that aren’t on the usual restaurant menu. Everyone got the chance to add another taste or a new flavour to their repertoire, whether it was frog legs, turtle soup, or a gin old fashioned.

Overall, the event was a success. The length of time between courses was a bit longer than I would’ve liked, but it’s understandable when you have a small kitchen trying to get out 40 simultaneous courses. Each dish came out beautifully presented and our empty plates were cleared way extremely promptly–thanks to Gemma and Tracy for all of their hard work!

Guests paid $79 for 8 courses ($109 for a meal with drink pairings, if one so chose) over 2.5 hours. We went over the time frame by about 70 minutes but it was really nice to see the unique items created by Chef Danielle Majeau.

Here’s an overview of each course and my responses to it:

Amuse: Tasso Prawns

Served with pickled okra, crystal salt, and hot sauce, this first course set the bar very high. The hot sauce added a beautiful kick to the prawns, while the pickled okra was crunchy and flavourful. This course was paired with the Hurricancocktail, a very sweet vodka drink that tasted very much like grenadine. Luckily, I like grenadine, so the drink was a win. Verdict: Great.

Appetizer: Crab Stuffed Portabellas

Our next course was a gigantic portabella mushroom topped with a crab and cream mixture and parmesan cheese. I enjoyed this dish, although the crab didn’t have as much of its usual moisture, likely as a result of the sauce it was mixed with. The mushroom had a strong taste that complemented the crab mixture well and the cheese was a nice finishing touch. Verdict: Very good.

Soup: Turtle Soup with Sherry

The soup course afforded me my very first taste of turtle soup…and I rather liked it! Mixed with sherry, hot sauce, and the Creole ‘holy trinity’ (onions, bell peppers, and celery), the soup had a meaty taste that was offset beautifully by the sherry. Only midly spicy, the soup offered a warm intermission after the cooler prawns and portabellas. This course was paired with a Gin Old Fashioned. I’ve never had an Old Fashioned made with gin before; it was strong, but I enjoyed it. (The girl next to me found it much too strong…heh heh.) Verdict: Very Good.

Salad: Bay Scallops with Pancetta

I love scallops. I particularly love scallops when they’re cooked well. The salad course offered two gorgeous scallops amidst a sweeter-than-sweet cherry tomato and cooked pancetta. Beautiful. The mixture of flavours was amazing. Verdict: Great.

Starch: Smothered Grits with Crawfish

For the starch course, Chef Majeau cooked up a true Creole favourite: grits. These were cooked in whipping cream and riddled with crawfish and topped with cheese, green onions, and paprika. I’m usually a huge fan of starches, but I found the grits just a little too rich for my tastes. They had a nice flavour but the whipped cream was a bit too powerful. The crawfish was a nice touch, though. Verdict: Ok.

Intermezzo: Meyer Lemon Ice

An orangey-lemon sorbet to cleanse our palates! Very delicious.

Protein: Frog Legs Sauce Piquant

I’ve had frog legs before, so this course wasn’t that unusual to me, although it seemed as if many in the room had never tried them before. They’re not bad, right? Frog legs taste very much like a firmer, drier chicken wing. These ones were tossed in a not-so-spicy sauce made from tomatoes and the holy trinity. They were nice, although the amount of meat on them was pretty minimal (to be expected, I suppose). This course was served with the New Orleans Fizz cocktail. Now, I’m pretty good with drinks. I’ll drink just about anything. When it comes to creamy, milky drinks, though, I usually pass. The New Orleans Fizz was made from gin (which I usually love!), cream, lemon juice, and lime juice. In my opinion, gin and cream are not a good mix, and this drink didn’t do much to change my mind. Verdict: Good (except for the drink).

Dessert: Peaches with Bourbon Cream and Pecans

Whipped cream made from bourbon? Pecans? Peaches? I’m sold. This final course was paired with a shot of straight bourbon, which I did, in fact, shoot. After delighting in the bourbon’s burning sensation, the peaches and cream dessert was a great end to my meal. I heard from others (non-drinkers) that the cream tasted too much like bourbon. After my shot, it tasted like heaven. Verdict: Great.

Overall, I enjoyed this event and would definitely attend another Secret Supper. It was a bit difficult to fit in over 3.5 hours for a meal when we had other things to do that evening, so the time frame was a little bit of an issue. As this was the first event, though, I know that things will be ironed out in the future. I truly did enjoy indulging myself so thoroughly! Time for another Gin Old Fashioned, methinks!

Dishcrawl Edmonton

Creole Envie
6509 112 Avenue NW
Edmonton, AB
T5W 0P1
(780) 477-2422

4/5