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

TZIN WINE AND TAPAS

Tzin is a perfectly delightful hole-in-the-wall restaurant that serves amazing food from a selective yet professional Spanish tapas menu. My first impression of this restaurant (as you’ll have seen if you follow me on Twitter) was that it was

Privada wine+tapas

This restaurant was my birthday choice, simply because there’s no better thing than enjoying delicious tapas, delicate wines, and all kinds of cheeses in the dead of winter (especially in Canada). My expectations were high, based on the reviews and the online menu – I hadn’t had a stand-up charcuterie plate since England, believe it or not. Were my expectations met, or was I to be disappointed?

Absolutely yes and definitely not. My friends, this place was fantastic. A tiny little bistro with room to barely sit 50, Privada was stylish, comfortable, and homey – everything you want in a tapas restaurant. With low lighting and beautifully ambient music, the atmosphere was delightfully charming – enough so that even the TV’s insistence on showing the fireplace channel couldn’t dampen the mood. The wine selection was excellent; even the ‘lower-end’ malbecs were full-bodied and smooth – perfect to pair with a charcuterie plate.

Taner and I started out with the seared maple scallops, served with white wine corn puree on marinated roma tomatoes, as well as the prosciutto-wrapped asparagus. The scallops were perfectly cooked, with the puree acting as a hollandaise-esque sauce that complemented them nicely.

The asparagus – oh, the asparagus! I would return to this restaurant simply for the asparagus. I read several reviews before visiting Privada, and almost all of them (the smart ones) made mention of this amazing dish. Please go there. Please try them. You won’t regret it. Also, several of my friends tried the Asian Chicken Skewers, served with wasabi dressing, and pronounced them delicious. However, the Garlic and Artichoke dip (served with the Chips and Dip) wasn’t the best we’ve ever had, and the chips tasted too much like the oil they were cooked in. Oh well, can’t win them all, right?

I’m completely obsessed with cured meats and gourmet cheeses (thanks to my fantastic UK MA friends, who showed me the way) and it was my birthday, so I went Double Butcher. The charcuterie plate can work three ways: select three cheeses, select three cheeses and two meats, or have one of everything. The Double Butcher, as you may have guessed, was a smorgasbord of all the tasters Privada has to offer. Our plate consisted of:

  • Dairy: Le Triple Creme (soft), Sir Laurier (soft beige), Bleubry (blue), Le Cendrilon (ash-covered goat), Contonnier (semi-firm), and Le Saint Raymond (soft).
  • Butcher: Westfalin Ham, Prosciutto, Pepper Salami, and Coppa.

Our tasting plate was accompanied with crackers, breads, chutneys, and spreads; my only regret was that we didn’t get one tasting plate each!

The dessert shots – served in shot glasses – were delightful. At $2 a pop, you can try a couple of different ones without breaking the bank or having to eat a mammoth-sized cake, as is too often the case. I tried the Lime Cheese Cake, a mini-dessert perfect for lovers of key lime.

All in all, I would definitely visit this restaurant again. The food, the wine, the atmosphere, even the service – all perfect. In fact, writing about it now makes me think I should book myself a table again sometime soon…

Definitely make sure to book, though – a place this good will always fill up fast.

Privada wine+tapas
100 – 21 Perron Street
St. Albert, AB
(780) 569-5479
Hours: 
CLOSED Sunday-Tuesday
Wednesday-Thursday 4-10
Friday 4-12
Saturday 3-12