• NYC: FLEX MUSSELS

    Sep 17 • NYC, REVIEW, SEAFOOD • 92 Views

    NYC is lucky enough to be so close to the ocean that items like crab, lobster, mussels, scallops, and a variety of fish are just regular entries on a menu.

    Landlocked Canadians such as us Edmontonians don’t have that luxury, unfortunately. Nevertheless, Edmonton would do well to invest in a restaurant such as Flex Mussels – a restaurant dedicated solely to these delectable mollusks of the ocean.

    I had a fabulous meal with one of my favourite friends whilst dining at Flex Mussels. The concept is simple – they serve mussels. Mussels of all kinds: from Classic (white wine, herbs, garlic), to Bombay (Indian curry, garlic, cinnamon, star anise, white wine), to Maine (lobster, smoked bacon, chowder, parsley). If you love mussels and you’re in NYC, this is the place to go.

    The restaurant also offers a variety of other seafood, including oysters, arctic char, octopus, and salmon. There’s even a chicken dish for those who refuse to eat of the sea (those crazy, crazy people).

    And, of course, the wine list is extensive. There’s much more variety with the white wines, but they do have some excellent bottles listed under their reds.

    The mussel entrées come served in a gigantic pot and range from $19.50 to $25 each, depending on complexity. You can keep it simple with a Fra Diavolo mussel pot, served with San Marzano tomatoes, olive oil, fresh basil, red pepper, and garlic, or you can dive into the deep end with a $25 pot of mussels, lobster, San Marzano tomatoes, and croutons – also known as the Bruschetta.

    Rachel and I were feeling indulgent, so we both ordered from the higher end of the menu – a Marseille made from bouillabaisse, calamari, shrimp, and rouille for Rachel, and a Bisque with lobster, saffron, tomato, garlic, and cream (they’ve since removed the saffron from this dish) for myself.

    Top these heavenly-filled seafood pots off with a bottle of South African Spice Route Chakalaka (2009), and you’ve got a meal that you’ll remember when you’re old, grey, and eating your bland, overcooked chicken breast (fingers crossed I never forget how to use spices).

    There was nothing I didn’t like about Flex Mussels. The service was attentive and friendly, the food was amazing (mussels in a saffron cream sauce – my taste buds had a gastronomic orgasm), and the atmosphere was stylish and romantic (if slightly chilly).

    Oh, how I wish for a Flex Mussels of Edmonton’s own.

    Funnily enough, Flex sources its mussels from the Great Canadian province of PEI…naturally. Alberta isn’t as lucky as to have a piece of the coast to call our own, but our restaurants are managing to get mussels in all the same.

    Looking for a good pot of mussels in Edmonton? Here are my go-tos:

    • Sicilian Pasta Kitchen Downtown – try their Cozze Gorgonzola or Cozze Siciliana. $20 for a huge bowl of excellent mussels.
    • Louisiana Purchase – surprisingly, the Louisiana Purchase has excellent mussels. You don’t get as many as at SPK, but they cost $14 and are just as delicious.
    • Istanbul Restaurant – they’re a little unorthodox (already shelled and extremely spicy), but they’re great and only cost $12. Try to finish them all.

    This review is, of course, about NYC’s Flex Mussels (of which there are two locations). It’s great. I know a lot of Edmontonians who head to NYC on a yearly basis, so make the effort to eat there. Please. You’ll thank me.

    Flex Mussels
    Upper East Side: 174 E 82nd St (this review’s location)
    (212) 717-7772
    West Village: 154 West 13th St
    (212) 229-0222
    Open for dinner, Mon-Fri

    4.5

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  • MONTREAL: RESTAURANT MISTO

    Sep 13 • ITALIAN, MONTREAL, REVIEW • 74 Views

    There are so many restaurants in Montreal that it can be difficult to decide where to dine out, unless you have personal favourites or have received recommendations from a preferred friend. While Urbanspoon and Yelp can be helpful in narrowing down whatever you’re in the mood for, they can also do much to exacerbate the problem – there are hundreds of restaurants with excellent ratings, located within blocks of one another.

    So how does one ensure that they get what they want?

    Well, you can take a chance. And you can run through the reviews on Urbanspoon and Yelp, but be sure to always take those with a pinch of salt (hint: if a review says “dis restorant sux.. the food is horible. wont go bk”, I’d recommend ignoring it).

    In any case, we happened upon Restaurant Misto, thanks to the helpful reviews and ratings on my two favourite community-based restaurant review websites.

    There’s nothing completely remarkable about Misto, but it’s exactly what I was looking for that evening. A trendy Italian restaurant that opens out onto the street via large windows (sans panes), Misto is romantic, it’s reasonably-priced, and the food is innovative without stretching too far from the traditional.

    We started out with fresh bread and oil/vinaigrette, as well as a variety of cocktails: a gin Caesar, a Piscine Italienne (Prosecco, Campari, and red grapefruit juice), and a Le Roi, La Reine (cava brut reserve segura viudas, port, and orange zest).

    One thing I truly miss about Montreal is the fabulous cocktails and the extensive wine lists. Edmonton has been sorely devoid of great cocktail bars ever since Devlin’s closed down and, even though restaurants are starting to take wine lists more seriously, it’s taking a while for them to ramp up the options. Soon, my dear YEG…soon.

    Our entrées consisted of a variety of perfectly-cooked pastas and delectable meats. The Duck Confit Orecciettei held the most succulent pieces of duck amongst a light but beautiful pasta sauce, the Mushroom Ravioli with Gorgonzola Sauce was unbelievably creamy and decadent, and the Braised Lamb Shank in Miso and Roquefort Sauce was so tender it fell off the bone at the touch of a fork (and also went very well with a glass of the 2010 Valpolicella Classico).

    The server took care of our every need and we were never left wanting. The restaurant was relatively quiet when we sat down, but the service didn’t reflect this. It’s a difficult conundrum, customer service – sometimes I’ve had better service when the restaurant was busy as opposed to completely empty, oftentimes because the servers themselves spend most of their time smoking/eating/flirting in the back of house when it’s not busy. Thankfully, Misto didn’t have this problem.

    We ended up having a delightful meal at this restaurant, and I once again thank the good people of the world for posting their reviews on the internet. Like I’ve said before, I prefer to judge for myself (and especially with restaurants), but a nudge in the right direction is always appreciated.

    So, if you’re ever in Montreal meandering around the Mont-Royal area and in the mood for trendy Italian, head to Restaurant Misto for great food, excellent service, and a nice breeze to caress your neck as you make your way through their delightful wine list.

    Restaurant Misto
    929 Mont-Royal est
    Montreal, QC H2J 1X3
    (514) 526-5043
    Monday 5pm to midnight 
    Tuesday 5pm to midnight 
    Wednesday 11:30 to 3pm & 5pm to midnight 
    Thursday 11:30 to 3pm & 5pm to midnight
    Friday 11:30 to 3pm & 5pm to midnight
    Saturday 5pm to midnight 
    Sunday 5pm to midnight

    3.5/5

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  • MONTREAL: LE P’TIT PLATEAU

    Sep 5 • BYOB, FRENCH, MONTREAL, REVIEW, WINE • 78 Views

    Fresh air, fabulous friends, Bring Your Own Wine, and foie gras = not a complaint in the world. I’m a BYOB convert, plain and simple. Not that I’d ever need much convincing of BYOB’s greatness, but there you go. Edmonton is woefully lacking

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  • Istanbul Restaurant

    Sep 3 • EDMONTON, MIDDLE EASTERN, REVIEW • 105 Views

    Istanbul Restaurant is somewhat of an anomaly. Located on the north end of 82nd Street between an Instaloans and a cigar shop, the restaurant isn’t exactly occupying prime foodie real estate.

    The subtle location gives Istanbul Restaurant even more charm, though, affording it a ‘hidden gem’ status that Edmonton’s food-loving population so love to discover.

    And yes, it truly is a hidden gem.

    The first thing I noticed about Istanbul Restaurant was the décor – distinctly Middle Eastern, but with an abundance of Evil Eye talismans. Known as a nazar, the round blue amulets are traditionally used as protection against the Evil Eye…eerily unsettling, because the talisman itself looks like an eye. I first came across these decorations at a pub in the UK (called Evil Eye, no less), even though the pub itself primarily served south-east Asian cuisine.

    Aside from the relief borne from the knowledge that you aren’t going to die a dreadful death by evil stares, the rest of the décor is lovely, with bold red elements and shiny, coppery ornaments.

    As for food, Istanbul serves a variety of Middle Eastern specialities, including hummus, shish kebobs, kofte, and barbecued Turkish-style lamb chops. However, if you’re dating/dining out with someone who’s not-so-adventurous or picky about their food, the restaurant also offers some Westernized dishes, including pepper steak and Pacha-getti (spaghetti with tomato sauce and parmesan cheese).

    I started my meal with a glass of Jackson Triggs Cabernet Merlot and the P.I. Mussels, which were rich, tasty, and so spicy that I broke a sweat. For $12, they sure do load you up! Taken out of their shells, the mussels are cooked in a rich, spice-filled sauce that offers just enough creaminess and plenty of herbs and vegetables. To be honest, I probably could’ve gotten this appetizer as my main course and been full. The mussels themselves, along with the side of pita bread, were plenty. I’d recommend them, but only if you like spicy food (and seafood, of course).

    For my main, I had the Adana Beef Kebob, made from spiced ground beef and lamb and served with bulgur, salad, hummus, and fresh baked pita bread. The beef was spicy and tender, the pita bread fresh and warm, and the rice packed with plenty of heat. My fellow diners tried the Adana Chicken Kebob and the Pan Fried Sole, both of which were full of flavour and spiced to perfection.

    The service was wonderful, with plenty of water refills to soothe our seared mouths. Entree prices range from $15 to $30, depending on whether you’re in the mood for spaghetti or rack of lamb. For two people without drinks and with appetizers, the bill will come to approximately $60, which is very reasonable for a taste of true Turkish cuisine.

    I’m a huge fan of spicy food, so I’ll be sure to return to Istanbul Restaurant. I appreciate the fact that they’re so generous with their spices – the restaurant stays true to Turkish cuisine and doesn’t seek to temper the heat of the food or change it to suit a blander palate. If you can’t stand the heat, don’t bother with this place. If, however, you’re like me and crave the food of other continents, exotic spices, and something slightly out-of-the-ordinary, get yourself to Istanbul Restaurant post haste. Şerefe!

     Istanbul Restaurant
    12918 82 Street
    Edmonton, AB T5E 2T2
    (780) 478-8881
    Mon to Sat: 11am to 10pm
    Be sure to stop by for belly-dancing Saturdays!

    4/5

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  • BURGERS

    Aug 12 • AMERICAN/CANADIAN, BURGERS, EDMONTON, REVIEW • 72 Views

    They have all the charm of an intimate pub, drink specials to knock your sobriety off, and an excellent team of wait staff, but when it comes to food, The Hat falls flat. The Hat is Jasper’s Black Dog. Long and thin, with a bar that practically reaches

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  • DELUX BURGER BAR

    Jul 16 • AMERICAN/CANADIAN, BURGERS, EDMONTON, REVIEW • 79 Views

    The Century Hospitality Group is Edmonton’s boutique, casual fine dining restaurant generator. With restaurants such as MKT, Lux, Hundred Bar and Kitchen, and the Century Grill under their belt, it’s clear that their vision is to expand the contemporary, and invigorate Edmonton’s casual dining scene.

    Delux Burger Bar is just another of Century Hospitality Group’s projects and the goal of this endeavour is simple: the new burger.

    Delux offers traditionalist options, yes – but they also have a variety of new and innovative burger creations, including The Delux, which combines blue cheese, portabella mushrooms, and chipolte mayo, and the Bison and Brie burger, which has a bison patty topped with blueberry compote, brie, caramelized onions, and house made mayo.

    You can also build your own burger using the checklist below. (And yes, that’s Buttered Lobster.)

    One thing to note, though – Delux’s burgers don’t come served with a side. You can, of course, always add on a side of french fries if you wish. We decided to start with some of Delux’s starter-sized salads, which were a refreshing choice for dinner on a patio on one of Edmonton’s hottest summer days.

    For the Canadian traditionalist, the menu offers four different kinds of poutine. I opted for The ‘Cowboy’ poutine, which comes with fresh cut fries, Nathan’s Famous hot dog, cheese curds, and gravy.

    We’ve all had excellent poutines (we do live in Canada, after all), but this one was fantastic. Loaded with gravy and cheese curds, as well as little pieces of quality hot dog, Delux’s poutine is good enough to remind you that you actually don’t give a damn about counting calories, and that Canadians are pretty amazing people to come up with such a dish. Cheese! Fries! Gravy! Genius.

    Even though I chose to eat at a burger bar without actually ordering a burger, Taner saved the day by ordering an ‘Out of the Water’ burger: Stella Artois battered halibut with creamy coleslaw, red onion, and tartar sauce. This overlord of Filet-O-Fishes might not have been the biggest fish burger in the ocean, but it sure as hell was tasty.

    I must admit that I was sceptical in trying Delux – I’m generally much more of a steak/noodles/pasta kind of person, and burgers, though delicious, aren’t usually part of my cravings compass. I was pleasantly surprised.

    If you’re in the mood for casual fine dining and want something quick, different, and reasonably priced, then try Delux. Let me know how the Bison and Brie burger tastes and be sure to enjoy your complimentary cotton candy at the end of the meal.

    Delux Burger Bar
    Parkview – 9682 142 Street 
    (780) 420-0101
    Location also in Riverbend/Terwillegar (14111 23 Avenue)

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  • CAFVINO VIP WINE TASTING EVENT

    Jun 13 • My Blog • 78 Views

    CafvinoVIP, a wine tasting event held by Schifer Imports on June 10th, 2013, brought together food aficionados, Edmonton personalities, and Twitter buffs as a way of celebrating (and tasting) the newly imported coffee-infused wine. Schifer Imports, an

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  • Soda Jerks Burgers and Bottles

    Apr 19 • AMERICAN/CANADIAN, BURGERS, EDMONTON, EVENT • 72 Views

    I’d never been to or heard of Soda Jerks until the other day, so I don’t know what I was expecting. Something similar to Fatburger, perhaps?

    I was pleasantly surprised. Soda Jerks is a delightful, modern restaurant that – simply put – sells great burgers. They don’t have any claims to pretension, and they definitely don’t put on any airs. They’re a diner. And they have a large selection of bottled sodas and uniquely-flavoured milkshakes.

    One of the first things I noticed about their menu was their Big Kid (a.k.a. alcoholic) milkshakes. I was instantly in love. Who wouldn’t want to try a Captain Nut, a butter pecan shake with a shot of Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum? And who isn’t curious about mixing cookie dough vodka with a banana shake?

    I ordered a small mint chocolate shake (sans alcohol, I’m afraid, because it was a work day), which was deliciously creamy and minty. The milkshakes at Soda Jerks aren’t quite as thick as the ones at Fatburger but they’re cheaper and they have a better selection to choose from. Blue raspberry, cappuccino, peanut butter and jam, pink lemonade…you name it.

    And, obviously, as the name entails, they’re known for their sodas. The restaurant offers: Dad’s, Jones, Stewart’s, Boylan, The Pop Shoppe, San Pellegrino, Bawls, Koala, Orangina, Grizzly Paw, Fentiman’s, and Coca-Cola products, all in glass bottles.

    Their food menu is just as extensive. We opted for the regular burgers rather than the Build-Your-Owns that the restaurant is so famous for. I tried the Black and Blue burger, with Cajun spice, blue cheese, a beef patty, bacon, and vegetable trimmings, and Taner had the Buffalo Chicken Burger, with hot sauce, mozza, bacon, and vegetables. Both burgers were served with delicious hand-cut fries, and we both opted for a side of their poutine gravy (I liked it, although Taner didn’t).

    Customers can opt for a gluten free bun, if they like, which I thought was a nice recognition of varying diets by a restaurant that serves a traditional meat-bread-potatoes kind of meal.

    I’d recommend Soda Jerks to any fan of a good burger. The food was delicious, the menu extensively customizable, and the service friendly and efficient; likewise, the 50’s diner concept offering is modernized by the restaurant’s attention to modern dietary concerns. Huge, huge kudos to Soda Jerks for paying such attention to nutritional detail. And it’s reasonable, at approximately $15-20 per person.

    Be sure to Instagram your burger for the chance to win a $50 gift certificate!

    Soda Jerks Burgers and Bottles
    17520 100 Avenue
    Edmonton, AB T5S 2S2
    (780) 486-5375

     

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  • RUTH’S CHRIS STEAK HOUSE

    Mar 25 • AMERICAN/CANADIAN, EDMONTON, REVIEW, STEAKHOUSE, WINE • 68 Views

    If you want the fine dining experience, you have to pay the price and Ruth’s Chris (while pricey) manages to tick all of the fine dining boxes: fabulous food, attentive service, and a beautifully romantic restaurant ambience. I did a bit of research

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  • THE CREPERIE

    Mar 19 • EDMONTON, FRENCH, REVIEW, WINE • 67 Views

    In celebration of Edmonton’s fantastic Downtown Dining Week event (#DTDW), hosted by the Downtown Business Association, I decided to forgo the new and the trendy (for now), and retry an old French favourite: The Creperie. I hadn’t been to this

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