Kazoku Ramen

Ever since I had to say goodbye to the love of my life (i.e. gluten), I’ve had to make do with poor substitutes and laughable facsimiles. The gluten free landscape has become more bountiful as of late, but the realm of wheat-free ramen has been fairly disappointing. So, when I learned that Kazoku Ramen, a restaurant close to my new place of employment, offered gluten free noodles, I was desperate to give it a try. Edmonton has been raving about its ramen restaurants for the past year and I’d automatically assumed that my allergy would exclude me from indulging myself–thankfully, I was wrong.

Kazoku is a new restaurant located in Mayfield/Meadowlark in west Edmonton. They’ve been open since October 2015 but I hadn’t heard much about them, other than from Cindy’s review on Let’s Om Nom. Of course, moving to the west end for work gave me ample reason to browse the list of restaurants in the area–thus, my first visit to Kazoku.

The restaurant is cozy but with plenty of table space and featuring an adorable wall painting of a godzilla chewing on a piece of narutomaki. The menu is brief but well-stocked, featuring a handful of traditional Japanese appetizers (think gyoza and edamame), tempura, ramen bowls, curry, and rice bowls. The server was a little quick on the draw, asking us what we wanted less than one minute after handing us the menus, but I assume that’s because lunchtime at Kazoku brings in the hoard of regulars, each one knowing exactly what they’ll have that day. We needed a little longer to decide, finally settling on the gluten-free miso ramen with pork shoulder char siu and the Japanese char siu rice bowl. (Note: the miso ramen is the only soup that’s gluten-free. While they have gluten free noodles, the soup base for most ramen bowls includes soy. Celiacs should also note that the char siu marinade may include trace amounts of gluten, so this restaurant is much more suited to those who are gluten intolerant.) 

Miso ramen noodle bowl

For only $13, you get a huge bowl filled with delicious soup, noodles, delightfully salty meat, and all the fixings: a half soft-boiled egg, shredded nori, bamboo shoots, corn, toasted sesame, green onion, and narutomaki. Kazoku prides themselves on including fresh ingredients in all of their dishes, including hand-picked pork, free range chicken, and locally grown produce–and it shows. The flavours are amazing. My miso ramen, despite having a smaller portion of noodles than normal (thanks, gluten-free), was excellent. I couldn’t help but finish the bowl, even with the possible risk of me falling asleep at my desk afterwards.

Japanese char siu rice bowl

The restaurant does, however, close on Tuesdays–holding inconsistent weekly hours is just one of the things smaller, independent restaurants tend to do. When I showed up there on a Tuesday at lunch, it was entirely my fault for not checking the hours beforehand. That still didn’t keep me from being disappointed that I wouldn’t get an excellent bowl of ramen that day (though I have learned my lesson since then).

In any case, if you’re in the area or feel like making the trek to the west end, I recommend you swing by Kazoku, say hello to the naruto-nibbling godzilla, and sit down to a steaming bowl of delicious ramen.

Kazoku Ramen
16518 100 Avenue
Edmonton, AB T5Y 4Y2
(780) 483-0448

3.5/5

State and Main (Jasper Avenue)

Due to my mad panic to finish cosplays in time for Calgary Expo, it took me longer than expected to get to this post. But here it is, at last!

Gastropubs. So hot right now.

There’s something about the fusion of a welcoming pub atmosphere and a stylish menu line-up that just speaks to me. Maybe it’s the fact that I enjoy great food but don’t always feel like dressing to the nines (or paying through my teeth) just to get it.

State and Main sits somewhere between the likes of Original Joe’s and Central Social Hall. The interior is stylishly casual and friendly. The menu is the epitome of modern Canadian comfort food with a few surprising twists: steaks, wings, and pulled pork sandwiches sit amongst Korean-inspired gogi tacos, chorizo lasagna, and a Greek-esque spanako flatbread (think spinach, goat cheese, and roasted red peppers).

Media Tasting Event

Signature Caesar

Pretzel Sticks

With locations already in Windermere, Southgate, Sherwood Park, and Spruce Grove, State and Main recently took their brand to central Edmonton with a new restaurant on Jasper Avenue and 100 Street. At the media tasting event on April 12th, food writers, bloggers, and local media were treated to an extensive menu to showcase the restaurant’s favourites, along with brief speeches from State and Main staff to introduce newcomers to the brand.

Before I even get to the food, my primary impression from my very first experience at a State and Main was the level of attention and service we received. Not only were drinks ordered and dropped off efficiently, the staff were also extremely accommodating towards anyone with a food allergy or intolerance. I’ve been to several media events that provided terrible service, so the professionalism of State and Main with regards to this matter was something I truly appreciated.

Mama’s Meatballs

Chicken Wings

Chicken Gyoza

Dragon Boat Lettuce Wraps

As for the tasting menu–that gigantic tasting menu–it’s a bit of an understatement to say that we were given a well-rounded look into the types of food the restaurant has on offer. I’d need to throw the term “smorgasbord” in there for that statement to be more accurate. In order to keep this post from getting out-of-hand in length, here are some brief notes on the courses I tried from the tasting menu:

Food

  • Chicken Wings: How on earth can you go wrong with wings? Answer: you can’t. State and Main has great wings AND they have bleu cheese dip, so I’m sold.
  • Mama’s Meatballs: These were delightful. I couldn’t eat the garlic bread (sigh), but the meatballs themselves were extremely tasty. Garlic tomato and basil sauce, melted mozzarella, and parmesan equals a great time had by all.
  • Thai Salad: I’ve tried many ‘Thai salads’ in my time and haven’t been overly impressed with any of them. This one is probably the best one I’ve ever had because the flavours work so perfectly together. Romaine and rice noodles, cilantro peanut vinaigrette, citrus marinated grilled chicken, mandarin oranges, red onions, pea shoots, and cashews all combine to make a salad that’s equal parts sweet, tart, and savoury. It’s lovely.
  • The Empire State: All I’ll say about this delectable 10 oz. New York cut is that State and Main knows their way around a damn good steak.
  • Gogi Tacos: I had the gluten-free version of these. The shredded pork was delicious! A nice little Korean-inspired treat.
  • (Also on the menu: Dragon Boat Lettuce Wraps, Pretzel Sticks, Chicken Gyoza, Alberta Bison Burger, Jalapeno Mac and Cheese, Ice Cream Sandwich): Sadly, I couldn’t try any of these, but the pretzel sticks were a fan favourite at the table. Everyone was raving about the red ale mustard sauce.)

Jalapeno Mac and Cheese

Gluten-free Gogi Tacos

The Empire State

Cocktails

  • Signature Caesar: There’s really no excuse for serving up bad caesars in this day and age. Thankfully, State and Main’s Signature Caesar is excellent. I may have had several.
  • State Mint: The gin drew me in but while this drink was tasty, it was a little too sweet for my liking. Probably better for someone who’s just easing into gin and needs a powerful mixer.

Thai Salad

Alberta Bison Burger

Gogi Tacos

All in all, I had a great time at State and Main. The food was good, the service was top notch, and the company was excellent. Price-wise, everything is mid-range and reasonable, with entrees generally sitting between the $15-25 mark. AND there’s a fairly extensive gluten-free menu, which is great. They’re also open at 7:00 a.m. on weekdays, meaning that downtown employees can stop in for breakfast before starting their workday! The only issue with this restaurant, as with many others downtown, is parking. There is, however, a large Impark lot behind the building that’s probably not too expensive if you get there after 6pm.

State and Main
10065 Jasper Avenue
Edmonton, AB
(780) 990-0907

4/5

Narayanni’s

I can’t say I had ever tried South African food until last night, which, as I quickly discovered, has been a deplorable loss on my part. I’ve been completely missing out.

Narayanni’s, a Whyte Avenue staple since 2010, serves up some of the finest curry I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting. While the food is primarily Indian cuisine (as a result of immigration in the late 19th/early 20th centuries), it comes with a delightful South African twist: fewer dairy-based items, roti instead of naan bread, and a subtle European spin on items like the braised kale and cabbage. It’s the kind of cuisine that will leave you feeling content and full–warm and fuzzy–without weighing down your stomach with starches.

The restaurant itself is really hard to miss, once you know where you’re going. Just head one block south of Whyte at 101 Street and you’ll find yourself in front of a bright red door and panel, with a huge sign right above it. Inside, Narayanni’s is homey and comforting, with relaxed ambient lighting and the friendly murmur of other guests filling the spacious room. The buffet stands at the centre, with dishes lined in a circle around a barista used to make their signature hot chai drinks.

They have a neat selection of South African wines by the bottle, giving diners the authentic cuisine experience. We were recommended a bottle of the Excelsior Cabernet Sauvignon (2010) by daughter and Front of House manager Youmashni Naidoo; to our delight, it was amazing. Similar to a full bodied malbec but with less powerful tannins, this wine paired beautifully with the spicy curries on the menu. The only danger lies in the wine’s drinkability–we had polished off the bottle before we knew it.

The food–oh, the food–was delightful. It’s strange to enjoy a meal that’s both hearty and filling and yet not feel sluggish afterwards. The majority of Narayanni’s menu is dairy free, many items are gluten free, and vegan options are abundant (they even offer a vegan buffet on Tuesday nights). My favourites were the chicken curry (moderately spicy), the grilled masala chicken (tender and flavourful), and the braised kale and cabbage (surprisingly spicy).

While Narayanni’s has only opened for dinner in the past, Old Strathcona residents and employees can now rejoice in the fact that the restaurant will be open for lunch Tuesday to Friday, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. The lunch buffet features four gourmet South African Indian courses: home-cooked soup, salad, chicken curry (local, free-range, hormone/antibiotic-free), and three vegan entrées for only $12 a person. If I worked anywhere near Narayanni’s, I’d make this lunch buffet a weekly routine. For the quality of food you’re getting at that price, you’ve really got no excuse.

One of the things that makes Narayanni’s such a genuinely friendly restaurant is that it’s completely family owned and run. The Naidoo family, also the proprietors of Whyte’s Block 1912, are the brains behind Narayanni’s South African Indian cuisine. In one of my tweets during the visit, I likened the restaurant’s chicken curry to my own mother’s excellent curry–unsurprising, really, since the curry at Narayanni’s was cooked by the mother of the Naidoo family and co-founder of the restaurant, Selva Naidoo. We also finished off the meal with some cinnamon-infused rice pudding, prepared by Narayanni’s dessert master and father, Daya Naidoo, as well as cups of regular chai and pistachio chai.

Along with their new lunch buffet ($12), vegan nights on Tuesdays ($15), and lamb items in the buffet on Saturdays ($25), Narayanni’s is currently also holding a spring special on Wednesday nights, offering the dinner buffet at $15 a person, rather than $20. To be honest, even $20 a person for an all-you-can-eat buffet of this quality is extremely reasonably-priced. You’ll be hard pressed to find the same quality of food at a better price at any other Indian restaurant in the city. At $15 a person, it’s a bargain!

My experience at Narayanni’s was excellent and beyond expectations. The friendly, welcoming atmosphere, the unbelievable food, the clear passion each member of the family has for the business they’ve created–every aspect of this restaurant appealed to me. They’ve made it very easy for me to give a rave review because, quite simply, Narayanni’s is wonderful. And I cannot wait to go back.

Narayanni’s
10131 81 Avenue
Edmonton, AB
(780) 756-7112

5/5

Brunch at Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse

If I’m going to be honest with myself, whenever people ask me about my favourite restaurant in Edmonton (which they do a lot, since it comes with the food blogger territory), I always say Pampa. I’m not sure if it’s due to my weakness for savoury red meat or my fondness for dining experiences that allow me to eat myself into a coma. Either way, Pampa is always top of mind when recommending restaurants to my carnivorous friends.

I recently had the pleasure of trying Sunday brunch at Pampa for the very first time. We had gone to the restaurant for the Downtown Dining Week special, which unfortunately wasn’t offered on Sundays, but we ended up staying for brunch instead (which offered a greater meat selection, anyway).

All about that rump

Salad bar offerings

A brunch dining experience at Pampa is almost identical to a dinner service, although at a more reasonable price–$29.95 per person, rather than the usual $49.95 for the full dinner. Brunch runs from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. every Sunday, with the regular all-you-can-eat salad bar and five cuts of meat: signature rump steak, top sirloin, chicken drumsticks, pork belly, and pork sausage.

For those of you who have never tasted the delights of Pampa, meal service is run in a Rodizio style–you help yourself to the cold salad bar, sit back down at your table, flip your little card over to green, and wait as gauchos with sizzling meat on rotisserie sticks swing by and offer you a variety of options. They slice the meat from the rotisserie for you right at the table, never giving too much (so that you have room to try everything), but always being generous if you favour a particular cut. It’s indulgent and delightfully salty, thanks to the beautiful rock salt they use to season their meats.

Salad bar offerings

A nice selection of cheese and greens

Salad bar offerings

A great addition to the meat roster was the pork belly. Not for those who don’t like fat on their meat (if those people actually exist), the pork belly was tender, juicy, and covered with a small portion of delicious crackling, adding a nice crunch to the overall texture. These pieces weren’t served on a rotisserie stick but rather on a plate and with a slice of lime.

My favourite, as always, was the rump steak. Ever since they took ribeye off the menu–which was based very much, I’m sure, on the high cost of that cut–rump steak has been my welcome alternative. While the top sirloin is still tasty, it has a tendency to run a bit dry, whereas the rump steak is consistently juicy and flavourful.

Pork belly and lime

Try the ceviche–trust me

Local oils and balsamics from Evoolution

The salad bar offerings are not to be sneezed at, either. My favourites include the whole roasted garlic, sliced pineapple and capicola, a great selection of olives and imported/domestic cheese, and the ceviche (fish marinated in citrus juices). Of course, all of these delicacies are nothing without the accompaniment of a big glass of red wine–thankfully, wine is also 10% off on Sundays and sangria and mimosas are only $7 a glass.

As always, the service was top notch. I’ve never had bad (or even neutral) service at Pampa–each server comes to your table with a wealth of menu and drink knowledge and each Rodizio gaucho is supremely accommodating with their meat. If you’re looking for a particular cut and simply mention it to them, they’ll send it over as soon as possible. It’s perfect–service at Pampa is a well-oiled machine. And, when you’re filled to the brim with meat, you flip over your card to the red side and your server will bring by a visual demo tray of their many desserts (all of which are fantastic, by the way).

Cheesy goodness

If you’re new to the Rodizio experience and aren’t sure if you’ll enjoy it, I strongly recommend trying Pampa for lunch or Sunday brunch so that you get a taste of the experience without paying the full dinner price. The cost of the full dinner is a fairly significant deterrent for many people, so trying the restaurant for lunch or brunch is a good way to dine at Pampa without making the full cost commitment. There’s a parking lot underground that you can reach from the back alley and which offers free parking for restaurant guests (but I believe this is only on weekdays and after 6pm). Personally, I try to get to Pampa at least once every few months for my Rodizio fix. I simply can’t get enough of that rump.

Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse
9929 109 St
Edmonton, AB
780-756-7030
Make reservations online

5/5

BRUNCH AT HOTEL SELKIRK (FORT EDMONTON PARK)

I haven’t been to Fort Edmonton Park since I was just a teenager, which is something that I plan on rectifying this year once the weather gets a little nicer. Taking a step back in time and providing a living history experience is Fort Edmonton Park’s specialty—and nothing beats stopping in at The Midway for a selection of old fashioned sweets and treats.

I was lucky enough to be invited to try winter brunch at the Park recently, a weekly event held every Sunday in Johnson’s Café within Hotel Selkirk. Guests are required to pre-purchase tickets and reserve a place at each Sunday sitting, at which the hotel lays out the full gamut of delicious brunch offerings, from domestic and imported cheeses, to a full-service omelette station, regular brunch items like bacon and eggs, and a pork shoulder carving station complete with mustard, horseradish, and apple gravy sides (although I believe the carving station rotates its meat, since Linda had roast beef when she visited).


The charm and rustic interior of the café adds a unique touch to the brunch experience, with solid wooden tables and the 1920s style of Hotel Selkirk. The quiet and classic environment of Fort Edmonton Park is a nice change from the bustle of our city.

I was pleasantly impressed with the food, particularly the carvery pork shoulder. Among my favourites were the Guinness-braised beef ribs (not entirely gluten free but I couldn’t help myself), the selection of cheeses, and a salmon fillet in a creamy sauce. There were so many delicious things to choose from that I filled my plate the first time around, leaving no room for a custom omelette—on my plate or in my stomach. The next time I visit, I plan on making a beeline to the omelette station at once.




The dessert options were also endless. Fruit, homemade caramel fudge, cakes, mousse—everything looked amazing, with full bowls surrounding the hotel’s main dessert centrepiece: the chocolate fountain. What’s the perfect way to finish off a decadently indulgent brunch? Why, with freshly-made chocolate covered strawberries, of course. Of the dessert offerings, I thoroughly enjoyed the chocolate mousse and the orange rosemary and pernod shooter (I don’t usually like anise, but this was refreshing).

While some brunch buffets really fail to push the boundaries of imagination in their selection, Hotel Selkirk does quite the opposite, offering a little gourmet something for everyone. Chefs were constantly coming out from the kitchen with new platters to replace dishes that were only half empty. The attentiveness to items like the scrambled eggs and the fruit was impressive—everything was kept fresh and well-stocked, never left out long enough to grow even slightly stale.

The price is reasonable for an all-you-can-eat brunch buffet, as well. At $32.95 per person (adults), you get access to a delicious menu within a spacious and comfortable dining area—that’s significantly less costly than brunch at La Ronde, with more room and a fresh, modern selection of food. If you have a special occasion coming up or just fancy an outstanding Sunday brunch, then Hotel Selkirk is the place to be!

Make a Sunday brunch reservation here.

Johnson’s Café, Hotel Selkirk
1920s Street
Fort Edmonton Park
(780) 496-7227 ext. 1


5

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

Giveaway: Tickets to the Rocky Mountain Wine and Food Festival

It’s one of Edmonton’s biggest foodie events of the year–filled with tasty nibbles and more booze than you have time to taste–and, this year, it will be even bigger.

Here at Wine + Dine, we’re giving away two tickets to the Rocky Mountain Wine and Food Festival Saturday afternoon session (12-4pm) on Saturday, November 7th!

Simply enter by retweeting the following tweet BY MIDNIGHT ON OCTOBER 31, 2015:

You can learn more about the event, which vendors will be present, and what breweries and wineries to expect at rockymountainwine.com.

And that’s it! Best of luck! We’ll announce the winner on Monday, November 1st.

Please note that tickets include admission to the event; tasting coupons must be purchased separately.

LOBSTER SUMMER AT THE KEG

Seafood. Steak. Wine. Few things give me greater pleasure, especially when I have access to all three at once. Which is why the Lobster Summer tasting event at The Keg was such a pleasant (and mouth-watering) experience.

On July 16th, I attended an event at South Edmonton Common that showcased The Keg’s Lobster Summer promotion, a 15-year annual tradition that features dishes made from Canadian hard-shell, full-meat lobsters shipped over from the North Atlantic. Owen Abrams, The Keg South Common’s General Manager, informed us that the restaurant brings in Atlantic lobsters every summer and humanely kills them as they’re used.

Alongside communications partner Kwittken, The Keg’s event brought together food bloggers and local foodies to taste this year’s selection of seafood dishes, including a number of new starter and casual plate options.

“We’ve added a few dishes to adjust to the rising prices of seafood,” said Owen. “We’ve added some lighter seafood fare, which is more casual and at a lower price point so that everyone can enjoy it.”

We started the evening with the Szechwan Lobster—golden fried lobster and shrimp with a mix of chilli peppers, red peppers, and asparagus, all tossed in a sweet and spicy sauce.

Szechwan Lobster

For the gluten intolerant (a.k.a. me), the starter was a Shrimp Cocktail with chilled black tiger shrimp and a martini cocktail sauce made with olives and gin—two of my favourite things. The tiger shrimp were gigantic: a perfect starter for one person or to share. These dishes were paired with a glass of Knotted Vines Chardonnay, Viognier and Riesling from British Columbia—the medium sweetness and light aftertaste of this wine went really well with the Shrimp Cocktail.

Shrimp Cocktail

Two of the Lobster Summer menu’s new casual plates, the Crispy Lobster Tacos and the Lobster Roll, were brought out. I was unable to taste either, but the consensus at the table was that the Lobster Tacos were a nice light dish, while the Lobster Roll had generous helpings of lobster and shrimp to match the heaviness of the brioche roll.

Lobster Roll

Instead, I was given a plate of the Scallops and Bacon, another favourite of mine. The scallops were cooked perfectly and I enjoyed them with a glass of Veramonte “Ritual” Pinot Noir from Chile–a lighter red wine that paired perfectly with the delicate scallops.

Scallops and Bacon

We were all fairly full to bursting by this point, so being presented with a huge plate covered in a 6oz sirloin steak, half a lobster, and grilled mushrooms was almost laughable. I gave it my best effort but, despite the tender medium-rare steak and buttery sautéed mushrooms, I was only able to eat the half lobster.

Steak and Half Lobster (Image courtesy of The Keg Steakhouse + Bar)

To be fair, our meals were also accompanied by a 1lb lobster tail (we had one per two people at the table), so I’m sure you can understand why I was in a food coma by this point. Finish that dining experience off with a glass of J. Lohr Estates “Riverstone” Chardonnay from California and I’d say that Lobster Summer was a complete success.

In all honesty, I’ve always been much more a fan of crab than lobster, but this event and these dishes turned my opinion around completely. The half lobster was lovely, but the 1lb lobster tail was the centrepiece of the entire event. It was huge—as well it should be, at $40 per tail—and pieces dipped in the ramekin of butter would melt in your mouth. A superb example of lobster at its finest.

I was very impressed by The Keg’s Lobster Summer menu and also very appreciative of their diligence in accommodating my gluten intolerance. Owen spoke to me before and during the meal to ensure that everything was suitable—and it was. More than suitable, in fact.

I’ll definitely be returning to The Keg to enjoy items from the Lobster Summer menu before it ends on August 30th. If you’re having a special occasion dinner or simply want to treat yourself, I strongly recommend adding the 1lb lobster tail to your meal. You won’t regret it.

The Keg Steakhouse + Bar (South Edmonton Common)
1631 102 Street
Edmonton, AB T6N 1M3
(780) 485-6530
@TheKeg

Cover photo courtesy of The Keg Steakhouse + Bar

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