Showing posts with label Edmonton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Edmonton. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Turkish fare at Sofra

If you are looking for something new and exotic to try in Edmonton, you gotta check out Turkish restaurant, Sofra located right by McEwan College.  I went in one night with zero expectation and I was pretty unfamiliar with the cuisine.  The result was more than pleasant.  I was truly blown away by their unpretentious and delicious hearty dishes.

I definitely would recommend ordering the Turkish pizza, lahmacun, which, to me is better than the Italian ones.  There are ones which contain eggs, but I chose something with meat instead.  Flavourful ground beef with Mediterranean seasoning and herbs topped with gooey cheese on crispy flat bread style crust.  

As if that was enough to be a main course on its own, the pizza was followed by grilled duck breast which came with a side of grilled vegetables, rice and salad.  The medium rare, juicy duck breast with crispy skin is close to what I'd call perfection.  It looked seemingly small, but it was more than enough to fill me up.  The smoky chipotle-like topping was brightened up the duck tremendously.  The rice pilaf was only okay and I didn't eat much of it.  The salad was pretty simple with greens and balsamic vinegar dressing.

If that isn't enough meat for you, try their grilled rack of lamb which was a hearty portion for the price tag.  I normally see about 3-4 pieces of lamb for around the same price.

The ambience is cozy and sectioned off into separate 'den' for smaller and more intimate setting.  It's fairly casual there and each table has a glass eye peering out on top of the table.  The chef maintained close contact with his diners as he walked around, greeted customers and asked whether they enjoyed the food.   While I loved the flavours, and the plates come in fair-size portion, I wish they were more refined and better presented (ie. better plates, more interesting sides).

Food: 4/5
Price: $$$$
Ambience: 2.5/5
Service: 3/5

Sofra on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Wildflower Grill

I was cordially invited to a birthday dinner of a good friend of mine in Edmonton.  It was a really nice occasion and see the good friends I haven't been able to spend much time with after all the moving around this year.  Her dinner was held at Wildflower Grill, a popular fine dining restaurant I haven't yet visited in town.

The awkward moment happened when several friends including myself walked up to a table and mistakenly thought it was our party.  See, the stereotype that asian people look the same doesn't just fly with other race, but even asians get themselves mixed up too.  Rather, it was more like, "ooh a group of asian girls our age, MUST be our table!".   If you think that was presumptuous, I have walked in at another fine dining restaurant in Edmonton.  After a hostess greeted us and I let her know we were with a party but didn't say who, she immidiately jumped the gun, "Oh! you must be with this table! Follow me!"  While I appreciated her enthusiasm, once I walked up to the table, it was a bunch of asian strangers I've never met. In fact, I wasn't even meeting up with my asian crew that night.  "No...that is not my table", said I with a look of disdain.  Her face turned, another moment of awkward silence ensued before she led me to the correct table.

At Wildflower Grill, nobody had made that same assumption about us coming in.  In fact, the staff were extremely professional and offered a great service while we there.  The only point I would take away from the ambience is that it was really loud, mostly from diners getting too excited and shouting rather talking.  We weren't at the club yet and I wondered why we were shouting this early already.

Serving redefined Canadian cuisine, the menu at Wildflower Grill is divided into several sections; small bites, light fare, and mains.  I wasn't too hungry but wanted variety, so I ordered 2 light fare and that was a filling meal for me.  Once the meal arrived, to my surprise, my peers were understanding enough to allow me to take photos of their food before anyone can touch it.  I know taking pictures when dining can get annoying, so I really appreciate my friends showing their support without me having to even ask (T^T)

The brioche was served in a sauce pan, a really cute idea and it made the bread look like a mushroom when you cut it.  Arrived warm and fluffy, no doubt the bread was a big hit amongst us who were starving.
Amuse bouche of the night was a smoked salmon canape with a tropical twist.  It was tasty enough that we were tempted in ordering a couple more.  There was also a gluten-free option available for one of our friends.
Christina raved about their potato gnocchi, which looked like they were sauteed 'til slightly charred, served with sweet pea puree, shredded basil and diced bacon.  The Serrano pepper was just there and didn't really give off any heat at all.
I looked over to Corey's appetizer and I was jealous of his jumbo scallops over butter leaf lettuce, golden beets, peas, and drizzled with white grape emulsion and bacon mustard vinaigrette.  The scallop was cooked perfectly.

I also got to sample Lan's appetizer, a sashimi-grade tuna tower with mango, pineapple, bruschetta jam, sweet hunan vinaigrette.  It was served along with mesquite grilled prawn.  This was a perfect summer dish.  It was really tasty, and refreshing.  I will definitely order it next time.
Another enticing entree, mesquite grilled sockeye salmon medallions stuffed with lobster and king crab with seared prawns and scallops, asparagus, and ice wine emulsion.  Again, I wish I would've ordered this too seeing both Corey and Lan who each ordered it finished it all.
Here is the first of my 2 light fare, Polynesian surf and turf, from the specials, 2 pieces of crispy pork belly over beet gallette, and seared scallops.  The pork belly had crispy edges with a sweet glaze which was really good especially with the fatty part.  It's definitely one of those guilty pleasure dishes.  This obviously can't be healthy if you eat more than 2, but it was so worth it! 
The second light fare was a three mushroom ravioli with smoked gouda fonduta, asparagus, piave vecchio (super aged cheese).  Right away, my olfactory sensory was greeted with a my favourite aroma, truffle.  The ravioli pasta was a thin delicate pouch filled with earthy mushrooms and cheese.  The sauce was thick, yet delicate with a tangy ending note from the "super aged" cheese.  It was nice, but I was still envious of people eating the salmon medallions.

Christina's birthday entree was a medium-rare, extremely juicy looking, peppercorn-crusted bison tenderloin with butternut squash puree, and blackberry sage reduction.
Nav ordered B.C. sable fish with grilled mesquite prawn, parmesan risotto, green beans (did I forget to mention mesquite grill is their specialty?).  The fish was really tender and flakey, and she enjoyed it very much.

Christina was presented with a wonderful complimentary birthday truffles at the end of the meal.  We all shared a splendid and very loud evening together.  It was revealed that Lan's friend, sweet little Meghan, had the true iron stomach while the rest of us were waving white flags.  Not only did she finish her main with an extra side of potato, she was also the only one who ordered dessert at the table and finished it all by herself.  As a result, someone at our table was "really impressed" with her that night. Aww, I love it when food brings people together (tear).

Food: 4/5
Price: $$$$
Ambience: 3/5
Service: 3.5/5
Value: 3.5/5

Wildflower Grill on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hoang Long West Ed; better appearance, worse in everything else...

I wasn't going to take notes/pictures/or do any review, but this experience was so bad I had to write it down.

It's been several months since I came back to West Edmonton Mall and I could not recognize Hoang Long after its major face lift.  Now twice the size, this vietnamese restaurant now looks a lot more modern and inviting.  I decided to go for old times sake despite warnings that the food here is horrible.  Since I had been here before, I sort of knew what to expect and it couldn't be that bad.  Just when I thought that.....

We are also used to the get-in-and-get-out serving style, so there wouldn't be any surprises.  Or would there??  I don't know where the owner finds the people to work for her, but they are definitely not aiding her to a positive business reputation.  It was mainly due to this particular long hair waitress with a permanent disdained look on her face.  She looked like she was upset that there were customers there.  I ordered vermicelli and an order of spring rolls and I've never gotten more attitude from a server just from taking order.  She didn't even let me finish talking before giving me pure tone of annoyance.  I can usually handle "Asian service", but we didn't have any service and she was just downright being nasty.  When we got up to pay, she was also making a scene arguing with someone about a mix up with an order.  I just could not wait to get the hell outa there.  Why would management pay someone to drive customers away? I don't get it.

It wasn't only the service that had gotten worse.  While the prices went up, it seemed the quality of the food was also sacrificed. The food also didn't come out at a consistent time.  The spring rolls were thickly wrapped and not all the way cooked in the middle with next to no filling inside.  I mean it when I say they were absolutely disgusting.

Was the trade off worth it? Has the owner once asked a customer what they thought of their dining experience? Why bother expanding if you are bringing more people in to make them leave pissed off and unsatisfied? I, for one, would likely not set foot there again and head to La Pagode instead.

Hoang Long (WestEd Mall) on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Vivo, the new divo

After a few changes and mix ups of my reservation over the phone, I walked into Vivo with fingers crossed that it would not be an unpleasant experience.  After reading both positive and negative reviews, I arranged a small reunion with my friends with an open mind and was looking forward to a new dining experience.

Our reservation was at 8 pm, I arrived a little earlier with another friend.  We were told by the hostess that our table was still occupied.  Since we were not in a hurry, I didn't mind taking a seat and catching up with my friend.  Eventually, my party had all arrived and our table was still occupied.  Naturally, my irritation increasingly grew.  Though the hostess did not come back to check on us or to give us a lead time of when our table would be ready, I didn't hesitate to voice my growing frustration that, after quite some time, our "reserved" table was still not ready.  No refreshments or drink menu were offered while we sat around and waited aimlessly.  Finally, the manager came by and assured us that our table would be ready soon.

We were seated close to the open kitchen, which, despite having a large ventilation fan built on top, there was still a bit of fume swirling around.  Our server rehearsed through the family sharing concept of the restaurant, the menu, and the portions with us.  For first timers, it was quite helpful as we were not sure how much to order.  After nominations and several veto, we came to consensus of ordering an appetizer, 3 pasta dishes,  a main course, and a dessert to share among 5 people.  There are also 2 prices for each item and we opted for the half portion for everything we ordered, which turned out to still be quite large and enough for sharing between all of us.

 First course, antipasti $24 with roasted red peppers, pickled green beans, grapes, sunburst tomatoes, olives, parmegiano reggiano, artichoke, balsamic reduction.  The charcuterie was consisted of mortadella (similar to bologna), spicy salami, procuitto de parma, bresaola (beef prociutto).  Fobfather was looking forward to try the bresaola and I think he enjoyed it.  It was a bit dryer and more lean than regular procuitto.  This platter was a good size to share between 4-5 people.

First pasta dish was a braised lamb shoulder pappardelle $19.  I love the way pappardelle noodles soak up in rich tomato sauce and grated cheese.  I thought the sauce was delicious and had a lot of depth and quite aromatic.  There was a generous amount of cheese and the braised lamb was chewy, but the right amount and not overly tough.  The only thing to comment on is that the some of the noodles, although "al dente", was still too raw in the centre and was way too hard.  The waiter came by to ask if we enjoy the dish.  While I didn't say anything and kept observing my raw pasta, he also didn't take the initiative to ask if there was anything wrong with it either.  Just sayin'.

Gigli $19 with sweet pesto, seared scallops and a generous amount of toasted pine nuts.  The gigli noodles are similar to penne and hold thick sauce quite well.  The pesto sauce was nice, very aromatic with garlic and basil.  It had a good consistency when everything was mixed.  The 2 scallops were cooked well.  One more addition would've been better.  

The risotto agosta $22 sounded delightful on the menu.  It arrived with grated parmegiano reggiano, mushroom and lobster.  Miss T had high hopes as she put it, "I haven't found a restaurant in Edmonton that makes a great risotto." Upon hearing her remark, the waiter quickly replied, "I hope this would be the best one."  

It wasn't. 

The lobster meat was succulent.  The overall dish, however, was absolutely bland--so bland that I wanted to re-season everything and remake it myself.  The texture also wasn't quite there either.  The dish had potentials, but fell short in flavours and easily forgettable.

The prociutto wrapped asparagus $16 was a more versatile dish which was enjoyed by everyone.  The grilled asparagus were slightly charred which added more smoky flavour to it.  

The second side, sauteed local mushrooms with garlic and crushed chili pepper, for $14 was perhaps the least impressive dish on the menu.  There was nothing outstanding about it.  Aside from the chili, it was simple, too simple to be served as a $14 side.  I was hoping it would be something I wouldn't be able to make myself at home.  Miss T pointed out that some of the mushrooms were still undercooked in the middle, another bummer to add on top.  

The grilled swordfish with grapefruit and leek $35 was served on a large cutting board rustic style as with the rest of the meat entrees.  The fish had nice grill marks and still rare in the centre.  I did the honour of squeeze the grapefruit on the fish.  Once I took a bite, I think all our expressions were quite similar, it was : S

I love food with a lot of flavours and I love it when spices and other ingredients help enhance the natural flavour of the food.  The swordfish missed its mark.

It was interesting they used grapefruit with swordfish since the fruit is acidic, slightly sweet and bitter.  Usually citrus adds very well to fish and I'm quite a fan, however, it wasn't enough to enhance the flavour this time.  We all agreed that the fish was under seasoned.  It was quite bland, had mushy texture in certain areas and very dry in others.  The grapefruit juice just became an acidic tarp covering pieces of tasteless half cooked fish.  I could not try to enjoy it and left it alone after 1 piece.  I didn't think it was "disgusting" as L called it, but I definitely would not order it again.  It made me miss Japanese food a lot, especially the tataki and ponzu sauce.  Flavours. We didn't send it back and just endured it, assuming that there was no way they could make it better.

Their signature tiramisu $12 arrived in a large fish bowl glass and again, it was enough for us to share.  I liked both the taste and how it was presented.  It was creamy with crumbly lady finger pieces and a stronger marsala wine taste.

Omg... were we stuffed!

The verdict:

The restaurant itself is doing very well with attracting new customers and creating a buzz in the city.  While their staff seem to be very knowledgeable of the menu, ingredients and preparation, I wish they were more in tune with the diner's feedback of their dining experience.  Our server did not ask again if we enjoyed our food or not.  I also had an impression that this is an establishment that carries a strong confidence of being innovative, providing the best quality, and doing everything right.

Based on that night's experience, I was mildly amused and overall unimpressed. Sure, they had some great points.  Our bill came to $180 after taxes which was reasonable for a large meal between 5 people.  The portions are large and great for sharing.  It was a good atmosphere that brings people together.   However, in terms of execution, some dishes lack depth and are easily forgettable. When compared to other fine dining restaurants, I don't find that the price always match the value here.  For example, the sides are a bit too expensive for what it's worth, even if for sharing.  I've had bigger portions with better quality at $5 per side which could serve a family of 5.   Like many reviews, the restaurant has a great concept but still needs fine tuning in the details and execution.  Also, mostly being more receptive to diners' feedback, whether it be positive or negative.  I do like their tiramisu, and still would like to try their famous fettucini alfredo some time in the near future.

For other review on Vivo, head over to It's a Wierd, Wild, Wonderful Life.

Vivo Ristorante on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Brunch at Murrieta's

My little correspondence B.Bo sent me a review of her recent brunch experience at Murrieta's located on Whyte Avenue in Edmonton.  I remember visiting Murrieta's for dinner many moons ago before I started blogging.  My memory of that experience was as clear as mud so I will have to rely on B.'s review this time.  

 Along with her companion, who happens to work for Murietta's, they each ordered an entree, and cinnamon french toast to share.  

Eggs benedict with smoked applewood cheddar and bruchetta $11.97
"The eggs were cooked perfectly.  Applewood smoked cheddar is white in colour.  I wish there was more of it so it would be cheesier.  The hollandaise sauce was nice and buttery.  The fresh bruschetta went very well with the English muffin and eggs.  The potato hash was only okay.  It was nothing special and not very crispy."

Chicken hash $11.97 
"It arrived with 2 perfectly poached eggs, feta and mushrooms. I really liked that the chicken was cut into smaller pieces and was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't dry.  Instead, it was really tender and well seasoned. The runny poached eggs became a sauce which kept the dish from being too dry.  Everything went well with the potatoes, and I finished the whole plate.  The only thing is that the taste may be too one dimensional after a while of eating.  The feta was a really nice touch and they could always use more."

Cinnamon french toast $9.68 
"The french toast was eaten with syrup.  I really love this dish! The toast was crispy on the edges and not too hard or chewy and not too spongy.  It absorbed syrup well.  There was the right amount of sweetness with a hint of coco powder. The candied walnuts added extra crunch.  The lemon cranberry cream cheese was creamy, buttery, and tangy all in one.  What a great combination, just plain yummy!"
The verdict:
"I really liked the french toast and I would go back again for it.  The restaurant has a nice fine dining ambience, and good service. The price is also reasonable."
Murrieta's on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria

After years and years of trying to visit Famoso, I finally dropped in for a takeout one Friday night at the one of the most raved about pizzeria in town.  For weeks, I had been craving pizza day in and day out and, finally, I was looking for some satisfaction.   After looking through the menu, I picked Margherita pizza ($12.50) -- mozzarella, basil, extra virgin olive oil with anchovies.  Don't ask me why out of all the options, I picked the most boring pizza on the menu -__-''... At the time, I just really wanted anchovies and basil. 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Edmonton ramen

There were a lot of confusions to what happened to Ramen Sanpachi that was supposed to open earlier this year.  It turned out that Sanpachi had pulled out and was replaced by Nomiya Sushi & Ramen instead.  There were also high hopes from ramen-deprived  Edmontonians that, perhaps, this place would be the first to offer authentic Japanese ramen in the city.  My Edmonton correspondent had informed me of their experience at Nomiya this passed weekend.  The prices for ramen all range to about $10, a little bit higher than in Vancouver.  The portion is a fair size.  The noodles used seemed to be instant rather than house-made, along with several slices of chasu pork, boiled egg and bean sprouts.  Overall, it definitely was ramen.
Shio ramen
For those who have never tried ramen before, the selections at Nomiya are not bad tasting.  However, those that have tasted the ramen in Vancouver would find that the Edmonton location is still far from being comparable.  Starting with the Shio ramen, while the ingredients were all there, the light broth was rather bland, and lacked the sweetness the pork bones which didn't exactly come through.

Spicy miso ramen
The spicy miso ramen offers a bit more body and bold flavours than the Shio. However, it wasn't exactly spicy either.  Again, it wasn't bad, but something was definitely missing.  The pork slices were fair in size with layers of fats in between.  To add more flavours to the soup, ask for a side of minced garlic and sesame oil.  Drop a spoonful of those in the soup and it definitely would make a huge difference to the taste. 

Sashimi salad
The sashimi salad consisted sashimi  on a bed of mixed greens drizzled with salad dressing and topped with finely sliced red onions.  This dish is reminiscent of the sashimi salad at Ebisu.  Overall, it was satisfactory, but there was hardly any other special quality to it.

Nomiya offers the typical variations of ramen, in which, if compared to everywhere else in Edmonton, it is probably the most authentic in the city.  However, compared to places like Santouka, Nomiya's ramen is still considered to be mediocre at best.  The key elements in differentiation may need to be slightly tweaked as they still don't quite match up to other big players.

Nomiya on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 14, 2011

Kobe Japanese Bistro

Personally, I keept going back to Kobe partly because, each time, I always felt comfortable and welcomed being there.  The ambience is casual and welcoming, and the staff always made sure I was content with my dining experience.  Unlike many places, I feel like they actually pay attention to the quality of their food and caring about what customers' feedback.  Even when they make mistakes on orders, they are still very polite and never hesitate to correct it.  Therefore, it is probably one of the top go-to Japanese restaurants in the city.   

The 8 piece rainbow rolls ($12) are not too big or too small, just in perfect bite size with a fresh array of sashimi.  I find their sushi rice tastes better than other Japanese restaurants and I believe it's because of the brand of the rice vinegar they use.  

Monday, January 10, 2011

Fried food delights at Jumbo

We got to Jumbo around 11 am on a Tuesday.  With only a few tables settled and it was absolutely dead, we had to order from a menu instead of the usual dim sum carts circulating around until more people show up.  Sometimes, I feel like I like that method better because you never have to wait to get what you want. My sister took charge and checked a dish of pan fried custard buns we haven't noticed before.  When it arrived, the buns looked like porcupines with crispy edges sticking out.  I don't really like sweets, but after much convincing I tried it.  I took a bite into the freshly fried, crispy exterior and greeted by a layer of soft white bun, filled with yellow egg custard.  I think my eyes may have rolled back a little.  It was sublime! I've never seen this dish circulating in the dim sum carts ever.  So the next visit to Jumbo I looked for them in dim sum carts but no luck, they weren't out anywhere.  I tried ordering it from the kitchen and explaining to the servers, describing the porcupine buns.  They were puzzled.  Finally, I showed the the picture I took and I received a big "AH!" They still didn't tell me what it was called though, so I guess I'll have to show them pictures each time I want to order it lol.

The next best thing on my list is the pan fried shrimp cake with chives which is only good when served hot and fresh.  If they're not freshly fried and crispy, then it's a lost cause.  Again, I tried ordering it from the kitchen and getting a puzzled look.  Of course I showed another picture of the shrimp cakes.  The server understood as he laughed and joked "Any more pictures you want to show me?".  Yes, I will never stop taking pictures from now on, because you know what? That's the good thing about being a food nerd and taking pictures of everything.  There's never a miscommunication and I'll get exactly what I want.  This leads me to an idea of saving pictures of everything from food to utensils, glass of water, etc.  So when I go travel to countries like Korea, Japan, I won't have to rely on charades and miming anymore lol. 
For everything else we had that day:

 Fried taro with ground pork filling

 Fried chicken wings.  They are pretty big, well marinated, and oozing hot oil when you bite into them.  

 Steamed chicken feet

Siu mai, they are quite big, but I wish there were more shrimp.

Ha gow, shrimp dumplings, Dim Sum essential.

My staple dim sum food, fried shrimp wontons.

Pan fried tofu wrapped shrimp

Ham Siu Gok, fried rice cakes with ground pork filling

I've been going to Jumbo for years since it's probably one of the better dim sum restaurants in town and it's close to my home.  Price is reasonable, most of the dishes are descent (except for the kebabs, I'm not a fan of those dried meat drenched in sweet sauce).  I never paid much attention to how friendly the service was. Especially when it's usually busy, everyone just focuses on table turnovers.  As long as I was getting what I want, I don't care if I get a smile from the staff who were running around in circles trying to meet everyone's demands.  The past visit was pretty good though, I think after I showed the server my food pictures when I was ordering, he will always recognize me from now on.  As I was leaving, he made sure to bid farewell with "Show me more pictures next time!!".   

Oh yeah, definitely try to order the porcupine bun if you can.

Jumbo Dim Sum Dining on Urbanspoon