My original plan was to try and snag a Fork Fest reservation at the Red Ox Inn (9420 91 Street NW) for Monday, January 24 (fitting, it seemed, to eat in a restaurant named for this Chinese Zodiac year). But after a particularly maddening day at work on Thursday, I called Mack before entering into a late meeting to see if he could look into what might be available that night. We were lucky enough to obtain the last seating of the day at 8:45pm.
I had been to Red Ox Inn before, but was hoping that this occasion would bear an entree better suited to my tastes. We entered an absolutely packed restaurant, and were promptly greeted by a server and directed to a table. It turned out we were seated next to the authors of Loosen Your Belt and Eat Around Edmonton, Marriane and Zed – the last in a series of online food writers that have patronized the Red Ox this week (perhaps the restaurant should receive some sort of award for blogger attraction). It’s always nice to meet local culinary counterparts in person – I’m sure it won’t be the last time we run into them!
As I commented in my previous post, the Inn is a tiny, boutique-style restaurant. Space and intimacy are definitely two things they cannot offer though, and between the hardwood floor and tile-like ceiling, the Red Ox ends up having one of the highest sound levels of any restaurant in Edmonton. At the same time, as laughter and conversation echoes through the venue, it’s hard not to loosen up and feel like a part of one large group, dining and enjoying the experience together. Just don’t head to the Red Ox if you’re looking for a quiet evening out.
Red Ox Inn interior
We settled in with both the Fork Fest and a la carte menus, though like everyone else in the restaurant, would be ordering from the former only. Mack and I both decided on the puree of wild mushroom with maderia and gruyere-mushroom rye crostini to start, but deviated in choice on the rest of the meal. He chose the fish (seared Arctic char with ratatouille, roast garlic butter sauce and mashed potatoes) as his main, while I opted to stay away from their char and ordered the pork (marinated pork rack chop, Moroccan BBQ sauce, tropical fruit chutney, savoy cabbage and herbed rice) instead.
We aren’t very accustomed to late dinners, so the pacing of the meal didn’t quite match our appetites that evening. Still, we found the service to be attentive and gracious overall, though Mack commented that he could have done without the overemphasized “sir” at the end of seemingly every sentence.
Our first course arrived without a moment to spare, a wide bowl containing a thick grey-brown “paste”, in Mack’s words. My first spoonful of soup was the best, as the flavour somehow seemed to dull over the course of the bowl. The floating crostini was actually the best part, as the puree was made to be eaten with a bread accompaniment, to soak up the savoury goodness.
Puree of Wild Mushroom with Maderia and Gruyere-Mushroom Rye Crostini
Our entrees took a bit longer than we would have liked, though I’m sure being the last table of the night didn’t help. My plate was stacked, my pork chop sitting high atop a bed of rice, vegetables, and garnished with a healthy amount of chutney. The Moroccan BBQ sauce was lovely (even though it tasted slightly like my Mum’s own sweet and sour base), and complimented the juicy, perfectly-cooked pork well. I made sure to soak up the rest of the sauce with my rice!
Mack was also happy with his char, though he said it was a tad over seasoned for his liking. The green beans were well-cooked as well.
Dessert for me that evening was the warm chocolate cake, the same dessert I ordered on my other visit. It was the same as I had remembered – rich and sweet, my only wish was that raspberries were in season to accompany the cake.
Warm Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Mack’s blueberry and white chocolate bread pudding turned out to be better than both of us had expected. Not overly sweet, it appealed to Mack and ended his meal nicely.
Blueberry and White Chocolate Bread Pudding with Creme Anglaise
I’m happy I had the opportunity to try a three course meal at the Red Ox for a very reasonable $35 per person. As the server indicated to us that they only had one time slot remaining until next Thursday, we are sure many others will be treated to a great meal as well. Fork Fest runs until January 29, but many of the tables at choice restaurants will likely be booked solid (I would recommend taking a look at availability on Open Table, but calling to see if they have any cancellations if you really are intent on one particular restaurant).
Red Ox Inn
9420 91 Street NW
Tuesday-Sunday 5pm-close, closed Mondays