Eater is always an entertaining website, but in the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, it was even more so. They had dubbed V-Day “Black Saturday”, as many restaurants predictably offered only very expensive prix fixe menus and nothing else, leaving diners at the mercy of establishments. Eater made sure to ridicule some of the more ridiculous Valentine’s Day offers, and also, to help readers spend wisely, posted lists of restaurants that continued to offer their regular menu in the face of “Black Saturday” temptation.
Well, back in Edmonton, we found the same phenomenon – many of our favourite restaurants were guilty of this. While I understand the desire to streamline the kitchen and make service more efficient, do the majority of people really need (or want) a four or five-course meal (especially one priced at upwards of $150)? It seems excessive, and a money-grabbing ploy, and we made sure we weren’t a part of it.
Mack let me choose the restaurant, and I decided to go with the elusive Normand’s (11639A Jasper Avenue NW). The only thing I knew about the restaurant was that they served game, and that they had been a fixture on Jasper Avenue for many years. I had called to make a reservation back in mid-January – at that time, the earliest seating we were offered was 8pm; we found out when we got to the restaurant that they had lined up reservations until 10:30pm that night.
The host was efficient – after taking our coats, he led us up a few stairs to a table in the corner. It gave us a fairly nice view of the tiered space, but was unfortunately placed near the bustling bar where orders were being placed a mile a minute, and near the kitchen where orders were streaming out on a continuous basis.
The interior reminded me of a cross between Le Table de Renoir and Bistro Praha – framed Renoir prints were hung on the stucco walls, and the plaster arches that divided the dining room aged the space at least twenty years. It was nice enough, but Normand’s could use a makeover, or at least an update.
We were given the choice of their regular menu, or a four-course Valentine’s Day special. The latter was tempting, given the decent price point ($54.95 per person for soup, salad, one of three entrees, and chocolate fondue to share), but none of the mains listed caught our eye. So a la carte it was.
As someone always taken by the mushroom soup option, I elected for the wild mushroom cream ($7.50), while the tomato basil soup du jour ($6.75) appealed to Mack. For our main courses, we deviated as we usually do – Mack went straight for the lobster and scallops mornay ($33.95), and I, still on a duck kick, opted for the Lac Brome Roast Duck ($30.95).
I was expecting the soup course to be fairly generous, as the price of a bowl wasn’t cheap, and Normand’s delivered. The cream soup (which is apparently one of the restaurant’s most well-known dishes) was rich, but not overly so. I thought it was better than the thicker puree I tried at Red Ox a few weeks ago, but it was still nothing exceptional. Mack enjoyed his soup, and there was definitely a roast garlic kick to it.
Tomato Basil Soup
Our mains arrived fairly promptly – Normand’s definitely had the air of a well-oiled machine. My dish had a bit of fanfare to it – not content to just serve either breast or leg, I received both in a small pot. Our server transferred the leg onto my plate, and helped me spoon some of the cranberry and orange port wine sauce over top of it. Mack’s mornay, in comparison, was quite a bit smaller, but drenched in a shallot white wine cream sauce, it made up for size with richness.
The duck meat was unfortunately a touch overcooked, but combined with the sweet sauce, was all right to eat (the large serving also meant that I had enough to top off a salad the next day – for whatever reason, the meat tasted better eaten this way). The crispy skin was also a nice treat – I think duck skin is the new bacon.
Lac Brome Roast Duck
Mack thoroughly enjoyed his dish (containing two of his favourite proteins, this wasn’t a surprise), though he said that the scallops tasted better with the thick, creamy sauce than the lobster.
Lobster & Scallops Mornay
I couldn’t decide on dessert, but swayed visually by the table next to us that had opted to share fondue, I thought fondue for two ($13.95) would be an appropriately cheesy way to end the night. Normand’s uses Bernard Callebaut chocolate, so the fondue mixture was decidedly sweet. Paired with the sliced fruit, however, it was perfect. Mack preferred the bananas, while I was a sucker for the strawberries. The toasted slices of almonds were a thoughtful touch on the plate and allowed that extra bit of indulgence.
Chocolate fondue for two
While I wasn’t blown away by our experience at Normand’s, I was very happy that they chose to offer their a la carte menu in the face of Black Saturday. They also managed to provide excellent service in spite of a full house. So although I’m not sure Normand’s would become my standby, it seems like a reliable establishment that isn’t likely to change its menu or its style anytime soon.
11639A Jasper Avenue NW
Monday-Thursday 11:30am-10pm, Friday 11:30am-11:30pm, Saturday 5-11:30pm, Sunday 5-9pm