While his parents were visiting Edmonton last week, Mack wanted to treat them to an experience unobtainable in Yellowknife, so we looked to the upper echelons of the city’s dining rafters and decided upon the Hardware Grill.
My one experience there several years ago was a positive one, but my memory of it is faint with the exception of an impression of excellent service. Being one of the priciest establishments in the city, however, meant that Hardware Grill is definitely a destination restaurant.
We walked in right on time for our early 5:30pm reservation, and were immediately greeted by a hostess and an attendant who relieved us of our coats and hats. We were led to a table in the main dining room with a view of the bar and the kitchen, angled in a way that we could also catch a glimpse of the stunning wine cellar. In terms of the interior, there isn’t much to say that would distinguish it from other wood-and-stone accented rooms, but their simple elegance speaks volumes about the type of experience the restaurant desires the customer to have.
Our waiter appeared with menus in hand, including a wine list with over 500 options. We were puzzled with a line at the bottom of the menu that indicated that “Hardware Grill prefers payment in cash or cheque”, as we weren’t sure how many diners would be carrying several hundred dollars in their wallet, but other than that, the menu was identical to the one found on the website. I must say that I love the detail in their menu – some restaurants choose not to list all of the accompanying sides and garnishes, but Hardware does, and I appreciate it.
The laundry list of appetizers we ordered was as follows: Martin the duck confit ($14), Patti the warm goat cheese ($14) fritters, Mack the bacon wrapped scallops ($18) and the chanterelle risotto ($14) for me. As for entrees, Martin selected the rack of lamb ($42), Patti the Alberta beef tenderloin ($48), Mack the porcini-crusted sea bass ($48) and I the soy-lacquered duck ($36). We were in for a lot of food.
Bread service involved a basket of a variety of slices including (yum) herbed cheese biscuits. Although the restaurant claims to bake the bread fresh twice daily, it reached us stone cold. I think Mack and I will have to start making a list of restaurants (besides chains such as the Olive Garden, East Side Mario’s and the Old Spaghetti Factory) that actually serve warm bread.
When our starters arrived, we were all surprised at how much food we were given – portion sizes were much larger than what we originally anticipated. Patti loved the combination of flavours in her salad – with the interplay of hazelnuts, dates and beets complementing the warm goat cheese fritters nicely. Mack had been looking forward to the bacon-wrapped scallops all week, and they delivered. I’m sure he could have eaten several in place of his entree if allowed. My risotto was good (the aroma of the chanterelles was lovely), but between the pearl onions and the candied bacon, I felt the dish was a little lost, and that the Unheardof version was better.
Crispy Duck Leg Confit, Grilled Polenta Cake, Forest Mushrooms, with Port and Pomegranate Relish
Warm Goat Cheese Fritters, Baby Romaine with Pomegranate Vinaigrette, Medjool Dates, Toasted Hazel Nuts and Baby Beets
Bacon Wrapped Atlantic Scallops, English Pea Ravioli, Sweet Onion and Red Wine Reduction, Tomato Marmalade
Winter Chanterelle Risotto with Mascarpone and Asiago Cheese, with Port and Candied Bacon
Plates were cleared, more wine was consumed, and by no time, our entrees arrived. Both Martin and Patti’s meats were cooked to their expectation (even though Martin’s lamb looked to be a little on the raw side), and both were really happy with their dishes. Patti especially loved the beets, one of her favourite vegetables. Mack’s seafood medley continued with his sea bass and lobster-truffled potato crepes, the latter of which stood out for him. I was was thankful that the kitchen took the time to slice up my duck breast – it definitely made it easier to eat, but it seems I couldn’t consume it fast enough to prevent the meat from drying out. I loved the crisp layer of skin and fat – a little bit of indulgence goes a long way. I wasn’t sure about the butternut-pear hash, but it turned out the pear was a good choice, as the sweetness played off the savoury duck and venison shepherd’s pie well.
Demi Roasted Lamb Rack, Cassoulet Style White Beans with Duck, Lamb & Bacon, Served with Zucchini “Spaghetti”
Alberta Beef Tenderloin, Smoked Mashed Potatoes, Baby Beets, Carrots, Short Rib “Yorkie” and Horseradish Crème Fraiche
Porcini Crusted Sea Bass, Lobster-Truffled Potato Crêpes, White Corn-Arugula & Gulf Prawns, with Warm Portobello Vinaigrette
Soya Lacquered Duck Breast with Shepherds Pie, Pear-Butternut Hash, Pine Nuts and Fig-Balsamic Sauce
Though we all claimed to be full, we weren’t able to pass on dessert (encouraged by this statement on the menu, how could you blame us: “Just dive in and swim through the calories,
happy as a clam”). Martin and Patti split the warm gingerbread cake ($11), while Mack and I shared the classic profiteroles ($11). At the time, I mistakenly thought we would have been brought mini Italian doughnuts (beignets), but the cream puff-like sandwiches turned out to be a good choice. Served with espresso ice cream and hot fudge sauce, they were a not-too-decadent ending to our meal. Patti loved the gingerbread cake – it smelled and tasted like Christmas.
Warm Prairie Gingerbread Cake
I found the entire meal wonderfully paced. We were done our three courses by 8pm, but never felt rushed or like we were looking for the next course. Service was also commendable – our waiter was superb – personable, demonstrating a sense of humor that put us at ease, but never stepping over that boundary of becoming too informal. I realized that although Hardware Grill is labeled as a “fine dining” restaurant, without the pomp and circumstance of announcing each dish as it is delivered, the entire experience was entirely comfortable and never felt pretentious or stuffy.
While the Hardware Grill is not an off-the-cuff dining choice, it provided exactly what we were looking for that night – a high-end venue, great food, attentive service, and an experience that facilitated a memorable evening of conversation.
9698 Jasper Avenue, Edmonton