Before the Energy game, Amanda and I planned to grab a bite to eat downtown, then hop on the bus to NAIT. It’s a little amusing – with all my harping about unnecessary television screens in bars, we almost ended up at The Hat so we could watch the Oilers draft Taylor Hall. Fortunately, my hankering for a post-work glass of wine was greater than my draft viewing desire, so we ultimately settled on Lit Wine Bar.
I had been unimpressed with Lit up until that point. When the City Market kicked off its 2010 season back in May, Lit was offering free samples – the cannoli I sampled could have chipped a tooth. Worse – at Indulgence, their wild mushroom-stuffed arancini was so salty it was inedible. I was hoping the full kitchen experience would be a better one.
Lit was completely empty when we sauntered in, just past 5pm on a Friday. Still, the hostess/waitress asked if we had a reservation. We said no, and asked if it was possible to sit upstairs. She indicated that some of the tables in the loft space had been reserved, but led us upstairs anyway. Though no other parties joined us on the second floor during our stay, props to our server for traipsing up the stairs to serve an isolated two top without showing visible signs of resentment.
The décor in Lit is minimal and clean – black leather banquets, a bubble light fixture, interesting art (which is also for sale) – but isn’t the kind of room that wows at first glance. Still, I love the fact that they decided to acknowledge the high ceiling and build an additional seating area, and one that would work quite well for a small private party. I did think it was a bit strange for such a posh spot to have to rely on the radio for mood music though – I hope that changes soon.
The glass of wine definitely hit the spot. I wasn’t hungry enough to want a full main, so instead, chose plates Amanda and I could share. The arancini rustico ($9) seemed interesting – deep fried arborio rice filled with melted cheese. And with a full line of flatbreads (they seem to be a menu staple for lounges and wine bars in the city, do they not?), I figured that would be a good benchmark dish as well, and chose the pollo pesto ($10). Amanda opted to round out her meal with the insalata fresca ($12).
The arancini came out right away, as promised. Not uniform in size, they nonetheless appealed to the eye, fried to a golden crisp and ready to plunge into one of the two sauces alongside. Amanda and I both agreed the marinara was the better of the two – a little tart, but added that extra something to the arancini, which were a little under seasoned in my opinion. The cheese sauce was a little thick for its purpose, and just too rich for us.
Amanda’s salad looked like a snapshot of summer, with strawberries, greens, and a honey balsamic vinaigrette. I don’t often order salads at restaurants, so I’m not the best judge, but she said it was a bit small and not creative enough for the price. She also isn’t a fan of goat cheese, but as the menu indicated the dish came with mozzarella, wasn’t able to alert the kitchen in advance.
The flatbread was surprisingly large, to the point where it moved beyond an appetizer and into entrée territory – our waitress said it had expanded in recent weeks. My sister and I had two different responses to the bread base – I didn’t like how crispy it was, resembling the texture of pita chips, while Amanda quite enjoyed the crunchy texture. However, we both thought the toppings were great, a well balanced combination of pesto, chicken and surprisingly delicious bruschetta (with mellowed, non-biting onions).
Pollo pesto flatbread
We had no quibble with service – our server was friendly, and everything was fairly efficient. It was also a relief to know that my initial impressions may not be a true representation of Lit. I’d be interested to check them out again in a few weeks, once they’ve settled and had some time to finalize the menu. I guess it helps that I’m in such close range now!
Lit Wine Bar
10132 – 104 Street
Lunch: Monday-Friday 11am-2pm (Lit closed for lunch for the summer); Dinner: Tuesday-Wednesday 4-11pm, Thursday-Saturday 4pm-2am