On October 17, 2011, the Harvest Room at the Hotel MacDonald reopened after a nine-month hiatus. The space had to be meticulously repaired after extensive water damage to the ceiling, but the closure also meant that Executive Chef Andrew Ihasz had ample time and space to revamp the menu and locate local producers to source certain items. Mack and I were fortunate enough to have been invited to a media dinner two weeks ago to help celebrate the relaunch.
It was obvious that all of the staff were proud of their restaurant, but what surprised me the most was the serving length of the wait staff. A majority had worked at the hotel for over a decade; that kind of dedication and loyalty seems rare in the hospitality industry.
It’s always a privilege to be asked to attend such an event, especially because the chefs are usually on hand to introduce each of the dishes. I relish the opportunity to listen to chefs describe the genesis behind combining certain ingredients, or the inspiration behind a particular dish. Although Chef Ihasz did mention his affinity for crab (given his last Fairmont posting was in San Francisco), I found that the storytelling was lacking that night.
That said, the food was solid. Well-prepared, fit for the season, and items like lobster and crab notwithstanding, skewed towards local. We also appreciated that the producers’ names were highlighted on the menu.
The Sunworks Farm chicken & cognac parfait was not a dish I would have been likely to order on my own, but I was happy to have tried it – so smooth, each bite spread on the toasted brioche topped with the sweet berry chutney and crisp microgreens was perfect. This dish featured Mack’s favourite wine pairing, a Chateau de Sancerre.
Chicken & cognac parfait
I could see the Dungeness crab salad becoming a favourite on the menu – beautifully plated in a layered fashion showcasing the avocado, oven-roasted tomatoes and frisee, it was surprisingly light. Lemon was prominent (even with a bit of preserved peel on top) and I relished the variety of textures throughout.
Dungeness crab salad
I’m a sucker for dishes that serve an ingredient in more than one way, so I knew I would be biased towards the roasted Innisfail lamb rack. The lamb had been cooked to a succulent, tender rare, and the crispy lamb shank and basil cannelloni was a nice starchy counterpoint. Of note – the eggplant and mint tian was cooked well, worth mentioning given eggplant is a vegetable often overdone.
Lamb rack and crispy lamb shank and basil cannelloni
Mack’s Sunworks Farm chicken roulade was quite generous. As a whole, it’s always interesting to see the interpretation of the chicken main on the menu, given it is typically the “go-to” for fussy diners. Chef Ihasz’s version incorporated a moist sage stuffing, and an underbelly of lentils which Mack quite enjoyed.
Lobster ravioli (the third alternating entree)
I was keeping my fingers crossed that my alternating dessert would end up being the delice of chocolate, and my wish came true (it felt a little like getting to sample several desserts on the same plate). Funny enough, what I liked most on the plate was actually the peanut butter ice cream, creamy and full of flavour. If they sold it curbside, I’d line up! The chocolate coulant (a molten cake) was wonderfully consistent, albeit rich, and was my favourite of the chocolate trio which also included a mousse and brownie.
Delice of chocolate
Mack’s pot de crème of Fairmont Earl Grey tea and orange was comforting, though the star of his dessert was also an unlikely candidate – the accompanying lavender shortbread cookies.
Pot de crème
I do hope people rediscover the Harvest Room now that it is open for business again. It is an institution in Edmonton, and for good reason. Their attention to detail that night meant that nothing was overlooked; service was flawless. Thanks again to the staff of the Harvest Room and the Hotel MacDonald for their generosity and hospitality.
Harvest Room at the Fairmont Hotel MacDonald
10065 100 Street