Mack’s Dad was in town last week for work, so we planned to have dinner together on Friday. When a call to one of the newest restaurants in the city yielded no prime time reservations, it was serendipitous for me to come across a tweet about a special supper being held at Elm Café. Allan Suddaby (one of Elm’s chefs), would be preparing an Austrian dumpling dinner at the café’s catering space on 118 Avenue. Though Mack and I have gotten to know Allan over the past few years by co-organizing Eat Alberta, we’ve never had the opportunity to enjoy a coherent meal he’s put together.
We’d been to the space before, but for an informal gathering. It’s been nicely redone by the Elm staff, sleek and modern with sparse enhancements and angled metal chairs.
The set four-course menu was a very reasonable $30, not including drinks. We were able to choose from one of three entrees, so between our party, we were able to try every dish!
In a way, it felt like we were eating in Allan’s dining room, being treated to a meal he would prepare for himself at home. His straightforward style, highlighting good ingredients in comforting dishes was the perfect way to warm up on a chilly winter night.
The dinner began with a soup made of beef broth and thin strips of pancake. The pancake was more crepe-like than the fluffy versions served at breakfast, though cut in lengthy pieces, made it difficult for me to eat tastefully.
The salad plate was a combination of several different textures (a big hit with me!) – fresh tomato and cucumber, cabbage with strong notes of fennel and a potato salad sprinkled with dill.
Martin ordered the potato dumplings stuffed with ham and onions, then deep fried. As with the other entrees, it would be hard not to like anything deep fried (or in the case of the other dishes, baked with cheese or fried in butter).
We learned later that the bread dumpling was Allan’s personal favourite. He described it to be similar to a savoury bread pudding mixture that is boiled, then sliced and fried in butter. Served alongside a gravy-laden beef goulash, I could see why – they were a tastier accompaniment compared with a typical potato side, absorbing the sauce without losing its form. The celery leaves in the goulash were a beautiful touch.
Mack enjoyed his Austrian mac and cheese, but did comment that he would have liked a side dish similar to how our plates were presented.
The final course involved a stewed rhubarb served with a sweet dough and vanilla ice cream. Mack is not usually a fan of desserts, but really took to this one.
Our only minor quibble with the meal was the pacing. The kitchen was almost too efficient – the subsequent dishes were brought even before our previous plates were cleared. Four courses was a lot of food to consume in an hour!