Details Matter: Aarde

It goes without saying that in leaner economic times, restaurants need to be even more competitive, and distinguish themselves with memorable experience to ensure repeat visits. A meal at one of Edmonton’s newest eateries, Aarde, left me wondering if they will be able to stand out amongst the increasingly crowded dining scene Downtown.

Mack and I happen to live in the same building as Aarde, and after seeing multiple tenant turnovers and long vacancies in the ground floor space, really want the restaurant to be successful (it is an unfortunate reality that there is a glut of prime, empty streetfront retail bays Downtown). Aarde, which means “earth” in Dutch, opened in November. It was opened by Chef Guru Singh who wanted to bring the best of the European dishes he sampled to Edmonton.

I like the aesthetics of Aarde – neutrals, clean but modern furniture, and some plant accents. The layout of the tables doesn’t necessarily maximize the space, but I appreciated some room to breathe. That night it didn’t matter though, as we were just one of two parties that late Sunday evening in December.

Aarde

Interior

After we were seated, my first impressions weren’t positive – the candle on our table was left unlit, and dried leaves that had fallen from a nearby plant had been left on the floor unswept. Although these were small details, and perhaps not intentionally careless, it communicated an ambivalence that felt surprising for a brand new restaurant. It’s also strange to me that Aarde has yet to adopt (even now, in January) any signage indicating that they are, in fact, open – the closest they’ve come is putting out a sandwich board advertising weekend brunches served from 10am-2pm.

With some guidance from the server, Mack and I decided to share four dishes. The roasted potatoes ($11) were a pretty standard dish, but ended up being our favourite – perfectly cooked, with a nice level of spice in the aioli.

Aarde

Roasted potatoes

Mack wished we had been told beforehand that the confit leeks and tomato ($10) were served cold. While the ricotta date stuffing was enjoyable, we found that the leeks themselves were tough and hard to eat.

Aarde

Confit leeks and tomato

The bacalao fritters ($14) weren’t quite executed as well as they could have; the batter tasted almost gristly in texture, though the fish within was well seasoned. The dry mango powder, which sounded interesting on the menu description, was not discernable.

Aarde

Bacalao fritters

The presentation of the beef ribs ($24) left something to be desired. That said, we liked the charred cabbage bits, and the creamy celeriac, but what should have been the star of the plate was not fall-off-the-bone tender as we would have expected.

Aarde

Beef ribs

We’ve found that chefs at most chef-owned restaurants make their presence known, especially in the early days. So Chef Singh’s absence was even more conspicuous that evening. While I’m not certain it would have made up for an overall disappointing meal, it was evident that more care and oversight was needed in the kitchen and the dining room. I have heard more positive things about Aarde’s brunch, however, and with the restaurant being so close to home, I do want to give it another chance. Only time will tell if the dining public feels it is a worthy addition to the food scene.

Aarde
10184 104 Street
(587) 881-7891

A High Tea Tradition: The Art of Cake

It’s been a tradition over the last number of years that Mack and I take Grandma Male to high tea at Christmas. As a result, we’ve been able to sample our way through most of the high teas available in the city, ranging from the opulent experience at the Hotel Macdonald to more quaint settings such as Reinette Café in Mill Woods. I had only recently heard about the high tea at The Art of Cake, held on certain Sundays each month. With a few dates in December to choose from, we made a reservation for the four of us a couple of weeks ago.

We had been running a little behind, and it turned out we were the last party to be seated (the staff had graciously included a high chair at our table). It was a full house that afternoon; clearly the word has gotten around about their high tea! Much to Emily’s delight (she loves music), our table was situated next to a guitarist who added to the pleasant atmosphere.

Art of Cake

Emily enjoying high tea

I had only been to The Art of Cake once before, ducking in to pick up some baked goods, so hadn’t before taken the time to survey the interior. It’s a lovely space, with high ceilings and numerous chandeliers beckoning the eye upward. I liked the natural light and the cozy vibe imparted by the wood furnishings and dining sets that are charmingly not uniform.

High Tea at The Art of Cake

Mack and Grandma Male

Moments after we were settled, we were provided with a pot of crème de Earl Grey tea. While I appreciate the pomp and circumstance of the choice of tea in some cases (the presentation of the tea box at the Hotel Macdonald, for instance), it is much more efficient when tea is simply set. It was also an unexpected bonus that the tea was pre-steeped in the kitchen so we could simply enjoy refills without having to wait for the leaves to steep in our tabletop pot.

High Tea at The Art of Cake

Tea setting

A few minutes later, staff descended from the kitchen and started serving all tables in rapid succession. The presentation of the tiered tray (created by My Uniquely Vintage), plates of mini quiches, and scones rivals any high tea I’ve been to in the city. It was also a lovely touch that menu cards were left on the table so we could easily reference each item.

Art of Cake

High tea tray

We found there to be a great variety of savoury and sweet items. The spinach and feta quiche and cranberry chicken salad puffs were a favourite on the savoury side, and Grandma Male enjoyed the festive gingerbread men-shaped scones (served, of course, with clotted cream and strawberry preserves).

High Tea at The Art of Cake

Festive scones

For dessert, Mack liked the flavour and texture of the gingersnaps, while I marveled at how much the cream cheese mints reminded me of After Eights. And though cupcakes are not a typical high tea item, I’m a sucker for them, so I loved that they were included here. At $45, The Art of Cake falls in the middle price range of available high teas, but we thought it to be of good value overall.

Service was amazing; tea refills were provided quickly, and because the food was delivered so expediently, we found we could really take our time to work through the treats.

I would highly recommend high tea at The Art of Cake – with a picturesque setting, good food, and excellent hospitality, it was the best high tea we’ve been to in recent memory.

The Art of Cake
11811 105 Avenue
(780) 441-1229
Tuesday-Thursday 8am-6pm, Friday 8am-9pm, Saturday 9am-6pm, Sunday 10am-5pm, closed Mondays (high tea served on select Sundays; reservations needed)

Cultivating Regulars: Partake

Having Emily has reduced the frequency of our experiences dining out. For that reason, when we do eat out, we often default to restaurants that are unfussy, where I can relax after spending the day caring for Emily. Partake fits this bill perfectly. I’ve been to the restaurant twice thus far; once in early November and a second time this week, and I enjoyed myself both times.

Opened by the folks behind Manor Café and Urban Diner, Partake has taken over the former La Favourite storefront on High Street. No trace of the bakery remains – in its place is a space with old world charm that feels worn in, and would not seem out of place on a Parisian side street. I love the interior – rounded door frames, pressed ceiling tiles, a comfortable central bar, and a mix of small tables and cozy booths. I felt comfortable immediately, at ease with the kind of establishment that seeks to cultivate regulars.

Partake

Interior

The one page food menu is French-inspired and unpretentious, with a focus on nibbles and comforting share plates. Those seeking something more experimental won’t find it here, but the familiarity is part of the attraction.

My first visit coincided with Partake’s happy hour, which runs from 4-6pm and 10pm-close from Monday-Thursday, and from 4-6pm on Friday. With the purchase of any drink, the kitchen treats customers to several complimentary snacks. It was a more generous spread than I was expecting, and included pesto-drizzled popcorn, cheese-stuffed dates, olives, and meatballs. It’s a great incentive to come in early (or late!).

Partake

Our happy hour spread

My favourite dish from that meal was the potato fondue ($10), a blend of gruyere and emmental cheeses, potato, and garlic. I loved the smooth texture with the addition of the starch; it’s an idea that I’ll steal for my own use in the future.

On my more recent visit, my friends and I shared the beef tartare ($16). Prepared tableside, the mixture was beautifully seasoned, dotted with capers, beet-barley relish, and chives. It was served with a delicious roasted garlic spread that elevated each bite.

Partake

Beef tartare

The croque mon’soubise’ ($14) will have me returning again. Featuring the amazing ham from Meuwly’s (which alone is work a trek to the meat shop) and gruyere, the toasted sandwich is served with a side of creamy soubise sauce. An onion-based butter sauce, it would probably make anything taste infinitely better, and in this case, it absolutely does.

Partake

Croque mon’soubise’

I don’t typically order dessert during meals out, but I did both times at Partake. This was primarily because they offer mini desserts that appeal to people like me who are looking for just a few bites of something sweet, as opposed to another course onto itself. Their tiny creme brulees ($3.50) were just perfect, the caramelized crust concealing a light and creamy custard underneath. Flavours change constantly, but the white chocolate mint was the favourite of the ones I’ve sampled.

Partake

Mini creme brulees

Service was a bit more attentive on my first visit, but that was a minor detail in an otherwise very pleasant duo of meals. In my opinion, Partake is a very welcome addition not only to High Street, but to the Edmonton dining scene as a whole.

Partake
12431 102 Avenue
(780) 760-8253
Monday-Thursday 4-11pm, Friday 4pm-1am, Saturday 5pm-1am, closed Sundays

Vegetarian Vietnamese Cuisine: An Chay

After my coworker introduced me to Pho Tau Bay years ago, that was it. I had a hard time ordering pho at any other local restaurants, as I always found myself comparing it to my beloved Tau Bay (Pho Hoan Pasteur is the one exception; it was also recommended by my coworker to get us through the weeks when Tau Bay is closed). I made an exception to this rule at lunch with Linda (and Emily!) last week at An Chay.

An Chay is part of the recent wave of vegetarian/plant-based restaurants that have opened in Edmonton over the last two years. Within that niche, An Chay serves up meat-free Vietnamese cuisine; much of An Chay’s one page noodle and rice-based menu will look familiar to diners, minus the meat.

An Chay took over the space previously occupied by Pitaghetti on Jasper Avenue and 112 Street. I’m not certain if much has changed – the décor is pretty minimal – but the best feature of the room by far are the windows that line two sides of the restaurant. On that day, the natural light made it a very pleasant place to have lunch.

An Chay

Interior

Linda had already tried several dishes on the menu, and recommended we share the shredded tofu rolls ($9). These fresh rice rolls were expertly packed with shredded bean curd, lettuce, mint, bean sprouts, pickled daikon, and carrots. While I enjoyed the texture (and Emily liked munching on the tofu), they were a bit plain for my taste, even with the vinaigrette for dipping.

An Chay

Shredded tofu rolls

The pho ($15), on the other hand, had flavour to spare. The broth, laced with heady five spice, had a nice hint of sweetness. There was also a great variety of vegetables included, from baby bok choy, to enoki mushrooms, and lotus root. I would have preferred more tofu, however, especially since it was essentially replacing the typical meat protein found in pho. While I did really enjoy the soup, I still have a hard time recognizing it as “pho”; I likely would never crave it in the same way as a hearty bowl of noodles with beef.

An Chay

Pho

That said, service was efficient, and my experience overall was very positive (they had a couple of high chairs and a change table, making it a great baby-friendly option for parents). So although my go-to restaurants for pho have not changed, it’s likely I’ll be back to An Chay in the future to sample more of their Vietnamese fare.

An Chay
11203 Jasper Avenue
(780) 752-2203
Monday, Wednesday-Friday 11am-8pm, Saturday-Sunday 12-8pm, closed Tuesdays

Preview: Jang

It’s always great to see locally owned restaurants grow and expand. In Edmonton, the trend over the past few years has been for restaurants to parlay their reputation into new concepts instead of replicating their initial successes – Tres Carnales/Rostizado, The Next Act/Meat/Pip, Elm Cafe/District/Little Brick, and of course, Corso 32/Bar Bricco/Uccellino are just some examples.

There’s another restaurant to add to this list – Jang is the brainchild from the folks behind Nudoru, the popular ramen joint in Old Strathcona (they had the distinction of being the first in Edmonton to make their own noodles). Although there are numerous establishments that serve Korean cuisine in the city, owner Eric Hui saw a gap in restaurants offering higher end Korean food. Chef Jamie Jang shared the same opinion, so when an ideal space became available on Jasper Avenue and 112 Street (formerly Soy and Pepper), Jang was born. It opened its doors in mid-October, and Mack, Emily and I were fortunate enough to attend a media preview of Jang last weekend.

Jang

Chef Jamie Jang and Eric Hui

“Jang” means sauce in Korean, and their hope is to create a fusion of flavours through a combination of Korean, Japanese and Western sauces. We tried a variety of their small plates and mains meant to be shared.

We started with a refreshing apple kimchi, an inspired take on a Korean staple. I appreciated that the heat level was cut by the crisp fruit; it made for a nice accompaniment as we sipped our drinks.

Jang

Apple kimchi

The salmon carpaccio, served with fennel, avocado, tomato, a Korean chili vinaigrette and cilantro mayo was very fresh. The fish was beautifully presented, and it was easy to see this dish as a representative of the type of polished plate Jang wants to be known for.

Jang

Salmon carpaccio

The kimchi croquette was one of our favourites that night – sweet potato mash, kimchi, and grana padano deep fried and served with a shichimi aioli. They nailed the textural contrast, with a crisp exterior and a smooth centre, punched up with the slightly spicy aioli on the side.

Jang

Kimchi croquette

The sizzling hot ika featured calamari tossed in a Korean chili pesto, with a poached egg, mashed potatoes, and a black olive emulsion. It didn’t come together as a sum of its parts, although the squid was itself well cooked.

Jang

Sizzling hot ika

Onto the mains, the baked kimchi dome was a bit of a puzzle. It was presented with some fanfare, with the server cutting into the naan crust at the table to reveal pork loin and tofu in a kimchi tomato sauce. While the meat was quite tender, the flavours of the stew could have been further developed, and the group agreed that the naan bread was unnecessary.

Jang

Kimchi dome

On the other hand, the beer-battered Korean fried chicken was definitely a crowd pleaser. Gojuchang and ganjang (soy sauce) dips were served alongside, but I preferred to enjoy the crispy, well-seasoned coating unadorned. The meat underneath was juicy and satisfying. The side of taro fries were an interesting choice, but they weren’t as crispy as I would have liked. For Jang’s grand opening from November 5-10, the KFC is on special for just $10 (regular $19).

Jang

Beer-battered Korean fried chicken

Jang’s gogi platter reminded our tablemate Cindy of the meat boards central to Rostizado, resplendent with different cuts and sauces. Here, teriyaki ribeye, galbi (Korean short ribs), pork belly and spicy pork shoulder is served with kimchi butter, ssamjeng dip and Asian chimichurri, alongside roasted potatoes, grilled vegetables, and some lettuce to create wraps. The ribeye was prepared well, with a good ratio of meat to fat. I also enjoyed the short ribs and their expected sweetness. If dining in a group, this would be a good way to sample a variety as we did.

Jang

Gogi platter

For the most part, Jang does meet its goal of serving more composed dishes with fusion flavours. As Edmonton’s food scene continues to develop, it’s encouraging to see restauranteurs take risks to bring their vision to life. Thanks to the team at Jang for their hospitality, and I wish them well in the weeks and months to come!

Jang
11212 Jasper Avenue
(780) 421-8281
Monday-Saturday 5-10pm, closed Sundays

For more early perspectives on Jang, check out Eat with Sharon and YEG Cravings.

Ramen in #yegdt: Let’s Grill Sushi and Izakaya

Although options abound for pho in the core (including Chinatown, of course), my other favourite noodle soup, ramen, is a bit more elusive in this area. Nomiya in Oliver Square, Kiwado near the Royal Alex and Prairie Noodle on 124 Street are the closest, but I’ve been hoping for something within closer walking distance. As such, I was happy to hear that Let’s Grill Sushi and Izakaya serves ramen before 5pm on weekdays, and was keen to try it out. A few weeks ago, I met up with Linda there for lunch.

Although the restaurant wasn’t full, there was a steady flow of customers, including some ducking in for take-out. I liked the openness of the dining room, with a variety of seating options to choose from, including a nice sized bar for those inclined to watch the action behind the counter. I also appreciated the wide space between the tables (although I didn’t have Emily with me, I could have easily parked the stroller next to our two-top).

Let’s Grill Sushi

Interior

A sign outside the restaurant touts that the broth cooked for 10 hours, which seemed like a good start. At lunch, diners can choose from four types of ramen. And similar to Kiwado, which offers the option to add a side, Let’s Grill sells a $5 combo upgrade that includes a choice of three sides (3 piece chicken karaage, 4 piece tako yaki, 3 piece yellowtail sashimi) and a tea or pop. Both Linda and I opted for the combos – she added sashimi to her black garlic ramen ($14 +$5), while I ordered the tonkotsu miso ramen and chicken karaage ($13.50 +$5).

Let’s Grill Sushi

Black garlic ramen

Our food arrived fairly quickly. The broth was pretty good, with a nice creaminess that I enjoyed, and the noodles were cooked well. The egg yolk wasn’t as soft boiled as I would have preferred, but I did like that the chashu pork wasn’t as fatty as others I’ve encountered.

Let’s Grill Sushi

Tonkotsu miso ramen

As for the sides, the karaage was a decent sized portion, though it could have been crispier. Linda enjoyed her sashimi well enough.

Let’s Grill Sushi

Chicken karaage and yellowtail sashimi

Service was friendly, perhaps so much so that it was only after we left the restaurant that Linda and I realized that we were never served our combo beverages!

Overall, I had a positive enough experience that I wouldn’t hesitate to return to Let’s Grill for ramen again. Hurrah for more noodle options in the core!

Let’s Grill Sushi and Izakaya
10709 Jasper Avenue
(780) 244-1880

The Return of the Secret Garden: Bodega 124 Street

When the Dish and the Runaway Spoon announced the closure of their restaurant at the end of 2016, I mourned the loss of one of Edmonton’s most unique patios. The “secret garden”, as it was known, was tucked behind the back of the building and only accessible through an adjacent gate. Shielded from the traffic noise of Stony Plain Road, the combination of the pergola, hanging plants, and the shelter of a fully grown tree created the feeling of an oasis in the middle of the city. When it was announced that Bodega would be taking over the space (opening their third location to join the original Downtown and the second in Highlands), I was glad that they also decided to reopen the patio as well.

Two weeks ago, I met up with some girlfriends at Bodega 124 Street for brunch, which we enjoyed outside on the patio. Although the furniture and planters have been refreshed, it appears that not much else has changed, and the space is as charming as I remember.

Bodega 124 Street

Bodega’s secret garden

It so happened that same weekend the restaurant had a special 3 course Prairie on a Plate menu, so we were fortunate to also see how Chef Lino Oliveira would choose to showcase some Alberta products for the very reasonable price of $25 (as Sharman noted in her post, he incorporated Alberta canola, eggs, milk, pulses, turkey, and pork).

The menu offered three mains to choose from. It seemed brunch here has changed somewhat since the restaurant opened back in January. Originally, Bodega 124 Street offered many brunch plates (similar to the menu at Bodega Highlands I had tried last year), but as so many diners were requesting their tapas menu, by popular demand, they now offer their full tapas menu supplemented by a trio of brunch specials. Although this particular menu incorporated local products, the server did share that the mains were pretty typical of what they would serve any other weekend.

A note on their coffee (which I consider a brunch necessity) – when we ordered coffee, the server informed us that they were brewing French vanilla. I typically avoid flavoured coffees as the additives are usually trying to compensate for a poor quality bean. In this case, I did find the coffee a bit thin and sub-par; perhaps this was just a one-off for Bodega, but my hope would be that they adopt the same standards for their coffee as they would for their other ingredients.

The first course was a two-bite appetizer featuring a slice of Winding Road’s RDB cheese and quince marmalade on bread. The flavours paired nicely together, the sweetness of the quince balancing out the more pungent notes in the cheese.

Bodega 124 Street

RDB cheese and quince marmalade on bread

Of the three mains, May’s crispy turkey was the unquestionable winner. Two generous pieces of turkey, breaded with cornflakes and chickpeas and fried, served with a a potato and bell pepper hash and a side salad. The turkey was deliciously crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside.

Bodega 124 Street

Crispy turkey

Annie’s enjoyed her choice of potato wrapped braised pork cheeks – I had a bite of the pork which was nicely cooked.

Bodega 124 Street

Potato wrapped braised pork cheeks

I had ordered the coca verduras, which had been described by the server as somewhat similar to a pizza, with a Spanish flatbread acting as the crust, and another appearance of Winding Road cheese – this time, the fromage blanc and Josef. Although I liked the toppings well enough (the slight tang of the vegetables, and perfectly soft poached eggs), the dough was much too dense and weighed down the dish overall.

Bodega 124 Street

Coca verduras

For dessert, we were served a warm Portuguese custard tart with a sprinkling of cinnamon. I confess I was already much too full, and had to pack it up for later.

Bodega 124 Street

Portuguese custard tarts

Service was excellent, especially given we were (surprisingly!), the only party on the patio for most of our meal. We never felt rushed, and our server did a great job to make sure our needs were taken care of.

I’d be eager to return to Bodega for a glass of wine and some tapas, which, enjoyed out on that special patio, would surely taste even better on a warm summer evening.

Bodega 124 Street
12417 Stony Plain Road
(780) 250-6066
Sunday-Thursday 11am-11pm, Friday-Saturday 11am-1am (brunch Saturday-Sunday 11am-2pm)

Food with a Purpose: The Hallway Cafe

With Emily in tow for meals, Mack and I have had to be more thoughtful with restaurant selections. Many of the places we frequented prior are inaccessible with baby – narrow aisles, small gaps between tables, and stairs make it difficult to accommodate a stroller, not to mention not all welcome children or are child friendly. While we have made it a priority to have date nights with just the two of us, the reality is much of our dining future will have to factor in how well suited they are for kids.

One of the most recent restaurants I’ve discovered that fits this bill is the newly renovated Hallway Café (formerly Kids in the Hall). Located in City Hall, it is central, but hard to stumble upon, with only window signage to rely on, and daytime hours of 7am-3:30pm on weekdays.

The Hallway Cafe

Interior

If you were familiar with the previous design, it’s safe to say the interior has been completely refreshed while still making the most of the prominent wall of windows. Most groupings of tables and chairs are enclosed by brightly coloured metal frames resembling greenhouses with built-in planters. The structures are a fun but functional way of visually breaking up the space while sacrificing none of the natural light that filters into the room. I also much appreciated the wide aisles that are very accommodating to strollers. Opposite the windows is an open kitchen, allowing diners to observe the food prep action, important because the restaurant has retained its foundation as a social enterprise that provides skills training to vulnerable youth.

The Hallway Cafe

Lots of room for Emily!

E4C operates The Hallway Café as a program that works with individuals aged 16 to 24. After screening applicants to ensure they have the stability necessary for success, the 17 week program teaches modules in hospitality and kitchen skills, with hands-on experience at the Café where they are paid minimum wage plus tips; the program ends with a job placement.

The food is not secondary at The Hallway Café, with coffee and freshly baked goods for those seeking a light snack, and full breakfast and lunch plates for those with heartier appetites. It’s worth mentioning that the prices are very reasonable – for instance, a standard breakfast with two eggs, bacon, potatoes and toast is just $9, while pizzas range from $9-10. I’ve had lunch here twice with Emily since April, and enjoyed both experiences.

Back in April, I had the chicken panini ($8), with a side of house-cut Kennebec fries ($3). This was my favourite of the two meals; the sandwich, on house made focaccia, was quite generously sized. The chicken was complemented well by the blueberry and Dijon aioli, spinach, and spicy jack cheese, and the bread was fresh and nicely toasted. The fries, however, were the star for me, tossed in their house seasoning and incredibly crispy and addictive.

The Hallway Cafe

Chicken panini and fries

My friend Su ordered the pizza con patate, and said she enjoyed the thin crust topped with potatoes, rosemary, caramelized onions and grana padano and goat cheese.

The Hallway Cafe

Pizza con patate

I was looking forward to those fries when I returned with a friend to the Hallway in June, to be consumed alongside the Philly cheese steak ($10), but they were sadly out. That said, it was a good opportunity to try their kale salad on the side ($4). Topped with beets and goat cheese, it was a heartier salad than most. The sandwich was tasty enough, with grilled red onions and roasted peppers adding interest. The beef was on the dry side though, and benefited from the melted cheese.

The Hallway Cafe

Philly cheese steak and kale salad

Service (like many establishments these days – food is ordered at the counter then bussed to the table) was friendly, and the kitchen kept up with the pace even as the lunch rushes hit.

I’m glad to have found The Hallway Café – the program is worth supporting, but it’s the food and the surroundings that are going to bring me back again and again!

Great Value: Reinette Cafe

One of the best things about the current proliferation of bakeries in Edmonton is that many areas of the city that were once without a place in the neighbourhood to pick up a sweet treat or two have now gained that asset. Reinette Cafe is one such example.

Nestled in a strip mall in Mill Woods, it’s not a place easily stumbled upon. It’s also quite small, with only a handful of tables and counter seats, so reservations are recommended if you’re hoping for a table to enjoy dessert (during our visit all but one table was spoken for). I had called ahead specifically for the afternoon tea set, which is priced at just $20 for two. The set includes your choice of seven treats from a defined menu, as well as two drinks. Although you don’t have to pre-order, we did so to guarantee the availability of our desired desserts (particularly helpful if one in your party, as was our case, is allergic to nuts, as several of the options contain nuts).

Reinette Cafe

Pastry case at Reinette Cafe

Service was efficient, as the staff began assembling our tea tray right after we walked in for our reservation last Sunday afternoon. All we had to do was select a beverage (coffee or tea), which was delivered almost immediately after we ordered. A family-run business, it was clear the owners put some thought into the small details – our teapots, for example, were kept warm on special glass tealight stands, while the takeaway boxes were almost as intricate as the pastries themselves.

Reinette Cafe

Afternoon tea set for four

We found the afternoon tea to be a great way to sample a variety of their desserts. My favourite was the lemon meringue tart – the buttery crust was topped with a beautifully balanced curd. Grandma Male enjoyed the richness and the flavour of the almond cream in the Paris Brest, and we all adored the duck-shaped madelines. That said, given that they were the mini versions of said pastries, the tea is not as filling as other afternoon tea services available in the city (such as Hotel Macdonald or the Rutherford House’s Vintage Fork). Reinette Cafe does offer other savoury options including quiche and sandwiches, but they are not included in the tea set.

Reinette Cafe

Yes, we ate Emily’s share

Still, it was a great way to spend a part of the afternoon in a neighbourhood gem. We’ll certainly be back again – I have my eye on another lemon meringue tart!

Reinette Cafe
301 Woodvale Road West NW
(780) 577-0974
Monday-Saturday 7am-9pm, Sunday 11am-5pm

Have Fun with Your Food: Rebel Food and Drink

Every neighbourhood should have a go-to spot, a place for residents to gather. Piccolino was this focal point for many in Parkview and adjacent Crestwood, but when it was announced it would be replaced by a new Century Hospitality property, I’m sure some were wondering whether it could still be that place.

Rebel Food and Drink opened in mid-December just in time for the holiday rush. Mack and I had the chance to visit the restaurant last Thursday night. Walking in, we weren’t expecting quite the packed house that greeted us. All of the tables were full, with parties ranging from young families to older couples. We took up a pair of empty seats at the bar next to several solo diners, one of whom was a regular. Chef Tony Le indicated that the reception from residents has been very positive, even at this early stage.

I can’t speak to the interior changes as I had never set foot in Piccolino, but we were told the changes were drastic, with the installation of a bar and an expansion of the dining room. A second expansion will take place later this year when the travel agency next door relocates. The interior is cozy with dark accents, lined with a combination of booths and tables. I appreciated the open sightlines, which further inspires the feeling of community in the space.

The menu, as with all Century Hospitality locations, is broad and meant to appeal to a wide range of tastes. While those looking for more traditional dinner selections will be satisfied with classics like pot roast, grilled chicken, and steak and potatoes, I liked the playfulness with other choices like their Hangry Man TV Dinner (meatloaf, tater tots, roasted corn, buttered peas), a breakfast plate dubbed the “most important meal of the day” with eggs, toast, bacon, sausage, and tater tots, and a taco version of chicken and waffles. Mack is always up for having breakfast for dinner, so ordered the breakfast pizza ($22), while I chose the Rebel chz burger ($17).

Service was great during our visit; our bartender/server was a consistent and pleasant presence. Similarly, the kitchen was on top of everything that night, and despite the full house, the food kept flowing. We didn’t have to wait long for our plates.

Mack’s pizza (made with the same Italian "double zero" flour found in Parlour’s crusts) was appealing right from the start, studded with crispy prosciutto, crumbled sausage, tater tots, and of course, a sunny side up egg. It was a winner in his books, the thin but hearty crust holding up to the combination of toppings.

Rebel Food and Drink

Breakfast pizza

My house burger, featuring two beef patties, cheddar, caramelized onions, and "all the groceries" was a solid take on a classic. The beef was well seasoned, and I enjoyed the slight sweetness imparted by the brioche bun. The side of fries was also nicely cooked, crispy and lightly salted.

Rebel Food and Drink

Rebel chz burger

Tony generously treated us to dessert, knowing we were taken with the confetti cake. A few had passed by our seats throughout the night, drawing the attention of the room with an eye-catching sparkler. Continuing with the playful theme found in the mains, the cake is all about nostalgia – the four-layer cake is not only dressed in vanilla buttercream and sprinkles, but comes with a healthy dusting of Fruit Loops. It was sweet, indulgent, and everything your five year old self would want in a dessert.

Rebel Food and Drink

Confetti cake

The brunch menu looks equally appealing (the hangover club has Mack’s name all over it), and yes, you can have that same confetti cake for breakfast, served with a glass of milk. Rebel Food and Drink is a fun addition to the restaurant scene, and hopefully one the neighbours will continue to embrace as a place to meet.

Rebel Food and Drink
9112 142 Street
(780) 752-7325
Monday-Sunday 11am-late (no minors after 9pm)