Hot Dogs and Burgers and Fries, Oh My: Delux Burger Bar

Though I’ve been keeping afloat of the series of Celebrity Chef burgers at Delux, none of them have really captured my attention, at least not enough for me to make an effort to trek down to Crestwood to try it. But this month’s poutine burger? Stop the presses.

We took Che Bechard’s creation for the month of August as an excuse to check out Delux’s second location in Edmonton, located on the always-hopping Bourbon Street in West Edmonton Mall (it also worked out that I was also able to satisfy my curiosity at Victoria’s Secret – I wanted to see what the hype was all about).

Though many, if not most, of Bourbon Street eateries offer takeout, Delux is the most aggressive, with an eye-catching D2Go order window.

Delux

D2Go

On the other hand, I didn’t find the interior of this Delux appealing at all. Independent of one another, the waiting area with its cocktail tables, a communal seating area, and generous booths are all right, but put together, the entire space lacks a visual flow, apparent especially when compared with the neighbouring Earls. The plaid patterns on the walls and the billboard photos plastered on the ceiling also seem unnecessary, further cluttering the room.

Delux

Mack at Delux

We chose to sit at the bar for immediate service, and it turned out to be an excellent choice. Alvin was our waiter that night, and boy, was he on the ball. Between drink orders, he managed to take good care of us – consistently refilling my water glass, letting us know about the progress of our food order, checking in on us periodically – just superb service all around.

The Nathan’s Famous hot dog sliders ($10) we had opted to start with were also a great choice. We both remarked that the dogs were some of the best we’ve ever had – moist and bursting with flavour. I wasn’t a fan of the toasted bun, but the chipotle ketchup and caramelized onions were tasty additions. The sliders are on special for $2 on Wednesdays…a dangerous deal if I lived or worked closer to a Delux.

Delux

Hot dog sliders

As for the main event? The first few bites of the poutine burger ($10), ripe with special sauce, fries, and curd cheese, were delicious. But as we made our way through it, we realized we would both be ultimately defeated by its richness, and that sharing one between the two of us would have been the better way to go.

Delux

Poutine burger

You still have a few days left to try out the poutine burger – but if you miss it, don’t worry – you can find some solace in the hot dog sliders.

Delux Burger Bar
1755 170 Street, West Edmonton Mall (one other location)
(780) 487-3589

Off-Menu Extravaganza: Lux Steakhouse

Birthdays provide me with a yearly excuse to try something new, in a price category that is normally out of the question (particularly in light of having recently taken on our first mortgage). Last year, we checked out the decadent Sunday brunch at the Hotel MacDonald. This year, I wanted to do something a little different.

It was at the Grilled Cheese Olympics back in March where Mack and I first met Tony Le, the Executive Chef at Lux Steakhouse (he and his colleagues at Lux are undoubtedly the most active chefs on Twitter in #yeg). It turned out he was an avid reader of our blogs, and at that time, he generously offered to prepare an off-menu meal for Mack and I.

I had pocketed his proposition until I started thinking about where I wanted to celebrate my birthday this year. A posh steakhouse seemed perfect – it would be a nice break in between packing and cleaning. We provided Tony with a price per person ($75), and confirmed the date. I couldn’t wait.

It was a quiet Saturday evening in the restaurant – the perfect atmosphere to relax after a busy day (and of course, meant that Tony would have the time to prepare our dishes). Also – I’m not a fan of the dim, masculine, almost gothic nature of traditional steakhouses, so Lux’s open room with wood paneling and visually intriguing glowing red portholes was a welcome change.

Our server Robin was great throughout the evening. Attentive without being overbearing, he gave us the space we needed to enjoy such a meal. After we were settled, he drew our attention to the half-price wine promotion Century Hospitality is currently offering this summer (with Lux’s turn on Saturday nights), which applies to all bottles of wines available by the glass. We took his recommendation of the Quails’ Gate Reserve Chardonnay, which would pair well with some of the meatier dishes Tony had in store for us that evening.

In addition to our purchased wine, however, Tony was kind enough to provide us with a bottle of Sumac Ridge sparkling wine to start us off (Robin asked if we would be driving; as public transit users, we were safe). He said when he first tried the wine, he thought it would pair perfectly with truffled bacon popcorn, and set off to experiment.

Sparkling wine

Cheers!

He was right. I love dishes that taunt the nose first, and this was definitely one of them, with the almost earthy notes of truffle a harbinger for the savoury flavours to come. The addition of bacon fat (from Irvings bacon) made for an irresistible combination, each tasty morsel leading to another, in between sips of the sweet bubbly. Pretty soon, I found myself staring at an empty basket (and I finished before Mack did, which almost never happens).

Bacon Truffled Popcorn

Truffled bacon popcorn

As each course was served, Tony came out of the kitchen to explain the dish, something we really appreciated (the opportunity to hear the creator describe his piece firsthand really enhances the product). The second course, he said, was inspired by the fact that we are avid market shoppers. He went to the City Market that morning to shop for some ingredients, many of which ended up in our heirloom tomato salad – including tomatoes from Doef’s Greenhouses and bee pollen from Lola Canola (two of our favourite producers!). It was an undoubtedly beautiful dish, with the tomatoes sliced mandolin-thin, with the white balsamic reduction and ancho chili oil subtly highlighting the freshness of the produce (I love that the tops were left on the tomatoes). The bees pollen had an interesting, almost malted texture to me, which Mack really enjoyed.

Heirloom Tomato Salad

Heirloom tomato salad with white balsamic reduction and ancho chili oil and bees pollen

The lamb salad rolls that followed helped showcase Tony’s range of inspiration. The shredded, perfectly cooked (rare!) rack of lamb had been rolled up with soba noodles and apple kim chi for a bit of heat – I adored the different textures. Served with a watercress and dill salad with an amazing pickled ginger mirin, I can’t see why this course shouldn’t become a regular appetizer on the Lux menu.

Lamb Salad Rolls with Ginger Mirin

Lamb salad rolls with pickled ginger mirin

Next, the pan-seared halibut reminded me that I am but a humble cook – no halibut I’ve ever made has tasted like that, so flaky and moist. Served with a bacon broth that had been cooked with sea asparagus (from Mo Na), the broth took the salty edge off the sea asparagus, but left them with that signature crunch. I requested a spoon to make sure no part of the dish was left unconsumed.

Pan Seared Halibut with Sea Asparagus
Pan-seared halibut with sea asparagus in a bacon broth (I’m a terrible food blogger – I was halfway through the dish before I realized I hadn’t yet taken a photo…it just looked that good)

We were a little disappointed that the duck used in the subsequent dish wasn’t sourced from Greens, Eggs and Ham, but we understood Tony had his shopping limitations. The Brome Lake duck had been finished with a cab demi glaze, and was served with a grilled apricot and potato gratin. The breast had been well-prepared, and I liked the accompanying sauce. The apricot was a nice touch too, ensuring our palate wasn’t overpowered by the protein and cheesy starch.

Duck with Cab Demi Glaze and Potato Gratin

Duck breast with cab demi glaze, grilled apricot and potato gratin

Our final entrée was an espresso bison shortrib with a peppercorn glaze and topped with potato frites. While it’s difficult not to enjoy any meat tender enough to fall off the bone, I have to say the bison was overshadowed by the bed of corn. The grown-up cousin of our starter, this was decadence at its finest, the kernels just danced in my mouth with a coat of sumptuous bacon fat and truffle oil (thanks, Matt!).

Espresso Bison Shortrib with Truffled Bacon Corn

Espresso shortrib with a peppercorn glaze, potato frites and truffled bacon cream corn

As we readied ourselves for dessert, we couldn’t believe that we were already into our second hour of dining. The time warp was attributed to the skill of the kitchen that ensured the courses were properly paced so our stomachs weren’t overwhelmed.

The first of two desserts (you read that right) was a flaky pastry with sour cherry compote, poached pears, champagne sorbet with raspberry coulis (the raspberries and pears were sourced from the City Market). It was the perfect plate to follow several dense courses – funny how fruit can help settle an ailment of overeating, no? Both Mack and I agreed, however, that the best thing on the plate was the light and refreshing champagne sorbet.

Flaky Pastry with Sour Cherry Compote, Poached Pear, Raspberry Coulis and Champagne Sorbet

Flaky pastry with sour cherry compote, poached pears, champagne sorbet and raspberry coulis

What was the final course, you ask? A birthday cake in the form of cream cheese and chocolate cupcakes, accompanied by coconut and walnut chocolate truffles.

Birthday cake!

Cream cheese and chocolate cupcakes and truffles

We were really happy that Tony was able to sit and chat with us for a while at the end of the meal. Though we’ve had conversations in passing, it was great to finally have the opportunity to get to know him a little better. It was easy to see his passion for Edmonton, and he stated his intentions to remain here, in order to continue to contribute to the community. I think the city is lucky to have such a talented and committed chef in Tony!

Mack, Tony, Me

All smiles

Thanks again to Tony and the rest of the staff at Lux for a wonderful night, and for one of the best birthday meals I’ve ever had.

Lux Steakhouse and Bar
10150 101 Street
(780) 424-0400
Steakhouse hours: Lunch, Monday-Friday 11-2:30pm; Dinner, Monday-Thursday 5-10pm, Friday-Saturday 5-11pm, closed Sunday

It’s All About the Whimsy: Delux Burger Bar

Delux Burger Bar is a prime example of the type of restaurant doing gangbusters right now – a perfectly executed “upscale casual” eatery that pairs a chic interior with a laid-back atmosphere. Why Delux wins my vote as one of the best in that ubiquitous class, however, has to do with their whimsical extras that go beyond smartly-attired wait staff, unidentifiable pulsating music and accessible dishes. Is Delux manufactured exactly to push the buttons of diners who have a secret penchant for kitsch? Of course, but the bottom line is, it works, or at least it does for me.

Mack and I had dinner there recently before a function at Jeffrey’s Cafe & Wine Bar (a nice place off the beaten path with an interesting selection of wine). We opted for an air-conditioned seat inside, sharing the space with those unwinding with a drink after work, a few families, and several groups of friends gathered for supper.

The menu, the requisite mix of share plates, burgers and other proteins encased in buns, offers nothing extraordinary, but enough variety to please all eaters. I went with the day’s special, called Out of the Wild, a bison burger topped with bacon, mushroom, lettuce and tomato basil havarti ($12). Mack decided to satisfy his hot dog craving with the Delux Dog ($8) with caramelized onions, double-smoked bacon and cheddar. We topped off our order with a Delux Duo of French and sweet potato fries ($6).

Our food arrived surprisingly quickly, though for a place that serves a fairly straightforward menu that was expected. What I didn’t expect was a truly messy burger to eat – it probably should have come with a bib of some sort. The Portobello mushrooms caused most of the grievance, unleashing their moisture content with no mercy. And while they lent some interesting texture to an otherwise standard burger, I found them a bit too meaty as a topping. Thankfully the rest of the burger – including a notably moist patty and a fresh bun – made the mess worthwhile. 

Out of the Wild Burger

Mack enjoyed his hot dog (perhaps more so, because it was the more dainty of the two entrees), though he did relay that the idea of a bacon-topped hot dog wasn’t quite as well realized as he had hoped for. 

Delux Dog

The fries were really what we had been looking forward to, served a la “carts”. I had seen the mini shopping carts in a gift store in Germany years ago, and have been kicking myself for not picking up a few then – the serving vehicle gets me every time. As for the fries themselves, I loved the sweet potato crisps, especially paired with the tangy dipping mayo.

Delux Duo (a la cart!)

The complimentary meal-ending cotton candy is another fanciful touch that scores points with me, even if we never manage to finish the dome. A sticky throwback to childhood beats peppermint sweets every time.

Cotton Candy finish

Century Hospitality’s Chris Lachance indicated in May that a second Delux is in the works for November. I haven’t heard anything about it since then, but don’t be surprised if another Burger Bar pops up in the city. With their formulaic flair for whimsy, I have no doubt a second Delux would be also be a smashing success.

Delux Burger Bar
9682 142 Street
(780) 420-0101

Strikingly Pedestrian: Hundred Bar Kitchen

When I saw the brown paper signs depicting the newest Century Hospitality hotspot, I knew I hadn’t been so excited for a restaurant opening since L’Azia’s Wildflower Grill earlier this year.

Hundred Bar Kitchen exterior

Hundred Bar Kitchen (10009 101A Street), situated in the McLeod Building, has taken over the space of two  failed sports bar ventures. I am certain the name recognition of Century Hospitality alone will guarantee Hundred’s success, and based on a recent visit to the near-capacity restaurant, it is well on its way to becoming a popular downtown hangout for the 24-35 crowd.

Mack and I had reservations for Thursday night, and upon being greeted by a friendly hostess, we were promptly seated at the rear of the restaurant. The interior had been gutted, and has nearly no resemblance to the last tenant, save perhaps the location of the bar. Instead of a masculine space accented with dark leather and furnishings, Hundred is plush – carpet, curtains, rounded leather banquets, and stunningly gorgeous crystal chandeliers. Great for large groups, we passed more than our fair share of the after-work crowd and those that wanted to see and be seen.

I had previewed the menu online, so was already familiar with the contents and the design – a single page, divided into easy-to-read sections (though the writers need to review their use of quotation marks – when is ‘fromage’ not fromage?). The focus is on share plates, continuing with their group-friendly mentality, though there are a few sizable entrees, including the $100 surf and turf for those looking for more substantial eats.

We ended up ordering basic items, rationalizing that the restaurant had to walk before it could run. Mack wanted to give their Calamari ($11) a spin, while I was interested in their Kobe Meatball Sliders ($14). The Turf Flatbread ($16) appealed to both of us, a pizza topped with sausage and pancetta among other things, though in hindsight was rather pricey.

Hundred also has an extensive liquor “market” to tempt us, though I wasn’t in the imbibing mood that night. The $6 beer flight and $8 wine flight seemed to be the best deal, offered every Thursday night.

Our dishes arrived in timely fashion, attractively presented but not overbearingly so. The calamari actually turned out to contain a smaller portion than we expected, fluffed up in a high-backed bowl. I liked the sweet dipping sauce, but Mack’s final verdict was that it was a version comparable to the one produced at Earls. The slider meatballs themselves were good – slightly tangy from a tomato bath and nicely seasoned on the inside. The kaiser rolls, however, lowered the overall quality of the mini-burger – having realized the difference fresh bread makes after amazing sandwiches at the Italian Bakery and elevated sliders at Devlin’s, the slightly stale-tasting rolls just didn’t cut it. Lastly, Mack and I were divided on the flatbread: I awarded the kitchen points for achieving a sturdy crust, but I wasn’t sold on the flavour combination of sweet sundried tomato pesto, salty pancetta, smoky roasted red peppers and savoury sausage. Mack, on the other hand, loved it – so to each their own.

Calamari

Kobe Meatball Sliders

Turf Flatbread

The most memorable moment of the night had nothing to do with the food or anything tangible, but occurred when Mack was taking non-flash shots of the restaurant interior. The manager immediately came up to him and questioned his actions. Mack explained that he wasn’t from a conventional media source, and mentioned my food blog. The manager didn’t seem to be familiar with the world of social media, and while this may be excusable for “mom and pop” operations, for an establishment “courting the yuppie vote” so to speak, at least a scant awareness of life on the internet is called for.

Once the hype of the eatery has died down, I’m not sure Hundred has the kitchen chops to maintain my business. But judging from the success of Century Hospitality’s other holdings, I don’t think my absence will make much of a difference. 

Hundred Bar Kitchen
10009 101 A Street
(780) 425-0100
Lunch: Monday – Friday: 11am – 5pm
Dinner: Sunday – Wednesday 5pm – 12am, Thursday – Saturday 5pm – 2am