Dine the Ave: Eats on 118 Continues!

Eats on 118 was an initiative that the Alberta Avenue Business Improvement Area (BIA) launched in 2016, in order to highlight some of the great restaurants located in an often overlooked area. The BIA contracted Wild Heart Collective to organize restaurant walking tours; each tour featured a visit to 4 or 5 different businesses with a meal or an activity served up at each stop. Over the last four years, more than 500 guests have attended the tours that have involved more than 45 businesses. I was fortunate to have been attended several of those tours over the years, and given my office relocated to 118 Avenue two years ago, it was especially fortuitous as a means to get to know my culinary neighbours better.

This year, the BIA wanted to continue Eats on 118, but in a different format, and Dine the Ave was born. Although they found that the tours were a great way to expose new people to the area, only a few businesses could participate in each round, and they found that it limited participants to restaurants. Through Dine the Ave, 20 hospitality businesses from NAIT to Northlands will be offering special menus priced at either $10, $15, or $20 from June 17-23, 2019. Last week, I was invited to attend a media preview that saw us sample our way through 5 stops (portion sizes were scaled down to ensure we’d be able to maintain our appetite throughout!).

The first featured restaurant is a favourite of mine: Battista’s Calzones. In my opinion, the calzones here are the best in the city; the dough (a family recipe) has just the right chew and is always baked to perfection, and their filling varieties mean there is something for everyone. They will be celebrating 10 years in business in the fall.

During Dine the Ave they’re offering three of their most popular calzones (the Spicy Italian, Giovanna, and Pesto Presto) for just $10 each.

Dine the Ave

Co-owner Doug Mah of Battista’s Calzones

Next, we headed half a block down to T & D Vietnamese Noodle House, another restaurant on my regular rotation. Laura Truong has been running the restaurant with her family for five years, and chose the 118 Avenue location specifically so they could grow with the evolving community (she currently sits on the Board of the BIA). For Dine the Ave, T & D will be serving up 2 house-made spring rolls and chicken on rice or noodles for $10.

Dine the Ave

Rice plate from T & D Vietnamese Noodle House

I was looking forward to trying our third restaurant, La Bodeguita de Cuba. Early this year, it replaced the neighbourhood stalwart El Rancho. Although I was sad to see the restaurant go, the spot is the perfect size for a start-up establishment looking to make their mark. This was exactly what owners Yordanis and Jennifer Lamoru are hoping to do, having dreamt of opening a restaurant for years.

We received a taste of their $20 Dine the Ave multi-course menu, featuring Cuban comfort food like rice and beans. The ropa vieja (shredded beef in an onion, pepper sauce) was the standout on the plate, and for some at our table, it was also their first time encountering plantains.

Dine the Ave

Cuban comfort food from La Bodeguita

The highlight of the stop was a serenade from Yordanis, who is also a musician. Expect live music at La Bodeguita on weekends; it’s an understatement to say the couple are doing it all themselves!

Dine the Ave

A performance by Yordanis Lamoru

I had also never been to Simba’s Den Pub & Bistro. It opened in May 2018, and owner Senait Tamene, recognizing the “up and coming” nature of the neighbourhood, purchased the building and opened the newest pub on the block. Also, Senait, like Laura Truong, is also on the Board of the BIA.

Although they do offer nachos, chicken wings and burgers, Simba’s Den prides itself on the Ethiopian and Eritrean fare on the menu, which is what we sampled that evening. The heat level was pretty tame in the chicken, beef, and lentils, and I particularly enjoyed the house-made enjera. For $20, Dine on the Ave guests can have their own vegetarian or meat platter with enjera or rice.

Dine the Ave

Meat platter sample from Simba’s Den

Our final stop is a community landmark – The Carrot, which operates under Arts on the Ave as a non-profit, has been open for twelve years. The baristas are volunteers, and the shop showcases and sells art and jewelry from local artisans. They just changed their sandwich menu, which they will be featuring during Dine the Ave as a $15 special, in addition to a dessert combo of carrot cake and a house-made beverage for $10.

Dine the Ave

Carrot cake and coffee from The Carrot

Thanks to the Alberta Avenue BIA and Wild Heart Collective for hosting a fun evening – it was great to discover even more gems on 118 Avenue. Check out the menus for Dine the Ave here!

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

The K-Wave Continues: Gangnam Street Food

Back in 2017, I noted in my year end wrap-up that Korean eateries were making their presence in Edmonton known. What was particularly impressive was the range of establishments that were opening – mainstream-friendly Korean Fried Chicken and Korean BBQ joints, but also bingsu (Korean shaved ice) dessert bars, Korean soup restaurants and anju (food to accompany alcohol).

A year later, Culinaire Magazine published a piece further categorizing the variety of Korean cuisine available in Edmonton and Calgary, which has continued to grow. In fact, a new restaurant specializing in Korean street food is set to open tomorrow, January 24, 2019.

Gangnam Street Food is situated in a south side strip mall on 34 Avenue. It is also known as “K-Mall”, in recognition of its cluster of Korean businesses, including bingsu place Let Eat Snow and the newly-opened grocer A-Mart. Gangnam Street Food is the brainchild of the folks behind Dookbaeki and Baekjeong, so they’re already somewhat familiar with Edmontonians’ appetite for Korean cuisine, but this concept brings the team back to their youth.

Gangnam Street Food will offer inexpensive dishes found in Korea that are popular with young people; quick handheld bites picked up after school, or before a night out. Dishes will be priced from $4-9, so for the price of one main elsewhere, diners can easily sample several plates. The restaurant is primarily set up for those looking for take-out, but there are also about 30 seats to eat in. In addition, their menu will be available on Skip the Dishes.

Two weeks ago, I was among a small group that was invited to preview Gangnam Street Food. We were able to try 7 of the dishes (though there will be more on the full menu).

Gangnam Street Food

Part of our spread

It’s no surprise that the deep-fried items we sampled were the most crowd-pleasing overall; they would easily appeal to those unfamiliar with Korean cuisine. The Korean-style hot dog features a wiener wrapped in mozzarella cheese and house-made dough, then fried. It fared best when eaten right away (which I had failed to do), but I still enjoyed the concept.

Gangnam Street Food Edmonton

Korean style hot dog

Similarly, the Dak-gang-jung, or deep-fried boneless and breaded chicken, was straightforward and tasty. Here, it was served with honey mustard sauce, though there were spicier dips available on the counter for those keen for more heat.

Gangnam Street Food Edmonton

Dak-gang-jung

Gangnam Street Food’s version of Dduck bo kki, was plenty hot for me; the rice and fish cakes were stir-fried with a spicy sauce. When I was first introduced to this dish in Korea years ago, I always opted for the more pedestrian version on menus, so just for the reason of my personal preference, this was my least favourite dish.

Gangnam Street Food Edmonton

Dduck bo kki

In addition to the hot dog, skewers also make an appearance as an easy-to-eat meat on a stick. That night, we tried two of their kkochi (skewer). Both were charcoal-grilled, but the chicken was basted in a Korean Bulgogi sauce, while the pork belly had been brushed with a house-made “super spicy sauce”. The portions here were on the smaller side, but would be ideal for those just looking for a snack-sized amount of meat.

Gangnam Street Food Edmonton

Kkochi

The spam and sausage cup-bap was the full meal deal. Rice was layered with ham, sausage, stir-fried kimchi, bean sprouts, corn, lettuce, and a pan-fried egg. This dish will be very familiar to those who have frequented standard Korean restaurants, albeit in a smaller serving. It was satisfying enough, and helped balance out some of the heavier courses.

Gangnam Street Food Edmonton

Ham and sausage cup-bap

For dessert, we sampled the Ho dduck, a Korean-style pancake with melted cinnamon and sugar filling, served hot. This was also a favourite of the night, unsurprising given the classic flavours, but notable for the dense and doughy texture of the pancake itself. We were told this was perhaps the most difficult recipe to develop, though I can say it was worth their time – I will be returning in the future for seconds!

Gangnam Street Food Edmonton

Ho dduck

It’s great to see how the Korean food scene continues to evolve and mature in our city, and Gangnam Street Food is certainly poised to help introduce another facet of this diverse cuisine to Edmontonians. Thanks again for having me (and for the very generous $100 in gift cards to their “family” of businesses). Best of luck with the opening!

Gangnam Street Food
#15, 9261 34 Avenue
(780) 244-0148
Monday-Sunday 11am-9pm

Culinary Highlights: 2018 Edition

2018 was defined by Emily, who entered into our lives at the end of January. So when it comes to food, much of this year was spent taking baby steps and learning how to dine out with a little one. In rediscovering local restaurants with a baby-coloured lens, it continues to surprise us when we’ve dined at establishments with high chairs, but no change table.

I’m also proud that I was able to meet my goal of maintaining this blog – albeit with fewer posts – after Emily was born. I really wasn’t sure what my life would look like with a small human to care for, but keeping up with the Edmonton food scene was a welcome exercise to keep my sanity intact!

Here are some of my favourite food-related memories of 2018:

My favourite new restaurant opened towards the end of the year, with an ethos that exemplifies the culinary experience that I now crave most: unfussy and unpretentious. Partake is a lovely spot on 124 Street, with good food and a great vibe.

Partake

Happiest hours at Partake

We also discovered a wonderful new high tea option in the city at The Art of Cake that also happens to be Emily-friendly!

Art of Cake

Treats for days

I definitely had more time for brunches this past year, so it was perfect timing for Calgary-based OEB to roll into town. Eating my way through the breakfast poutine portion of their menu will take me well into 2019.

OEB Breakfast Edmonton

Brunches with Emily

I was still on a sweets hangover from my pregnancy (my strongest craving while carrying Emily was baked goods of all sorts). No dessert was more spectacular – or fun – than the Fruit Loop-dusted confetti cake from Rebel.

Rebel Food and Drink

The sparkler takes the cake

It was great to be a part of a volunteer team who successfully organized the inaugural Chinatown Dining Week in January (if you missed it, the event returns for a second year starting this week)!

Gui Lin

The 2-course meal from Gui Lin

We continued our tradition of visiting farms of producers we frequent. This year it was a tour of Sundog Organic Farm.

Sundog Organic Farm

Strawberry fields forever

I also had the opportunity to see some urban agriculture even closer to home – the rooftop hives are a sight to see at MacEwan University.

MacEwan Urban Beekeeping Tour

Urban bees

Speaking of urban agriculture – Mack and I embraced community gardening this year, and found that our life was better for it.

Alex Decoteau Park Garden
At our plot in Alex Decoteau Park

Mack and I were fortunate to do some travelling this year, with stops in Canmore and Kananaskis, and a short flight to a Vancouver Island getaway in Sooke.

Shirley Delicious

At Shirley Delicious, our favourite breakfast spot just outside of Sooke

It was a year full of change, but without a doubt I’m having the best time of my life. Here’s to 2019!

Chinatown Dining Week Returns, January 17-27, 2019

I’m thrilled to share that Chinatown Dining Week is returning for a second year, running January 17-27, 2019. It was so successful last year that we knew we wanted to bring it back again and make it even bigger!

Chinatown Dining Week 2019 postcard

Although many are familiar with the great eats available in Chinatown, others continue to be unaware of the diversity and value of meals to be found within walking distance of Downtown. With Chinatown’s proximity to several prominent attractions, including the newly-opened Royal Alberta Museum, Ice District, and the Arts District, those planning an evening out could easily incorporate a stopover in the area.

Chinatown Dining Week is about highlighting some of the tasty options in the neighbourhood through $15 2-course fixed price dinner menus. This year, we’ve expanded the event to 11 days (up from 9) and will have 8 participating restaurants (up from 5). The menus will be online at edmontonchinatown.ca starting January 7.

Our volunteer team is excited to welcome back three of our partner restaurants from our pilot last year – Asian Express Hot Pot, Gui Lin Noodle House, and King Noodle House. They embraced this new idea early on, and we’re happy to help introduce even more people to their food!

We also have five new restaurants on our roster:

  • Fuqing Lanzhou Noodles – located on the northern edge of Chinatown, this noodle house is often overlooked. But their steaming bowls of noodle soup and dumplings make it an ideal place to gather on a cold winter evening.
  • Kanto 98 St. Eatery – shortlisted for the prestigious list of 2018 Best New Restaurants, Kanto made a splash even before it celebrated its first birthday. Their brand of Filipino fusion eats has won over its share of fans.
  • Namaste India – a hidden gem, it seems that few know that a delicious Indian buffet spread can be found in the heart of Chinatown.
  • Padmanadi – this vegan restaurant was serving plant-based cuisine before it was trendy. Their vegan takes on classic Asian dishes have a cult following in Edmonton.
  • Tea Bar Cafe – so much more than bubble tea, Tea Bar also serves Hong Kong-style savoury and sweet dishes to complement their drink menu.

We hope you’ll join us for Chinatown Dining Week!

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

Ready, Set, Brunch: OEB

I’ve often bemoaned the lack of brunch culture in Edmonton, making the joke that Mack and I would be more likely to drive to Calgary to enjoy this meal. While there are a handful of local restaurants that are known for their brunch service (Hathaway’s Diner and Hap’s come to mind) that number multiplies by several factors when we look to our southern neighbour. So in some ways, given this current vacuum, it’s no surprise that Calgary brunch staple OEB decided to expand to Edmonton.

OEB Breakfast Edmonton

OEB in the Kelly Ramsey

OEB is on a mission. Now with a trio of locations in Calgary, they’re not only setting up shop in Edmonton (with a second branch opening next fall on 124 Street in the former North 53 space), but in Vancouver and Scottsdale, Arizona, too. Mack and I dined at OEB’s first restaurant in Calgary back in 2010 when it was still known as Over Easy Breakfast, and though the menu in its current iteration is still daunting, the aesthetics of OEB has changed to embrace a more modern and sleek design. At the end of October, Mack, Emily, and I were invited to preview the first Edmonton location of OEB in the Kelly Ramsey Building on Rice Howard Way.

OEB Breakfast Edmonton

Window seats

It’s really great to have such an eye-catching tenant on street level. Although OEB prides itself on unique interiors in each of its storefronts, it’s apparent their spaces make the most of natural light, bright accent colours, and egg-shaped decorations. The Kelly Ramsey shop features an open kitchen and pantry, so it feels even more welcoming. It’s fun without being too kitschy, and overall makes it a very pleasant place to dine. The only drawback, perhaps, is that there are few sound dampening measures, so the room can get a bit loud.

OEB Breakfast Edmonton

Interior

To say there is something for everyone on the OEB menu is a bit of an understatement, as there are over 50 items to choose from. To set them apart, OEB not only has an extensive breakfast poutine selection, but also includes some unusual brunch ingredients like rabbit, lamb, duck confit, black truffles, and caviar. On that initial visit and a follow-up trip, I couldn’t resist ordering breakfast poutines both times. They didn’t disappoint.

OEB Breakfast Edmonton

Ehhh Itza Meatball breakfast poutine

Most poutines are made up of a base of herbed potatoes (half of which could be substituted with spinach if so desired), poached eggs, and hollandaise, then dressed up with a variety of proteins – from the more traditional bacon and cheese curds to the more refined seared scallops and lox.

OEB Breakfast Edmonton

Chasing Chickens breakfast poutine

Mack and I shared the Ehhh Itza Meatball ($18) and Chasing Chickens ($17) at the preview. Of the two, the pulled chicken was the better cooked protein, easier to eat along with the potatoes and curds. The Spolumbo’s chorizo meatballs were on the dry side, so digging in to create a complete bite of all of the bowl’s components was a challenge. That said, the eggs were poached to yolky perfection (we were advised by the server to request a medium doneness; apparently at OEB, soft poached means a barely cooked egg with a transparent white), and the hollandaise was delicious.

OEB Breakfast Edmonton

Our spread

Emily was also treated to her very own kids meal (her first!). She enjoyed nibbling on the toast and scrambled eggs. Although OEB is equipped with a couple of high chairs, curiously, neither of the washrooms had a change table.

OEB Breakfast Edmonton

Emily, content

When I returned for lunch a few weeks later, I ordered their signature Soul in a Bowl ($17), topped with slow-cooked bacon lardons. Again, the medium poached eggs were consistent with my previous visit, and the potatoes were as crispy as I remembered (Emily enjoyed them, too!). And though I appreciated the generous hand that dealt the bacon, because of how salty they were, less may have been more in this case.

OEB

Soul in a Bowl breakfast poutine

At the preview, service (as expected) was superb. On my return visit however, it was equally outstanding. I was particularly impressed with the small details – a shift change had occurred, but the second server didn’t miss a beat, and had already been informed that I was drinking decaf coffee which she topped up without having to clarify.

OEB’s entry into the Edmonton brunch market has already made quite the splash; lineups are commonplace on the weekend. OEB does use a waitlist app to help diners manage their time, but the best advice may be to try and avoid peak times if possible – try for an early or late brunch on weekends, or better yet, check it out on a weekday if able. I know I’m already eyeing up OEB as a place to catch-up with visiting relatives over the holidays.

Thanks again to Bonafide Media for the invitation to the preview!

OEB
10174 100A Street (in the Kelly Ramsey Building/Enbridge Centre)
(587) 520-0936
Monday-Friday 7am-2:45pm, Saturday-Sunday 8am-2:45pm

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.