Explore The UnknownTuesday, February 26
I have really learned to enjoy and appreciate Edmonton as my home, but that doesn’t mean I don’t take great pleasure in the opportunity to travel. Exploring a new city or a new country is always an exciting adventure for me. Hearing about the history, learning about the people and their cultural habits is all quite interesting, but the real draw for me is learning about the food and the restaurant scene. Although the options for dining out in Edmonton has grown in recent years, it still is quite small, and finding inspiration can prove a bit challenging. Visiting another city allows me to explore a different food scene, see what other chefs are doing and look for trends that haven’t made their way into our kitchens yet.
This past week I had the great fortune of visiting Vancouver for business, and although living in Edmonton has left a bitter taste in my mouth for their hockey team, the Canucks, I have to show nothing but respect for their restaurant scene. My last visit out there was over eight years ago, which can be a lifetime in a city with an ever-changing list of restaurants, so I reached to as many people as I could to get some feedback about where to dine. With only four days in town and a limited amount of time to actually try out a few places I had to do my homework before I left. When asking around, the most alarming thing was that everyone had a different list of favorites. So with the long list in hand I began picking and choosing the few spots I would have time to visit, leaving a few spots open to grab a quick lunch if time permitted. There were a few spots that I had to pay a visit to though. It would an embarrassment if I didn’t pay a visit to the infamous Granville Island Public Market, and I definitely wanted to pay a visit to one or more of the Glowbal Group’s restaurant, as their business seems to be modeled very similarly to ours. Then there was a new Italian spot I had been hearing about, The Parlour, that just opened in January. With our group working on the development of a restaurant of the same name for months now, I needed to check out what they were all about.
Once I got to Vancouver it didn’t take long for me to realize why everyone each had their own list of places that I must visit. I knew the food scene was large in Vancouver, but I had forgotten just how large it was. From the high end eateries of downtown, to the trendy little spots in neighborhoods like Gastown and Yaletown, or the short cab rides over to Kitsilano, there were countless gems to be found in virtually every corner of the city.
Throughout the week I managed to make it out for three lunches and three dinners. My lunchtime stops included checking out Coast, The Flying Pig, and Romer’s Burger Bar. The burger and fries were good, but it was the service at Romer’s that was most memorable. It was really warm and friendly, with my server even going out of her way to write down her (very long!) list of favorite eateries throughout the city. Coast, of Glowbal Group, was a recommendation of a colleague in Vancouver and it didn’t disappoint. The fresh shucked oysters were lovely, but how could they not be with the ocean a stone’s throw away? The sushi also hit the spot quite nicely. The Flying Pig, on the other hand, was a bit of a disappointment. There was nothing at all memorable about the food, and the place was filled with hipsters. I got the feeling this place was overhyped.
My dinner stops, on the other hand, more than lived up to the hype. We started by visiting The Parlour, a trendy little Italian eatery in Yaletown, that served up some delicious buratta and salmon tartar appetizers, and some seriously delicious pies. The next night we visited Black+Blue, another location in the Global Group, and an ode to the classic steakhouse, while keeping with their contemporary style. The appetizers were delicious, but the tableside service of classics like Caesar salad and Chateaubriand, and the tableside martini preparation were what really made the night. With having only one night left, I was really torn about where to go. Throughout all of my inquiries, I kept hearing one name several times, Fable. In a pleasant twist of fate the chef from Fable, Trevor Bird, of Top Chef Season 2 fame, was doing a cooking demo on the same stage I was, just prior to me. After being introduced I asked if there was any way that he could sneak me in for dinner that night. He went out of his way to personally get me a table right then and there, letting me know that he would actually be dining there himself for the first time as a guest with his family, rather than at the stove, on a very rare Saturday night away from work. I could see the look in his eye and know what he was feeling. I too have been there, that first big night away from the restaurant, wanting to take a moment to catch your breathe, but also extremely reluctant to let go of control.
As we arrived that night, we were greeted by a warm smile at the door and quickly taken to our table, despite it being a packed house. Chef Trevor, seeing our arrival, left his family to come say hi and offer some recommendations. That was a real touch of class, and showed just how dedicated he was to his restaurant. After taking his suggestions, we started with the Canned Tuna, and the Spaghetti & Meatballs. The tuna dish was warm poached albacore tuna, with lemon, olive oil and herbs, served with a demitasse spoon of sea salt that was to be stirred in. The aroma was delightful, and the flavor was even better, truly the highlight on my trip. The entrees were delightful and the lemon tart was the perfect ending to a wonderful meal.
These restaurants were merely a drop in the bucket of all the places I could have visited, but that’s what makes dining in a new city so much fun. It’s like the tiny appetizer that is so delicious it leaves you craving more. I’ll be back before you know it Vancouver, as I know there is still so much to explore! The next time you are away, I encourage you to do the same. I know it’s easy to stick with what you know, but step out of your comfort zone, and try something different. Ask your concierge, your cabbie, someone you meet at the bar, talk to your server, explore the city and try different things. It can be delightfully memorable!
I won’t even attempt to recreate Chef Trevor’s tuna dish, because I’m not sure I could do it justice. Rather, I will share with you my take on the salmon tartare we enjoyed.
Spicy Tangerine Salmon Tartare
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Feeds: 3-4 as an appetizer
12 oz. Lois Lake steelhead salmon filet, or wild salmon
**ensure that you are using very fresh fish, and that the skin and pin bones are removed, to ensure it’s fresh pick it up at Fins Seafood in Sherwood Park
1 pc. fresh tangerine
1 tbsp. fresh ginger
½ pc. fresh lime, juice and zest
1 tsp. sambal oelek
1 tbsp. cilantro
- Peel the tangerine, place in blender and puree into a pulp, you can use a hand blender or even a magic bullet, set aside
- Coarsely chop the cilantro, removing all stems
- Peel and mince the ginger
- Using a sharp knife, carefully slice, and then, mince the salmon, chopping into small dice, but do not over chop it
- Place the salmon in a small and combine with other ingredients
- Season well!
- Serve with some fresh tortillas or crispy toast points