I’ve been out to a few new (to me) restaurants recently. I’ve been meaning to blog about them, but I never seem to get around to it. I tend to find that I go to enjoy myself and forget to put my critical thinking cap on during the meal process.
I was out yesterday for a late lunch/early dinner between helping at the Sunshine Dreams for Kids Singers and Ringers events. My cohort, Froggie, had me thinking about all the different aspects of the place. She asked me all the questions so that I thought them through. As a result I have a review to post for a change.
So we were at Delux Burger Bar (warning: annoying flash site with music) here in Edmonton. I’d heard from a few people that they really liked this joint so I was quite interested in going. Being a good carnivore, any place proclaiming a speciality in burgers has my attention by default.
We were at the restaurant in the late afternoon on a Saturday so things weren’t exceedingly busy, but there was one very large table that did add some buzz to the place. The room isn’t huge by any argument, but it has quite high ceilings which gave it a very spacious feeling.
Although we’re up here in the frigid, dark north during winter, it was still light out and the large windows at the front of the restaurant had sunlight streaming in. Normally I would consider this to be a benefit, but it just didn’t feel like one in this room. Froggie and I batted around thoughts on why we didn’t like the light and we decided that it was because the room felt worn. It was just little things that made us think this. Things like the bar having a bad chip in it’s laminated wood top. The chairs looking like the finish had been abused by a thousand 2 year olds with baseball bats.
True, the room was nicely decorated with browns and a teal/turquoise blue, but overall the room just didn’t feel new and hip like I had anticipated. I’m sure that a lot of these imperfections disappear when the lights go down in the evening, but during the day it’s just not nice.
On to the food! One of the nice things about the menu was that they have a Chef’s daily burger special. I like the ability to have something that isn’t the same old, same old when I go to a place. Once you read the menu you’ll realize that there’s a reason for the Chef’s burger of the day. Other than it, there are only three other burgers. Although those three looked very tasty, I was overwhelmingly crushed by the lack of selection.
Being the adventurous one, Froggie ordered up the Chef’s burger special (a chicken breast with caramelized onions. I went for the namesake Delux burger. We also decided that we needed to fully fuel up for the volunteering that we had ahead of us so we started with the Lobster Nachos. One thing to note, which we would have missed if it weren’t for our waiter, is that the burgers do not come with fries, so we ordered up a batch of those to share too.
The Lobster Nachos were pretty much just your normal nacho fare with some canned lobster (was it even maybe faux lobster???) on top of it. As hungry as we were at the time, it hit the spot. The biggest disappointment was the fact that we were served up some bottled salsa. Why is it that restaurants feel the need to use this shit? It’s not like good salsa is all that hard to make.
Our burgers and fries arrived at the table in dishes that were a little different than we expected. The burgers arrived in a basket that, in the end, was just a little too deep to reach into for my liking. My burger was nicely sized, and cut in too simplify the eating logistics. Froggies, however, was not. As a result she had quite the time getting through it in a graceful manner.
My burger was quite flavourful and moist which was impressive. By all accounts (including the mess being made) the other burger at the table was well received too. Overall, neither of us had any complaints in this area.
We did, however, have some when it came to our fries. First, they arrived at the table in a funky stainless steel miniature shopping cart. While this was hip and cool when it first was set on the table, it proved to be damn near impossible to get the fries out of. Like any good connoisseur of the deep fryer, I dove straight into the cart ‘o fries for a taste. What a disappointment. There was no crispness to them at all and they were bitter. The only way to stomach them down was to coat them in any kind of sauce that happened to be on the table. It was almost like the had been boiled instead of fried. Definitely some of the worst fries I’ve had in some time.
While I sat and contemplated a nap, Froggie decided that having the ice cream sandwich from the kids menu was an appropriate way to finish the meal. First, let say that the portion size was very generous. So generous in fact, that I wondered if any child would ever be able to finish it. Then there would also be the problem of eating the dish. Although it had a nice air of authenticity by placing two large chocolate chip cookies around 3 scoops of ice cream, Froggie had some significant issues getting the cookies into bite sized portions. They were crisp and thick which, when in combination, could have required a portable jack hammer to eat. Although entertaining for me, not so much for her I don’t think.
Overall, I’d say that Delux Burger Bar is an adequate eatery. It lacks menu options of the burger variety and it’s execution of french fries would make the most anglo of us cringe. I give it a 2.5 out of 5.
I’m out in Vancouver this week at the DevTeach conference and we’re getting out to eat at a lot of restaurants. This morning Justice, Shane,
Kyle CodeBetter-Kyle (url to be determined) and I went out for breakfast before coming to the Steven Rockarts road show. Kyle had it in his head that he wanted to go out for crepes so off we went to a place he’d seen on Robson Street. We’d made a failed attempt at breakfast yesterday at this place only to find that it didn’t open until 8am and we were foiled by our ability to rise early while attending a conference.
So we wandered down to Cafe Crepe and grabbed a table pretty much right at opening time. Within seconds of getting the table we had our waitress greet us and menus in hand. Kyle (also known as the freezing ex-Canadian) and I got our hot-chocky pretty promptly and the waitress took our order. Shane, Kyle and Justice each had a crepe and I ordered both a crepe and an omelette based on the waitress’ suggestion that a crepe might not be filling enough.
Once our order had been placed we waited no less than 40 minutes for our food to arrive. Not once in that time did the waitress come by the table to see if there was anything she could get for us. No water, no refill on the hot-chocky, and certainly no update on the progress in the kitchen.
Let it be known that the kitchen was not in the weeds at this point in time. There were only about 8 other people in the restaurant and a very slow amount of traffic at the street side take-away window. Most of the tables arrived after us and I think that every one of them had their meals before us.
After our forty minutes of conversation our meals finally showed up and any hope of saving the day disappeared. First thing that I noticed was that the plates were placed on the table and no mention of drink refills was made. The next thing was that I had specified no toast with my omelette, but whole grain toast came. After the wait we had endured, I was very eager to eat (I suspect that all of us were) so I dove into the omelette straight away. About half way through it I noticed that there was an unbearable and overpowering taste of salt. If I had been in the kitchen I’m sure I would have seen the cook (I will *not* call him a chef) knock a container of salt into the eggs. The taste was so strong that I could not eat any more of it, which made me quite thankful that I had ordered the crepe.
Slightly concerned about the food quality, I still soldiered on and started on the strawberry crepe. The crepe itself was nothing special. It has what appeared to be fresh strawberries and nice colouring on the outside. I worked my way through most of the crepe before trying any of the whipped cream. I probably should have stayed with the crepe as the whipped cream was very close to being runny.
After eating it only took about ten minutes for me to start feeling like something wasn’t going to stay settled in my stomach. I’m not sure what caused it, but Justice suggested that he had the same feeling and the only thing was similar between our dishes was the whipped cream.
It’s been an hour since we left Cafe Crepe and I’m still feeling the effects of an unsettled stomach.
In my mind there are three crucial components to creating a good restaurant experience; Food, Service and Ambiance. Our experience shows that Cafe Crepe doesn’t have either the food or the service to qualify as a good restaurant. Because so much of ambiance relies on the mood that the staff sets, service is unquestionably linked to ambiance.
If I use those criteria to critique Cafe Crepe I would say that they are a 0.5 out of 5. I give them half a point simply because they were able to open on time.
Manitoba is currently the test market for a new breakfast menu at subway restaurants. The minor addition is yogurt cups, but the two major items are meant to attract those arch-loving breakfast eaters to Subway: hashbrowns and no-cook eggs.
No cook eggs? Yes, no cook eggs. Before, Subway restaurants would have a single element device which they would cook liquid eggs on in a frying pan…just like mama would do. Now that’s a thing of the past. The eggs come in pre-cooked (similar to scrampled eggs at McDonalds from what I understand), which means that there’s less cooking time involved and faster service. From that perspective, its a good thing: if you had 4 people in line all wanting eggs, they were all waiting for the single pan to free up so the next order could be cooked. Fresh yes, fast no.
But from a quality point of view, the eggs are MUCH thinner than the freshly cooked eggs. They aren’t as fluffy either. One of the things I liked about Subway breakfasts was that it was close to the type of eggs that I would cook at home. That’s not the case anymore.
The second big addition to the menu is hashbrowns. Now, you might be thinking “how do they cook them without a deep fryer?!”. Well, a toaster oven has many, many uses. The hashbrowns are toasted in the convection toaster oven, which I was actually pretty happy about: toasted should mean crisp, dry…in a word, perfect. But perfection was not to be.
Taste wise, they’re seasoned very nicely. But for something cooked in a toaster oven, they’re greasier than Justice Gray’s hair after not washing it for three days (you need to understand the amount of hair gel this guy goes through). Instead of crisp, firm hashbrowns, they’re limpy and soggy. To boot, when I asked the Subway employee for ketchup packets she informed me they didn’t have any. How can you roll out hashbrowns without ketchup?!
So all in all, my breakfast routine might need to be changed somewhat. I still like that I can get a few servings of vegetables early in the morning, but the quality isn’t as good as the former breakfast offerings from Subway.
I was just down in Austin, TX for a pretty geeky event. As with any of my journies I make it a point to find the place that the locals go to. I have a small set of criteria:
- It must be recommended by a local (hotel workers are excluded from this)
- It shouldn’t be a chain
- It should feature local or regional food
While I was in Austin, Dave and I had an evening to kill and we had heard about a number of different options. On previous days we’d done Mexican, Thai and chain food so we were looking for something a little bit more local. Someone at the conference that we were attending had mentioned Rudy’s to Dave and I’d heard about it from the folks sitting next to me on my flight from Phoenix to Austin. Unfortunately both of us had forgotten the name. Dave swore it was Rubies and I had lost that brain cell in a bottle of mediocre tequila the night before. We took the leap and asked the guy who was running the desk at our hotel to recommend a good BBQ joint. He rattled a few off and ended with
“…but my favourite is Rudy’s and it’s just down the street. It’s where I take my family sir.”
When we asked for directions he stated that you’d look at it and see a gas station and probably think that the place was sketchy, but not to worry. Well, when the cab dropped us off we saw the gas station and I started to second guess the hotel guy. In we went and I looked up at the menu board above the cashiers to find that there were only about 12 different things on it. The next thing that I noticed was that while we were hearded through the queue towards the cashiers there was a huge stainless steel trough full of all types of bottled beverages. Beer, pop, soda, and lord knows what else.
After a very short wait in line we hit the cashier and were greeted with “Welcome to Rudy’s. Have you been here before?” Until then I thought that we were the consumate obvious tourists. The guy behind the counter graciously explained the ordering process to us, made recommendations and executed the process flawlessly. Heck, all the counter staff were like that, and they obviously were having fun both with the patrons and each other, but not to the detriment of the service.
Ordering is a matter of saying what you want and how much of it. For example you would order a 1/2 pound of Brisket Moist or full Baby Back Ribs. The counter guy translates that into some kind of lingo for the guys running the knives. You see the food is still in it’s full form while you’re ordering. So the brisket is a full slab. When you order 1/2 a pound they thin slice it right there for that order. So counter dude yells out “1/2 Pound MOIST!” and “1 BAYBEEE” for our first order. Within 2 minutes he has the food at the counter and he’s putting it into this big plastic tray (think food court tray, but with 4 inch high sides). He also adds some wax paper and explains that those are our plates. Off we head with our food and pick up some utensils and some sause. Yes, that’s how they spell it.
Being that it’s night and cooling off from 90+ degrees, we decide to eat outside. The wax paper plates worked fine. The brisket was unbelievable. The Baby Back Ribs were good, but the dry rub was just too salty for my liking. The Bar-B-Q Sause was great, but after a bunch I was starting to find it a little too salty too. The brisket was so good though. After my first half pound, I went back for another full pound and still could have eaten more. It was so tender and Moist was exactly the description I would have given it.
Also note that we had IBC Root Beer and that stuff is great too.
Overall I’d give Rudy’s Country Store and Bar-B-Q a 4.75 out of 5. It’s almost worth being the sole reason for going to Austin.
With the recent ending of my contract I decided to take a trip out to Nanaimo and visit a friend for a few days of winding down. I was out on the island for a number of days which were spent loading, discharging and breaking a manure spreader, cooking, drinking and dining out. My friend Sees and her roomie Laura love to eat (you’d never know it looking at them) and be out on the town.
The first night I was in town, Laura cooked up a great chicken dish that she learned about while down in Australia. All I can remember about it was that it contained peanut butter. I made some enchiladas and some vindaloo on other nights as well. Overall, in 5 days I ate like a king.
On the last night Laura chose Ilios for a dinner out. When we got to the restaurant, I was surprised how busy it was for a Thursday night. The patrons were a little closer to retirement than the three of us, but that didn’t stop them from having a raucous time. We were seated in a nice 1/2 banquet and greeted by our waiter. I have to cut the guy some slack as it was very obvious that he was very new to the job. That said, he was the least polished part of the evening. At one point, when we ordered our drinks at the start, he tried to take the menu away from one of us before we had the chance to decide on the meals.
In the spirit of relaxation and the good life, we started with some martinis. I had a Dirty Sanchez (tequila, lime juice and something else that I can’t remember) which was unbelievably good. Actually I have 5 of them. I’m on holidays so I indulged…. The martinis that the ladies had were fantastic I was told. One was with raspberry and the other was called a Black Widow (I think).
We started the meal with a plate of Saganaki which was fabulous. I’d suggest to the waiter that he hold the plate a little farther from the table when he lights it up. I think Laura and I are missing some of our eyebrows after that performance.
All three of us ordered pasta. Laura had what looked like a wonderful ravioli dish. Sees ordered a truely mediterranean pasta complete with olives, basil, tomatos and feta. I didn’t get to try it, but looked quite nice. I had the New Orleans pasta which amounted to jambalaya with fettuccini. It wasn’t overly spicey, but it was very nicely flavoured. My only complaint would be that the pieces of chicken that it had were a little bit too big at times.
Because the meal was well sized and it came with two massive cuts of bread, I was in no shape to eat dessert. The ladies, however, had room for something chocolate. I believe it was a chocolate mousse cake, but I might be wrong as I was having another martini for desert.
Over all, I’d give Ilios a 4.75 out of 5. Good atmosphere and vibe combined with great food and marvelous martinis.
Fixed the typo…it should have been 4.75 out of 5 not 4.75 out of 10.
Every year Edmonton hosts the Taste of Edmonton festival at Churchill Square in the heart of the downtown core. Every year that I’ve been in Edmonton I’ve attended. Every year it’s a mass of people meandering between tent kitchens to try the food from about 25 different restaurants, pubs and bars in the Edmonton area.
The food always seems to vary wildly from vendor to vendor, and this year was no exception. Disappointingly, it seemed as though a lot of places were serving the same as they did last year. I might be wrong on that, but it was the feeling I was left with after my initial circuit to narrow the options for my expenditures.
The cost was about the same as last year. Most offerings were for 4 tickets ($1 per ticket) and there was a smattering asking 3 or 5. Surprisingly, one of the 3 ticket offerings was ice cream, and with the temperature hovering around 30 Celcius there was no line up. Of course that meant that I had to try it.
Lee Gardens — Szechuan Beef
What a disappointment. This was less than I would expect from a small rural town’s Western/Chinese restaurant. If you want to reproduce this, buy the Ginger Beef from M & M Meats, cook it dry and then add a weak sauce. The only positive was the portion size…but even that’s a negative when you’re trying to force it down your throat.
Price: 5 tickets
Value: 1 ticket
Krua Wilai — Pad Thai
This was an adequate dish. The taste was good, the portion size was generous and the vendor was quite cheerful.
Price: 4 tickets
Value: 3 tickets
Kyoto Japanese Restaurant — Green Tea Ice Cream
I still can’t believe that there wasn’t a line up at this tent! Ice cream was a must have with the temperature soaring and the event taking place in a concrete jungle. For the price of this, I was very surprised at how large the portion was. I was only expecting half of what I received, but I wasn’t going to demand less this day! The flavour of green tea was quite subtle, but still noticeable. The coloring made me feel like the cook had accidentally dropped an entire container of green food colouring into the bowl.
Price: 3 tickets
Value: 3 tickets
Hong Kong Bakery — Green Onion Cakes
Of all the tents that I walked by today, this was the only one that had a steady line up at it. Once I got to the front of the line I was greeted by a server who just took tickets and handed out plastic cutlery and napkins. Like all of the vendors, Hong Kong Bakery had two offerings. Even with their cheese cake sitting there in plain view, it was quite apparent that the serving staff were only expecting people to order the Green Onion Cakes. The constant demand kept meant that you were getting your cake right off the grill. In fact, I actually had to wait about 30 seconds for them to finish cooking one, throw it from the grill to the plating area, chop it into quarters and serve. Like the rest of the items I tried, the size of the dish was great. Even more importantly, these were to die for taste-wise.
Price: 4 tickets
Value: 4 tickets
Oh ho ho…le Maitre-de tres amour mon steak. But what I do not like is steak that tastes like liver…you know what I mean: cheap cuts that come off the grill tasting like they spent a decade processing poisons inside a cow’s excreatory system. But I digress…
I’ve concocted and perfected this steak marinade over the years. The beauty of this is that it has the potential to be a bit different every time, so although the ingredients are basically the same, the amount is entirely up to you. Hence why I’m using the oh-so-exact terms such as “drops”, “a good pour”, “splash”, and “heaping tablespoon” in this post. So let’s get to it!
In a rectangular container (big enough to hold the marinade and two rib steaks):
Pour enough red wine to cover the bottom.
Pour in some olive oil (approx 1/4 cup).
Pour in a little bit of balsamic vinegar (if you really like it, pour more…if not, pour less).
Liberally shake in the following:
- Curry Powder
- Seasoning Salt
- Onion Powder
- Montreal Steak Spice (be VERY liberal with this one…can never have too much)
Crush a clove (or 2) of garlic and throw it in.
5 shakes of Worstercire (sp?) sauce
3 good squirts of A-1 or HP sauce (use the spicy A-1 sauce for an extra kick!)
3 really good squirts/splats from your favorite bbq sauce *coughBullsEyecough*
2 heaping spoonfulls of Montreal Steak Spice Rub
2 dollops of Tariyaki sauce/marinade
Stir all this in the pan/container until blended. Then soak your steak in it at least overnight.
When it’s time to cook the steak, don’t throw out the excess marinade! Put it in a ban, bring it to boiling, then throw in chopped mushrooms. Spoon the sauce over the finished steaks.
Voila! Bon appetite!