Sunday, April 6, 2014

Up next on our YEG Restaurant Tour: Rge Rd

Last night we set out on the second of our quest to try each of the restaurants on Avenue Magazines list of Best Overall. Immediately after our great experience at Tavern 1903, we booked a table at Rge Rd, holder of the #1 spot on the list.

I've seen a lot of great reviews of Rge Rd from bone fide restaurant reviewers and regular folks posting kudos on twitter and yelp. It sits in the #1 spot on Avenue's list. It is very highly regarded, and so I think that sets expectations very, very, very high.

Rge Rd surprised me a couple of ways before we started our meal. The first is it's location. It's tucked away in a tiny, unassuming little strip mall in Glenora, northwest of downtown proper. The second surprise was how  tiny it is, with a total of 44 seats. The room is cozy and intimate. This may sound odd, but I was a bit distracted by the decor. There were too many different textures in the room. Cedar clad beams, wood look tables in a different shade, laminate flooring in yet another wood like finish, white subway tiles behind the bar, a glimpse of exposed brick in the kitchen. On the other hand, the light fixtures were fabulous.

Rge Rd endeavours to serve local ingredients, and that includes an extensive list of Canadian wine and beer. Something I really respect. (In a former career I took French clients to a local restaurant, where their request for a recommendation for a Canadian wine caught me and the server off guard.) It's lovely to find somewhere that celebrates our own producers.

Serving local produce here in YEG must present challenges, especially in the deads of winter. But it is also a sentiment that I have great respect for. My personal bent is that local food matters more than organic food - after all, how "good" can organic bananas picked green, ripened with gases en route and requiring tankers of diesel to transport be?

Our server, Darren (we think - we aren't completely sure, so if we're wrong, apologies) was great. Very confident and humorous, and of course appropriately attentive.

Now on to the food.
Our table of four shared the Kitchen Board and the Roasted Beet and Baby Greens Salad to start.

I love beets, and salads that include them. This salad was nice, but it didn't knock my socks off. The beets themself were a little soft for my liking and a little mellow flavorwise. The best element of the salad was the little cucumber cube filled with Anise flavored creme fresh. That was delightful.

The Kitchen Board changes daily, and last night included a Rabbit Tourine, local brine-cured ham, cheese, and scotch eggs. I didn't taste everything on the board but I think the four of us were in agreement that the scotch eggs and aioli were remarkable. They had us discussing just how one would go about making scotch eggs.

I ordered the Bison entree. It is served with roasted carrots and hazelnut spatzle. The bison was beautifully cooked and very tender - which is a feat in itself with bison. The spatzle was underwhelming - quite bland and non descript. The flavor that stood out the most on that plate were the roast carrots. So much so that should I return to Rge Rd I'd likely order the roast vegetable entre.

Sheri had the duck breast, and the guys both ordered the daily beef. The mashed potatoes that accompanied the steak were very good. Sadly, the beef itself not so much.

We all had dessert too: Sheri and Daryl had Apple Galette and both enjoyed it. It's served with a scoop of amazing, smoked ice cream. Richard had the cheese and fruit tray, and I had the poached pear with lavender creme brulee. I wish that the pear were either warm, or chilled. At room temperature it did not have that great, sweet pear taste.

Beside the beef steaks being less tender than they should have been, there was nothing to dislike about our meal. The preparation and presentation were perfect. The service was great. Prices and portion sizes were in line. However, I cannot write this without adding a BUT. I've chatted with both Daryl and Sheri about this so far and we are all in agreement: this meal was very good but it was not exceptional. Small tidbits stood out: the creme fresh and cucumber, the aioli for the scotch egg, the roasted carrots, the smoked ice cream, the wine. But the rest, and the "stars" of the plates, were under seasoned and unremarkable.

On my personal list of top 5, Tavern 1903 sits atop of Rge Rd. While I do think I will return to Rge Rd, I think Tavern 1903 is destined to be a place we go to often. And, there are still three places on this list to try - three more opportunities to knock 1903 from the pedestal I've placed them on.

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