Canadian

Off the Beaten Path: Bündok

February 09, 2017

With a new year comes the anticipation of new exciting restaurants. A handful of eateries have announced their intentions to open in and around the Ice District in early 2017, so there is plenty to look forward to this year. One of the latest to is Bundok - a trendy spot along 104 Street committed to celebrating the community and local ingredients.

Bundok - 10228 104 Street - Edmonton AB

Located in the Fox condo tower, Bundok (derived from the word Boondock - meaning rural place/off the beaten path) is a 40 seat restaurant with Chef Ryan Hotchkiss (Jack's Grill, Bar Bricco, Red Star Pub) at the helm. As you walk in you are greeted by a beautiful stocked bar followed by the open kitchen, both of which are surrounded by ample seating for post-work drinks or a casual dinner. Throughout the dining room, dim lighting and minimalist decor give the space an upscale feel perfect for a more intimate dining experience.

The menu at Bundok is separated into two sections - breads/tartines and larger plates. While the menu isn't extensive, there's enough variety between the plates that there will be something for everyone. Everything on the menu can be shared, so we started our evening with the four different tartines on the menu.

All the tartines are served on lightly crisped bread made in house. First up came the Grilled Apple Tartine ($9) featuring grilled Pink Lady Apples, Oka cheese, and clover honey. I've never bought into the appeal of combining cheese with apples, but the combination worked on this tartine. I loved the softened, grilled texture of the apples against the bread, and the sweetness of the honey paired great with the cheese.

The Lamb Merguez Tartine ($10) with mint salad and yogurt with baby kale arrived next. The tartines were topped with a generous amount of the sausage, which was well seasoned and not overly gamey. There were hints of the mint and yogurt, but I would have appreciated a bit more.

Next up came the Chicken Liver Tartine ($8) with onion jam and a sprinkling of coarse salt. The pate was very smooth and the sweetness from the onion jam helped bring out the flavour of the liver, while the bits of salt added a hint of savoury to balance out the sweet. The tartines themselves didn't look appetizing, but the flavours definitely made up for it.

Last but not least came the Beef Tartare ($11), which at first I didn't realize was served as a tartine. The tender cubes of beef had been mixed with egg yolk and pickled black mustard seeds before being garnished with a citrusy kale leaf. The beef was just lightly seasoned and I enjoyed the bits of acidity coming through from the mustard seeds.

Our last appetizer was the one that had the interest of the entire table the moment we first scanned the menu: Fried Chicken Skin ($8). Each order comes with two pieces of melt-in-your-mouth, crispy chicken skin. It's a salty, one-bite appetizer complemented well with a dab of honey mustard. You'll want to order enough for one piece per person because you would be a fool to share your piece with someone else.

For our dinner we opted to share three larger dishes off the menu amongst the four of us. Our first choice was the Pan Fried Trout ($25) served with carrots, great northern beans, and a rich beurre blanc. The trout was seared perfectly golden, giving it a nice crust before breaking away into the soft flesh of the fish. Unfortunately we found the dish to be underseasoned, and the beans could have been cooked a bit softer for my liking.

Our second protein dish was the Grilled Game Hen ($25), herb marinated and accompanied by charred cabbage, mushrooms, and wheat berries. I was happy to see wheat berries on the menu as they're a great Canadian grain and one that I feel are underappreciated. I love the chew and texture to them! Like the trout, our game hen was beautifully cooked, but again the other components of the dish could have used more seasoning.

As a side to our mains we ordered the Gnocchi Parisienne ($18) cooked in a brown butter sauce with roasted squash. The gnocchi looked amazing covered in a dusting of grated cheese. Each piece was a soft pillow of dough with a hint of nuttiness from the brown butter. Unfortunately, like our mains, a heavier hand could have been used in seasoning to make this dish truly stand out.

We ended our meal with one of each of the desserts available on the menu. The Chocolate Tart ($9) looked different from a typical tart, this one with a cookie-like tart base topped with a layer of dark chocolate and three little meringues. I found the base to be a little thick and dry for my liking, but appreciated that the tart wasn't overly sweet.

The Citrus Posset ($9) was my preference of the two. A posset is a cream-based pudding-like custard, similar to a panna cotta, but just a little heavier. Possets are also usually citrus-flavoured as they require acidity to thicken the cream. Bundok's version was silky smooth with a sharp, but not overpowering, hit of citrus. The posset was topped with chunks of apple, fennel, and earl grey syrup, all which added contrasting texture and contrasting sweetness. I would happily have a bowl of this dessert all to myself.


Fried Chicken Skin - salty, crispy goodness

I applaud Bundok's commitment to using and showcasing Canadian ingredients, so the menu will be changing seasonally to reflect availability of produce. I personally loved the feel of the space and it's a great spot for dinner before a concert or game at Rogers Place given that it's within walking distance to the arena. With so many restaurants coming into the Edmonton food scene, new restaurants will have to work hard to be noticed. Our dinner at Bundok had some hits and misses, but hopefully a bit of time will bring more consistency to the dishes coming out of the kitchen.

Bündok Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Canadian

Sausages & Beer: Otto Food & Drink

January 13, 2017

When a new restaurant hits the Edmonton food scene it's usually somewhere in a popular neighborhood, be it along Whyte Avenue, 124 Street, or the Downtown core. But one of Edmonton's newest eateries finds itself in an unexpected area just outside downtown in Norwood.

Otto - 11405 95 Street - Edmonton AB

Owned by former Culina partner Ed Donszelmann, Otto quietly opened it's doors late December with a menu dedicated to sausages and local craft beers. Being of Dutch heritage, Ed hoped for Otto to be a neighborhood meeting place modelled after restaurants found in Amsterdam and throughout Europe.

In an unassuming location, Otto sits on the main floor of a small apartment complex. This 50 seat restaurant features booths, multiple tables, and a large community table flanked by classic wooden classroom chairs. The decor may be simple, but the homey touches up at the bar give the space a cozy feel.

Craft beers are really starting to take off in Alberta, given the number of microbreweries that have popped up in the last few years. As a restaurant specializing in sausages and beers, you can bet Otto has an extensive beer list - one which primarily serves Alberta brews. Lagers, ales, IPAs - the list goes on and there is a beer for every taste. Alternatively there is a small, expertly picked wine list for non-beer drinkers.

As for the menu, sausages make up the bulk of the offerings. Otto currently has six signature offerings on the menu made locally by Steve Furgiuele of Fuge Fine Meats. All sausages are reasonably priced at $7 and are served with a small side of sauerkraut and your choice of mustard (yellow, dijon, or hopped). If you're looking for something more substantial add a bun and a pickle with your sausage for an additional $2.

On the night of our visit we chose to sample a range of sausages, including a special they had for the evening. Everything arrived on a platter served family-style, making the meal interactive for our group. We ordered:

  • American Andouille - medium spiced & seasoned in a Southern American style
  • Chorizo Verde - an interpretation of the regional Mexican specialty with tomatillos, smoked peppers, and fresh cilantro
  • Italian Fennel - medium spiced with toasted fennel seeds, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Calabrese chili flakes
  • Merguez (choice of Lamb or Beef) - North African inspired sausage made with FUGE's Harissa paste
  • OTTO Dog - exclusive to OTTO - Sylvan Star mild smoked gouda bratwurst with caraway seeds and fresh garlic
  • Cornbread Boudin - the special of the night - braised chicken with cornbread, blueberries, apricot and fennel
Each sausage was well spiced and had it's own unique characteristics. What I really appreciated was the fine balance of meat to fat, lending to a moist but not overly fatty sausage. The men at the table unanimously named the Cornbread Boudin sausage their favourite due to the varying textures and light sweetness, but my favourite had to be the OTTO dog. It had great texture and the garlic combined well with the melted, oozy gouda.

Our board was also accompanied by mustard and housemade sauerkraut and pickles. While the components were great on their own and didn't have overpowering flavours, I did find that they did compete with some of the flavours in the sausages. I actually found myself using them more as a palate cleanser in-between the different sausages, allowing me to go from one style to the next without mixing the flavours together.

As for sides, Otto offers seven options, most of which you would typically find as accompaniments to sausages or hot dogs. We opted for the mac & cheese ($6 sm/$10 lg), potato salad ($5 sm/$9 lg), and sunchokes ($8). The mac & cheese was flavourful and saucy and the potato salad was a nice side, but what caught us off guard were the sunchokes. Sunchokes are highly overlooked as a root vegetable and while I'm not particularly a huge fan, Ed said we had to try them. They were delicious - lightly seasoned and roasted perfectly for a nice crunch, the pairing with fermented tomato salsa makes these a must have.

Our last dish of the evening was the Currywurst with fries ($12), one that our German friend was particularly excited for. Currywurst is a common street food found in Berlin, so he was hoping that Otto's iteration would remind him of home. Offered sweet or hot, we went with the former and weren't disappointed. The sweet curried ketchup was well seasoned and went well with the bratwurst and crispy fries.

Despite visiting on an extremely busy night, our service was met with a smile and we had no complaints with our food. Otto is serving up great dishes at affordable prices, making it a great addition to the neighborhood. It's a casual spot for dinner (and maybe lunch soon!), and high chairs make it easy to bring the family down for a no-frills meal. I will definitely be back to try more off the menu - don't be surprised if you see me surrounded with bowls of sunchokes and an OTTO dog!

Side note - Steve Furgiuele of Fuge Fine Meats is currently running an Alberta BoostR in hopes to open Edmonton's first salumiera. Click through to see how you can help this awesome local business!

Otto Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

bakery

Bringing Pastry to the South: La Boule Patisserie + Bakery

December 14, 2016

One of my greatest weaknesses is beautiful pastry and dessert, so when I heard a new bakery had opened up in Old Strathcona, coffee and a sweet treat was my top priority this past Sunday morning.

La Boule Patisserie + Bakery - 8020 101 Street - Edmonton AB

La Boule Patisserie + Bakery opened it's doors last Tuesday in a quiet area of Old Strathcona among other local independent shops and businesses. Jennifer Strang, former pastry chef at the Shaw Conference Centre, is owner and pastry chef of this new addition to the neighborhood. This information had me especially excited because the Shaw Conference Centre is home to some pretty incredible desserts.

The space is open with a minimalist feel, but is warm and inviting with enough seating for 12-15 customers. The bakery was surprisingly busy for early on a Sunday morning, but I'm sure the residents in the area are happy to finally have a patisserie shop to call their own. -


Petit Pain au Chocolat

Walking up to the counter revealed three different pastry cases - one for eclairs, one for cakes and tarts, and a third smaller one for cookies, croissants, galettes, and scones. All of the options sounded delicious and it took all my self-restraint not to order one of everything. But that just gives me an excuse to return, right?


Pastry Case

On this visit we picked out four different treats to try: the petit pain au chocolat ($1.25), a spiced apple eclair ($4), a white chocolate raspberry tart ($4.75), and a vanilla bean cherry cheesecake ($6). The mini chocolate croissant was the perfect three-bite pastry to have with coffee. Layers of crispy, flaky, buttery dough paired perfectly with the semi-sweet chocolate, making me almost regret not ordering the larger size.

I'm not much of a white chocolate fan as I find it can be too sweet, but it was just right in the raspberry tart. The tart crust held together and was baked perfectly to not crumble apart. Each bite was creamy with just a hint of raspberry, so I found myself wanting more of the fruit flavour to come through.

La Boule plans to eventually feature 9 different flavours of eclair, but during our visit spiced apple was the only one available. The pate a choux pastry had a nice rise, giving lots of space for the pastry cream to sit in. The spices were subtle and the eclair had great texture with the bits of apple in each bite. I can't wait to try out some of their other flavours, but for now, classic, black forest, and tiramisu are the other three available.

The vanilla bean cherry cheesecake (left) was beautiful with a garnishing of dark chocolate and a leaf of edible gold. Breaking into the cake revealed a layer of cherry compote and a thin graham cracker crust. This cheesecake was nice and light, which was a nice change from the usual dense, rich cheesecake that we come to expect.


Chocolate Caramel Tart - $4.75

La Boule serves coffee and espresso using Cafe Monte, a Calgary-based coffee roaster, and their tea blends come from UK-based Tea Pigs. Depending on your drink and choice of pastry, a visit will cost you roughly $5-$10, which is very reasonable given the quality of the cakes and pastries you're paying for.

With just over a week since opening, I've seen nothing but high praise for La Boule on social media. It's definitely well deserved and it's about time the south side of Edmonton got a pastry shop to call their own! Loaves and baguettes will be available in January as the team continues to test their ovens, but the future holds lots in store for La Boule. Stop by if you're in the area for some fantastic pastry!

La Boule Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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