Downtown

Menu Revamp: LUX Steakhouse + Bar 94

July 16, 2017

Downtown Edmonton is full of dining hot spots. These days it feels like there's a new restaurant popping up on every street corner and it's hard to keep up, but it's also equally important to remember to support the established restaurants.

LUX Steakhouse + Bar 94 - 10150 101 Street NW - Edmonton AB

The Century Hospitality Group has always been a prominent player in the Edmonton culinary scene. The group runs multiple restaurants throughout the city (MKT, Delux Burger Bar, etc.), and even has further expansion plans this Fall. There has been a lot of movement in the Century Hospitality Group over the past few years, with chefs moving around and concepts being changed, so I was looking forward to trying out some of the fresh new dishes on the menu at LUX.


Baked sourdough, Truffle butter, Fresh herbs

Chef Tony Le has been with the Century Hospitality Group since 2006 and took on the role as Executive Chef for the group over the last few years. Out of all the restaurants, LUX has always been a staple for people working in the downtown business core. Located within Commerce Place, it's easy to walk to and caters to both the lunch and dinner crowd. The dining room has more of an upscale feel, while the lounge is more relaxed.

Our night started off with a selection of small bites and shareable appetizers, and first to the table was the Kale Salad ($9/$13). Kale tends to be a love it or hate it ingredient, but I found that this salad with honey lemon vinaigrette, shaved Sylvan Star Gouda, ground pancetta, and walnuts to be well balanced, light, and really fresh with the citrus notes.

Pork Belly fans at the table were happy to see the next dish come to the table. The 24 Hour Bacon ($14) features a slab of bacon that is braised for 24 hours before being cut and seared. Each piece was fatty and seared crispy, pairing well with the acidity from the mustard and pesto served on top.

The Lobster Croquettes ($19) were crisp, decadent morsels perfect for sharing between two or three people. With a combination of Atlantic Lobster, mascarpone cheese, and Yukon Gold potatoes, the croquettes were rich but not overly dense. The exterior was fried golden and topped with crisp herbs and truffle aioli, adding an additional dimension of flavour.

Next up came the Spicy PEI Mussels ($17) cooked in a sauce of Sriracha pesto, leeks, white wine, parsley and shallots, and served with a side of grilled bread. The mussels were plump and fresh, and the sauce was seasoned well so as not to overpower the natural flavour of the mussels.

Last but not least was the Bone Marrow Stk Tartare ($17) with it's unique presentation right in the bone itself. Unfortunately, unconventional presentation made the tartare difficult to mix as the bone below didn't have the marrow roasted out of it. Using AAA Alberta beef, dijon mustard, capers, herbs, roasted garlic, and crispy shallots, the tartare was fragrant but could have used a bit more salt for seasoning.

Main courses served family style is new to LUX, but Chef Tony wanted to incorporate some dishes that encouraged sharing amongst the table. One of the boards is a classic Surf + Turf ($115) featuring a 24oz lollipop ribeye topped with sautéed langoustine, a generous side of lobster mac & cheese, grilled rapini, roasted fingerling potatoes, and classic bernaise sauce. The ribeye was cooked to a perfect medium rare and the mac & cheese was rich and creamy, as expected. The potatoes may look like a filler, but well seasoned fingerlings are a great accompaniment to any steak, if you ask me. Based solely on the price point you may be looking for more food, but don't be fooled as this surf + turf can easily fill 2-3 bellies.

You could hear everyone's amazement when the Crispy Corn Meal Snapper ($69) made it to the table. I never expected to see a whole deep fried fish staring at me outside of a Chinese restaurant, so I was excited for this one! This whole Pacific Snapper was served on a bed of crispy chickpeas and cabbage and accompanied by a board of iceberg lettuce, thinly sliced radishes, grilled avocado, cilantro, and salsa verde. The hands-on eating was fun and interactive as we worked on building our own crispy 'fish tacos'. Now if you're not a fan of looking your food in the eye, the kitchen is happy to serve the snapper with the head off.

It's been a few years since my last visit to LUX and I was pleasantly surprised by our meal that evening. While LUX is branded as a steakhouse I like that there are modern twists and unexpected surprises on the menu. There are some premium prices that would prevent it from being your go-to restaurant, but it's a great spot downtown for your next special occasion or celebratory meal.

LUX Steakhouse and Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Edmonton food

An #Unforgettabowl Party with Edo Japan [Recap & Giveaway]

June 19, 2017

If you've followed my blog for long enough you'll know that there is one type of food I love more than anything else. Morning, night, and any time in between I'm always on board to enjoy a bowl of noodles.

Meals in a bowl are picking up in popularity - they're quick to prepare, delicious, and usually nutritionally complete. Last month, Edo Japan rolled out some new bowl-centric menu items as their interpretation of the trend and they asked if I would be willing to host a party to learn about and taste some of the new items. One of the items was a noodle bowl, so of course I couldn't say no.


Shrimp Tempura Chop Chop Bowl

I gathered a bunch of friends together for a fun evening at Edo Japan's Windermere location. We've all had Edo Japan at some point or another (hello post-secondary years!), so we were all curious to see what the bowls would be like. Edo's two new items include the Noodlefull Bowl and Chop Chop Bowl. The Noodlefull bowls feature a bed of thin ramen-style noodles topped with a stir fry of fresh snow peas, broccoli, carrots, and red peppers. Each bowl is made to order with Edo's signature Teriyaki sauce and served with your choice of grilled chicken, beef, shrimp, or additional vegetables for a vegetarian option. The bowls were generously portioned, and the chewy egg noodles were a nice change from the usual yakisoba noodles Edo Japan is known for.


Beef Chop Chop Bowl

The Chop Chop Bowls on the other hand offer a choice of beef, chicken, or tempura shrimp layered on top white or brown rice and fresh raw vegetables. Each bowl is finished with their new savoury bulgogi sauce and garnished with green onions and sesame seeds. We all agreed that the name was a bit misleading as we all imagined seeing raw scallops in a rice bowl, but the Chop Chop Bowl was a great fresh option with the raw cucumber, carrots, and red peppers. The Chop Chop bowl is only around for a limited time, but I would actually love if it became a permanent menu item - it's healthy and the raw vegetables make the bowl feel light and fresh.


Beef Noodlefull Bowl

Of the two bowls we tried there was no real consensus of whether we enjoyed one bowl more than the other, but I personally feel that the Chop Chop bowl is a fresh, tasty option for when you don't feel like eating anything heavy on hot summer days. This is probably the only time I'll prefer rice over noodles, so you'll want to try the Chop Chop Bowl while it's still around! A big thank you to Edo Japan for helping me host an #Unforgettabowl party!

But of course I didn't forget about my readers - Edo Japan has kindly offered a $40 gift card to one of my readers to have an #unforgettabowl meal of their own with a friend (or two!). Head on over to my Instagram for all the giveaway details. Good luck!

*Disclosure: I was asked to host a social media party in conjunction with Edo Japan's new menu items. Views expressed in this post are solely mine. This post is 100% my opinion, and as always, my priority is to you, the reader, to present an unbiased, thorough review.

Downtown

Oh Yes, Ono: 'Ono Poke Co.

June 02, 2017

Edmonton has been waiting a long time for Hawaiian poke. I've tried variations of the dish on menus, but none of them have been true to the Hawaiian classic. Just weeks after the opening of Edmonton's first poke spot comes 'Ono Poke Co., promising to bring authentic poke to the prairies.

'Ono Poke Co. - 10142 104 Street - Edmonton AB

In the Hawaiian language, "ono" means fish and "'ono" means delicious. It's a play on words, and either would be quite the fitting name for Edmonton's newest poke place if you ask me. 'Ono Poke Co. is slated to officially open to the public tomorrow (June 3rd), but I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek earlier this week with a group of friends.


Sous Chef Matt Lafleur, Executive Chef Lawrence Hui

In early May Chef Hui travelled to Ka'anapali Beach in Maui, spending a week learning from some of Ka'anapali's top chefs and immersing himself in Hawaiian culture. It was important that he understood the roots of Hawaiian cuisine so that he could rightfully present the food and honour the ingredients back home in Edmonton. Each chef he spent time with shared their stories around Hawaiian culture and traditions and shared their versions of traditional and modern poke. Chef Hui had drafted a menu for 'Ono Poke Co. prior to his trip, only to completely change it upon his return to reflect what he learned while in Hawaii.

If you've ever been to Hawaii you'll know that you can find poke almost anywhere. Whether it's at the local grocer, Costco, or at the back of a liquor store, every place has it's own take on poke since Hawaiian cuisine draws it's influence from a multitude of cultures. It's like a melting pot of cuisines - you can find Filipino, Chinese, Korean, Puerto Rican, Portuguese, and Japanese flavours in many dishes, and Chef Hui is reflecting some of that influence in his menu.

'Ono's chef-driven menu will offer six different poke bowls, featuring Ahi Tuna, Atlantic Salmon, Albacore Tuna, braised pork, and a vegan/gluten free bowl using a variety of beets. Bowls are available in regular (6-8 oz. | $11.95-$14.95) and large (14 oz. | $13.95-$16.95) sizes and have the option to be built on a bed of furikake seasoned rice, seasoned quinoa, or a spring mix salad. Two special poke bowls will be on rotation daily, and there is also the option to pick up marinated poke (at a market price) or a variety of sides to go like housemade kimchi, japchae noodles, and taro chips. The proteins, slaws, and garnishes are sourced locally whenever possible, so it's nice to know that the poke is sustainable!

The first bowl we tried was the 'Ono Poke, this shop's namesake dish. The 'Ono Poke features chunks of ruby red Ahi Tuna mixed with shoyu, sesame oil, ginger, seaweed, and white onion, and then is topped with macadamia nuts, a sprinkle of Hawaiian salt, sea asparagus, green onion, and Asian slaw (red cabbage, daikon, carrot, cilantro). It's poke in one of it's simplest forms and it really is delicious. The tuna is cut into large chunks, is well marinated, and is a fair portion size. The slaw and macadamia nuts offer some freshness and crunch, while the strands of sea asparagus bring a hit of briny flavour from the sea.

Next up we tried Uncle Tom's Surf Poke, named after Executive Chef Tom Muromoto of the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel. Chef Muromoto used to be a pro-surfer and actually took Chef Hui out to surf one morning during his trip, so this bowl is aptly named. This poke features Ahi tuna mixed in a spicy tobiko aioli with white onion and topped with cucumber, edamame beans, green onion microgreens, sea asparagus, and wasabi crab chips for crunch. Hawaiian's love their mayo, but I appreciated that the aioli wasn't heavy and didn't overpower the natural flavour of the tuna. The tobiko gave the dish some additional flavour with each pop, while the cucumber and beans brought freshness and texture. And those crab chips? So addicting I could eat a whole bag.

Last but not least was Chef Hui's modern take on poke with the Prairie Luau. If you like something with a bit of heat, this one is for you! Gochujang braised pork is shredded and paired with a gochujang vinaigrette and garnished with Chinese black fungus mushroom strands, cucumber, white onion, housemade kimchi, green onion, and cilantro before getting a drizzle of Evoolution's Harissa olive oil. While the bowl isn't overly spicy, it sure packs a punch in flavour. If you're a sweet and spicy fan ask for a scoop of 'Ono's pineapple mango salsa on top - it brings the bowl to a whole new level.

While 'Ono has yet to open it's doors officially, I can confidently say that Edmonton has a lot to look forward to. The fish is fresh and appropriately seasoned, and the bowls well portioned and balanced. I'm definitely looking forward to return to try the other bowls on the menu and see what kind of specials 'Ono will come out with. Hawaiian style shaved ice is also in the works, but it will be a few weeks until it makes its debut, so stay tuned! Chef Hui has worked hard to bring an authentic taste of Hawaii to the prairies, and 'Ono Poke Co. will surely make his mentors in Ka'anapali proud.

'Ono Poke Co Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

*Disclosure: I was invited to a casual sneak peek at 'Ono Poke Co.. Views expressed in this post are solely mine. This post is 100% my opinion, and as always, my priority is to you, the reader, to present an unbiased, thorough review.

Downtown

Making Waves: Splash Poke Opens in Edmonton

May 31, 2017

Poke, the traditional Hawaiian raw fish salad, is no doubt an up-and-coming food trend outside of the Hawaiian islands. Over the past year there have been variations of the dish on many restaurant menus, but now Edmonton finally has it's own dedicated poke place in the heart of the city.

Splash Poke - 10079 109 Street - Edmonton AB

Splash Poke opened it's doors last week on the main level of The Mayfair building on the corner of Jasper Avenue and 109 Street. If the hour long lineup around the building on opening day was any indication, I'd say Edmontonians have been waiting a long time for poke!

Poke (pronounced poh-kay) in its simplest form is fresh raw fish cut into cubes, lightly seasoned, and served on tender sushi rice. Traditional seasonings are heavily influenced by Japanese cuisine, where soy sauce, sesame oil, green onions and seaweed are predominantly used. Served as a meal it's healthy and delicious, so it's no wonder it's becoming so popular outside of Hawaii.

My fiance and I stopped by for lunch right before the doors opened at 11, and a small lineup of 5-6 people started to form right behind us. People want their poke! The space is decently sized with natural sunlight brightening up the space, with coral and teal tones providing a bit of cheerful colour.

There aren't really any instructions on how to order, but as a fast-casual dining spot the process is fairly self explanatory. Follow the signs above the counter to order a signature bowl, or customize your own with their variety of proteins, toppings, and sauces. Pricing is dependent on the protein portion size (single $9.95/ double $13.95/ triple scoop $15.95) and whether you choose to add premium toppings (Ahi Tuna +$1, Avocado +$1.50).

Off the 'Splash Favourites' menu Splash Poke offers four bowls: The Works, The Classic, The Tropical, and The Spicy. The favourites are only offered in the double size and no substitutions can be made. Gordon went with The Tropical bowl which featured salmon, scallop, splash aioli, cucumber, seaweed salad, crab mix, tobiko, pineapple, and mango, all topped off with crispy onions, panko, and additional aioli.

The bowl was beautiful with bright pops of colour and fresh fish, but I found it to be overdressed with aioli and with some competing flavours given the number of components. All mixed together the bowl felt quite heavy, and I was also a little disappointed to find masago instead of the promised tobiko on the menu. The double splash was decently sized, but we felt the portion of fish could have been more generous.

For myself I went with the build your own bowl option to customize a bowl to my liking. Building a custom bowl proved to be extremely difficult as the glass (acting as a sneeze guard) separating myself from the employees behind the counter was questionably tall. I found myself having to yell my order at the employees behind the glass separation - I couldn't hear them and they obviously couldn't hear me. Judging by the orders made after us, others had the same difficulty. I can't even imagine how hard it would be to order a custom bowl when the space is full of customers.

I ended up ordering ahi tuna with sweet onions, cucumber, green onion, seaweed, and jalapenos mixed with a combination of shoyu and spicy garlic sauce. I finished my bowl with tobiko (which again was actually masago), crispy garlic, nori, and sesame seeds, but unfortunately due to the difficulty in ordering my bowl was drizzled with splash aioli and sriracha aioli which I hadn't intended to order. The ahi tuna was fresh, and the sauces had enough flavour to add punch to the fresh ingredients. Without the addition of the aioli, this bowl would have been spot on for me.

As Edmonton's first dedicated poke restaurant, Splash Poke is paving the way for more spots to open in the city. Although the bowls aren't true to those you would find in Hawaii, it's great that Splash offers the ability to customize bowls. However, with customization comes longer wait times, as each bowl is built in an assembly line fashion and dependent on how well the communication is on each side of the counter. With some adjustments to the the glass partition and staff familiarity with ingredients, customers should be able to get in and out of the restaurant in no time.

I'm glad to see that poke has finally made its way to Edmonton, and can't wait to see what comes next!

Splash Poke Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Edmonton food

Fish Straight from Japan: Takami Sushi

May 11, 2017

There never used to be many options for Japanese food in Edmonton but if the number of restaurants opening over the last few years is any indication, it seems like Edmonton has developed a taste for Japanese food.

Takami Sushi - # 108, 10430 61 Ave NW - Edmonton AB

Takami Sushi is the latest to join Edmonton's food scene, located on 61 Avenue just off of Calgary Trail. Taking up a space on the ground floor of a new development, the restaurant is easy to miss if you aren't looking for it.

The space is open with a modern, industrial feel - high ceilings and polished concrete floors are accented with orange and brown decor. The restaurant has two separate seating areas, one with smaller tables and a second with long banquette seating perfect for larger parties.

My first visit was for dinner with friends to celebrate my recent engagement to my fiance, and the ambiance of the restaurant was perfect. Our meal was off to a great start with an order of Beef Tataki ($14) garnished with red onion and wakame seaweed. The tataki was thinly-sliced, tender, and dressed with a tasty ponzu sauce. I prefer my beef tataki dressed well with toppings, so I felt the portion of onions and seaweed could have been more generous.

The menu at Takami feels smaller than most, as the priority is to showcase premium fish and ingredients from Japan. Red Seabream, Uni, and Bluefin Tuna are just some examples of the premium fish they fly in every Thursday, so I don't think I need to tell you which day to visit if you want a taste. Unfortunately we had dinner on a Wednesday night, so I definitely need to plan a return trip in the near future.

To give their regular selection of fish a try we ordered the 18 piece Deluxe Assorted Sashimi ($36). What came to the table was absolutely stunning - salmon, yellowtail, ami ebi, octopus, squid, and surf clam on a bed of ice, garnished with greens, flowers, and even dry ice. It was almost too beautiful to eat! Taking presentation and quality into account, the sashimi is quite reasonably priced at $2 per piece.

Takami's menu offers a selection of 8 maki rolls which are a nice option if you aren't a sashimi eater. We ordered four to add some variety to our meal, and first up was the TNT Roll ($17). With avocado, crab meat, shrimp tempura, garlic sauce, unagi sauce and hot sauce, the roll was substantial and flavourful all on its own.

Out next was the Rainbow Roll ($15), a standard maki roll with avocado, crab meat, and an assortment of fish. There was a fair portion of fish on each piece, but nothing special to write home about.

The Dynamite Roll ($15) caught my eye on the menu as it's different from the standard - Takami's version has chop chop scallop in addition to the usual combination of tempura shrimp, avocado, and cucumber. The scallop was fresh and the portion generous, giving the roll great value for what you get.

We rounded off our meal with the house specialty - the Fire Sake Roll ($17). The menu description makes the roll sound incredibly complicated, but the combination of ingredients really works. This roll has tempura shrimp and cucumber wrapped with torched salmon which is then topped with mayo, unagi sauce, green onion, tempura flakes, and a generous sprinkling of crisp deep-fried yam strings. This roll brings a bit of everything to the table - it's savoury, a little sweet, and packed with crunch.

It is also important to note that the wasabi served with every dish is ground in the restaurant. It's fresh and has a slightly different bite to it.

Given the quality and assortment of premium fish, Takami Sushi is a great option south of the river for those who enjoy fresh sushi and sashimi. Sushi Wasabi has been a go-to for us for years for quality fresh fish, and now Takami is a serious contender. Service was attentive during our visit, and our server was very knowledgeable about the fish and the menu. With the stunning presentation and quality of fish, we'll definitely be back to Takami sooner than later!

Takami Sushi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

*Disclosure: I was invited to try a meal at Takami Sushi. Views expressed in this post are solely mine. This post is 100% my opinion, and as always, my priority is to you, the reader, to present an unbiased, thorough review.



Home Cooking

Quick, Healthy, Easy: Hello Fresh Meal Plan Delivery

April 06, 2017

If you follow me through my social media channels you'll know that not only do I like to check out new restaurants, I love cooking at home too. But cooking at home isn't always easy for me after a twelve hour shift - especially if it's my third in a row.

Back in November I tried out the weekly meal subscription service by Chefs Plate and was impressed by their business model and quality of ingredients. Their weekly delivery of ingredients and easy recipes made healthy eating and meal planning so much easier. At the start of 2017 Hello Fresh emerged on the Canadian market as an alternative to Chefs Plate, so I had to find out if there were any differences between the two!

Hello Fresh was actually founded in 2011 in Berlin and operates in several locations in Western Europe and North America. Similar to Chefs Plate, Hello Fresh is a subscription-based meal delivery service that promises to deliver local, farm-fresh ingredients to your door with chef-curated recipes.

Hello Fresh offers three different types of boxes: the pronto plan, family plan, and veggie plan. The price changes according to the type of box and the number of people you're ordering for (2 or 4 people), so you're looking at spending anywhere from $10.83 to $12.33 per person per meal depending on your preferences. As it is a flexible subscription service there is also the option to skip deliveries if you're planning to be away for the week or have different dining plans.

So how exactly does it work? It's super simple:

  1. The week prior to your delivery, pick and choose the meals you want according to your meal plan (pronto box, family box, veggie box), and specify your delivery date (Tuesday or Wednesday). 
  2. Hello Fresh will purchase, portion, and package all of your ingredients and ship it right to your door. 
  3. Receive your box and get cooking! 
Hello Fresh currently offers delivery via Purolator to Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Newfoundland, and the Maritimes. The company is quickly expanding to meet demand and will hopefully make it to your province soon if you're outside of these areas. Deliveries arrive at your door in a fully insulated box with ice packs to keep all the ingredients fresh, so you don't even need to be home at the time of delivery. That's what I call convenience!

Hello Fresh set me up with a two person pronto box and a two person veggie box to try and I was very impressed with both plans. All the dry ingredients and vegetables arrived fresh while the proteins were packed separately at the bottom of the box with the ice packs.


Shrimp Banh Mi Burger

The recipe cards were visually appealing and easy to follow with pictures accompanying each step in the recipe. Like Chefs Plate, the ingredients and amounts were listed out in case you wanted to recreate the dish in the future, and nutritional information was available. But what I was really impressed with was that each recipe listed out kitchen tools required and potential allergens in each ingredient. This is wonderful for people with food allergies as it isn't always apparent when you're cooking something new.

When it comes down to packaging, everything was recyclable, from the box, to insulation, to ice packs. What I appreciate about Hello Fresh is that the ice packs can actually be sent back to the company through their recycling program to be reused. It feels much better to be able to give the ice packs a second life than to open and drain them down the sink as instructed by Chefs Plate!

While comparing the two companies I also noticed some other subtle differences:

  • in the Chefs Plate ingredient boxes there is no branding other than with the Chefs Plate logo, meaning that you don't know what brand of ingredients you are using, and additional packaging was used in sending the ingredients to you. With Hello Fresh, small items like broth concentrates, sour cream, vinegars and hot sauces are branded, so there's less packaging wasted. 
  • Hello Fresh does not include items like oil or butter in their boxes while Chefs Plate does, so you need to ensure you have some on hand prior to cooking 

After giving the two boxes a try, I have to say I really loved the Hello Fresh experience. All of the recipes were easy to follow and the meals were on the table ready to eat in 35 minutes or less. I felt that although you were restricted to choosing from 4 recipes (Chefs Plate allows you to choose from 7 recipes), there was still a variety of different choices. I cook a lot of Asian (Thai, Vietnamese, Korean) and Italian food at home and yet I felt that a lot of the recipes I cooked in the two week period pushed me out of my comfort zone. I found myself making dishes with Egyptian and Mediterranean spices, and I even followed a Tunisian recipe. I found new recipes I loved and will definitely use again in the future.


Greek ragu

A lot of people have asked me whether Chefs Plate or Hello Fresh is a better option, and I honestly enjoyed the Hello Fresh experience more. Hello Fresh is a bit more expensive ($80 per week versus $66), but I enjoyed the Hello Fresh recipes more and being able to return the ice packs for recycling is a big plus as it is important to me.

If we're comparing ingredients, both companies offered very fresh, locally sourced products. When it comes to the dishes themselves, more often than not, I found myself saying 'wow' after the first bite of every recipe from Hello Fresh - something that didn't happen for me with Chefs Plate. The recipes are truly delicious and you get near restaurant quality results in your own home with Hello Fresh. I also found that each recipe made enough for three portions, bringing down the cost per meal. So for me, it's a no-brainer to go with Hello Fresh for their meal delivery service, but I do encourage people to try both and compare for themselves. If you're interested in giving Hello Fresh a try, use my code ANDREA50 for 50% off your first box and let me know what you think!

*Disclosure: I was sent two Pronto boxes from Hello Fresh for review. Views expressed in this post are solely mine. This post is 100% my opinion, and as always, my priority is to you, the reader, to present an unbiased, thorough review.

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