Canadian Ingredients From Coast to Coast: The Butternut Tree

October 08, 2017

Just beyond the Alberta Legislature Building behind the High Level Bridge is Ledgeview Centre, home to The Butternut Tree. Floor to ceiling windows offer unobstructed views of the Legislature grounds and the river valley, which provide the beautiful backdrop to Edmonton's newest restaurant.

The Butternut Tree - # 101 9707 110 Street - Edmonton AB

Chef and owner Scott Downey has returned to his hometown after ten years of discovering ingredients and flavours abroad. Chef Downey brings with him the experiences of cooking in the highly acclaimed kitchens of Michelin-starred Daniel (New York), NOMA (Denmark), and most recently, Wildebeest (Vancouver). Opening his first restaurant is allowing him to pay homage to his experiences by showcasing the bounty of Canadian ingredients from coast to coast.

Growing up in St. Albert, returning to the prairies has always been in the plans for Chef Downey. Having spent many summers in New Brunswick with his family, the restaurant is named after the butternut tree in his grandmother's back yard. For him, the rings of the tree symbolize the vast number of ingredients growing on Canadian soil, and the ingredients yet to be discovered.


Elderflower Tonic

The Butternut Tree could easily be named one of the most beautiful restaurants in the city. This open-concept 58 seat restaurant with high ceilings and rustic wooden accents offers panoramic views and the perfect setting for intimate dinners. The glass-enclosed kitchen offers transparency and allows diners to get a closer look on how the dishes are prepared. For larger groups, a private dining room complete with a fireplace and a private entrance seats up to 12.

I was lucky to find myself dining in the private room amongst friends and fellow bloggers on media night for The Butternut Tree. Our dinner started off with an amuse bouche of salt-cured halibut dressed lightly with juniper oil, chives, apple, and marigold. The one bite was fresh and pleasing to the palate, setting the bar high for the dishes to come.

The menu at The Butternut Tree is a great representation of seasonal, Canadian ingredients. The menu is thoughtful, concise, and brings together unique ingredients in combinations that you may have never seen before. I found it difficult to choose my dishes for the evening since everything sounded so interesting, but I was also happy to see many vegetable-forward dishes.

The Broccoli ($16) brings together roasted pork belly, pickled garlic scapes, cereal grains, and a leek ash dusted soft boiled duck egg. Cutting into the duck egg made it apparent that it was the star of the dish, with the oozing, rich yolk bringing all the components together. The pickled scapes brought the perfect contrast against the richness of the yolk, and I quite enjoyed the texture of the cereal grains lining the plate. This dish was a unanimous table favourite.

The Grilled Bannock ($14) is a fantastic sharing appetizer, served as four individual portions. With a crispy exterior and tender centre, the bannock merries it's smokiness with the umami of wild mushrooms, winged kelp, berries, and pumpkin seeds. It's a dish I would easily order again and consider having all to myself.

The Crab Tart ($14) was arguably the most beautiful dish of the night, almost too pretty to eat with the garnishing of herbs and edible flowers. The crispy rye tart held a generous portion of flaked crab meat, herbs, smoked creme fraiche and thinly sliced unripe crab apples.

Moving onto the main courses I opted for seafood, as all the options at The Butternut Tree are Oceanwise certified. The Miss Tatum Rockfish ($36), caught off the BC Coast, is plated with Saskatchewan wild rice, herbs, and a mixture of dragons tongue, fava, and green beans. The dish is finished with a light kelp broth poured tableside, giving this dish an A+ for presentation. The herbs in this dish are quite prominent, giving each bite layers of flavour, but personally I did find one to have a bit of a bitter aftertaste that didn't quite suit my palate.

My fiance ordered the Bentley Bison Duo ($44) with a juniper butter brushed striploin cooked medium rare, and a fork tender braised bison short rib. The protein was accompanied by lentils, carrots, cauliflower and Saskatoon Berry jus, all which gave a nice contrast to the perfectly cooked bison.


Haida Gwaii Halibut

The Butternut Tree offers two desserts on their menu to end the evening on a sweet note. The Plum ($10) is lightly sweet with it's milk ice cream, honey meringue and oat crumble. Reminiscent of a fruit and granola parfait for breakfast, this dessert was right up my alley with the different textures and subtle sweetness.

The other option is the Ployes Cake ($12) where thin buckwheat pancakes are stacked and layered with black currant jam and finished with maple butter, whipped cream, Alberta rose petals and berries. Like the plum dessert, the ployes cake could also pass as a breakfast dish. Although dense, the cake was not overly rich and heavy like some desserts can be.

From the moment we ordered our drinks to the last bite of dessert, the we all had a wonderful evening of good food and hospitality. The Butternut Tree currently offers dinner service with a la carte plates or a tasting menu (5 course $90, $75 for vegetarian), with plans for weekend brunch in the works. Given the location and atmosphere, the restaurant does feel more upscale and is the perfect setting for an intimate meal. The use of local, seasonal ingredients also lends to a higher price point, making it a restaurant I would reserve for special occasions. With Winter around the corner, I'm looking forward to a return visit to see what Chef Downey puts on the next iteration of the menu.

*Disclosure: I was invited to a media night at The Butternut Tree. 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.

The Butternut Tree Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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