(Forgive me for posting in non-chronological order. There will be a lot of here and there posts until I catch up!)
Ever since Canteen opened nearly six months ago, it’s been at the top of my list of places to try in Edmonton. It has come to my attention recently that my list isn’t as important as I thought and a little useless if I just go based on what I’m craving for the night. Not only did it take me awhile to make my way there, it has taken me awhile to write about it! The thing is, Canteen isn’t even that far from downtown, nor is it far from the north side where I live. So really, there are no excuses. Except maybe for multiple failed brunch plans but I’ll blame that on Joe since my will for him to wake up in time where brunch is an adequate term never happens.
We finally did make our way down to Canteen by the end of May though. Only five months late but it’s better than never. Being Red Ox Inn’s sister restaurant, there has been high expectations from Canteen. Unfortunately, I have never been to Red Ox Inn (yet!) so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ll let you know this first: I should have went five months ago. And multiple times afterwards. Should really stick to my list.
It was packed when we arrived and with a last minute reservation for 8pm on a Tuesday night, this was a good sign for the restaurant. I was too excited about the menu to look at much else, although I loved the tabletops, which mimicked an end grain cutting board. Also noteworthy, our server offered Still Q water or sparkling water as our water options. It’s $1 per person and if you weren’t thinking quickly, you’d probably say “still water” and get charged. Tap water is fine for me! I would have liked it better if our server mentioned that instead of giving the two options that they charge for.
We started with an appetizer: the salad of smoked whitefish complete with a soft-boiled egg, asparagus, Lactuca greens, pickled onions and mustard vinaigrette. A bit unusual for us because we almost never order salads. It was Joe’s choice though as opposed to my initial instincts of ordering dessert instead. Not sure if it was the soft-boiled egg or the smoked whitefish that caught his attention, but both of them were the star of the dish. Perfectly cooked, runny yolk egg with albeit a misleading coating on the outside that would suggest it was heavily seasoned, mixed into the salad and the dressing made it oh so yummers. Where it lacked in seasoning though, it was made up for by the pieces of smoked whitefish underneath the salad. Imagine smoked salmon, but more fine-tuned. Pretty delicious and refreshing! Definitely recommended.
The special for the evening was duck breast served with a goat cheese arancini, braised cabbage and a sour cherry gastrique. When our server mentioned this, I pretty much had no choice but to order it. I love duck. I think I’ll order duck every time if I’m trying out a new place. It’s just a better and tastier version of chicken. How can you go wrong?! (You can by the way, but that’s a different story at a different restaurant). This dish was well made though, a medium cooked duck breast although a little more seasoning on the skin would be nice. Then again, if that were so, the saltiness of the goat cheese in the arancini would have made the whole dish too salty, so everything worked out nicely. The sour cherry gastrique was pretty interesting, with an unexpected smoky flavor to it to counteract a hint of tartness. Really gave a unique BBQ-esque flavor to the dish. Normally I’m not a fan of cabbage (ever) but I didn’t mind the side of braised red cabbage when mixed in with the sauce.
Joe ordered the Moroccan lamp chops and its presentation blew me out of the water. It. Looked. Amaaaaazing. Served alongside an eggplant caponata with hazelnut celeriac lentil salad and minted raita, it was pretty stellar. The lamb chops were cooked medium and the explosion of flavor from the outer crust of seasoning was fantastic. I know Moroccan food is supposed to have that zip in your mouth, but I’ll be honest, I haven’t found a lot of dishes like that in Edmonton restaurants. Our only criticism: the eggplant was a little overcooked and had that mushy eggplant texture, which neither of us were a fan of. The raita, a yogurt-based sauce, was a great contrast to the spices though and the lentils were done nicely. Given a second round, I don’t think Joe would order it again, seeing that he didn’t enjoy the sides as much as the lamb itself (personal preference though). I would try it again though and hope that the eggplant is not mushy!
So what did I take from the dinner? A stomach filled with excellent food, a dessert side-stomach that felt abandoned, and a reminder to myself to follow my list. Next time I visit, I’ll opt for a dessert because that dark chocolate terrine with creme anglais has my name written all over it. And I’ll want to try the butternut squash lasagna. Sharon had previously gone to Canteen a few weeks prior and didn’t enjoy that dish. I could see where it might have gone wrong, overcook that butternut squash and the pasta and you have a mushy dish. No amount of duck confit can fix a mushy dish! But I’ll have to judge that myself one day! Also, if anybody is able to wake up at brunch time on a Saturday and would like to try the brunch at Canteen, give me a shout. Don’t think Joe will ever wake up in time for it, but I’ll keep wishing.Canteen
10522 – 124 St