Last week I had the revelation that I hadn’t tried anywhere new in quite awhile. Despite the nickname “Deadmonton”, the food scene is ironically not so. New restaurants popping up left and right and here I was just reading about it, not eating it. In a mad desperate dash to get myself back out there, Joe and I attempted to try Woodwork but a booked house led us MRKT instead. It all came back to me… of course the newest hotspots in town need reservations. So that’s what I promptly did for the following Saturday!
Located across from the Westin hotel, it’s a pretty small (mostly narrow) space. The blue neon storefront sign (forgive me, it was way too cold for me to stand outside and take a front facing photo) gives the interior a cool, hipster-ish vibe and alongside industrial style lighting and open duct work, I felt like the space was for the cool, trendy folk of Edmonton. It reminded me of Three Boars Eatery actually, but less down to earth. Felt like I was the new kid on the block who didn’t know anybody… but anyways. I think it’s the blue light. We were a bit early so we sat at the bar while our table was cleared.
The bar, by the way, looked fantastic! Something about the ladder even made it more impressive. Too bad nobody ordered any top shelf liquor that night, closest the bartender got up was to the second shelf. But it was still fun to watch him climb up and down. And maybe I don’t frequent bars enough but eggs…? Apparently the whites are used in some of their drinks to make a light froth.
Joe ordered a Little Scrapper and for myself, an archangel. I was going to order a drink with the egg white froth to try but while waiting to order, I saw the bartender make this drink and boy it looked like a lot of labor went into it. It smelt amazing though! Apparently just Aperol, gin, cucumber, and garnished with a citrus peel. He said it had hints of a strawberry-rhubarb taste to it. Sold! It was decent. A little strong for my taste, but you’re talking to a daiquiri cocktail type girl here. Next time maybe I’ll try something from their drinks menu instead.
You know what drives me bonkers? If there’s a small plates or appetizer section that seems more appealing than the main dishes. Because then you’re in this big pickle of what to do… if you order more small plates to try (yay for selection!), you know you won’t be able to finish your main dish, much less have room for dessert. Why? Why?? Thankfully Joe seems to know our food portions pretty well and listens to these concerns. Consider it one of my “crisis” for the day. So we decided to order two small plates, share a large plate, and if we had room, go for dessert. Victorious!
First small plate to come out was the steak tartare, mixed in with (not-so-much) pickled beets, an egg yolk, and side of waffle cut fries. Traditionally with bread or crostini, it was nice to try a tartare with something else instead. The tartare itself isn’t very well seasoned, but this was probably intentional as the pomme gaufrettes were nice and salty already. Good thinking. I tried to taste the pickled beets but that pickling flavor just wasn’t there. Again, perhaps their intention. The dish had a good texture though and not mushy, something my first experience with tartare made me want to never try it again. Thank God I’ve overcome that episode and thus far all of my steak tartare experiences have been deeeee-licious! Chips can only hold so much tartare though, so the spoon was definitely used to directly eat the tartare, followed by a frite.
The brassica salad came at the same time as the steak tartare. A mixed salad of kale, charred cauliflower, aged farm cheese, and a 63 degree poached egg. There is a vinaigrette on the salad but the poached egg makes everything meld together. Once in awhile I would get a bite of aged farm cheese to give it a saltier note. More cheese, more cheese! But I can say that I have a saltier palate than most so that’s just my personal preference. 2/2 thus far! And probably 70% fullness. Good ordering skills Joe!
It was a toss up between ordering the cornish hen or the rib eye steak with hickory frites and a smoked beurre bercy. Everybody around us was getting the steak, noticed unfortunately after we ordered. But the cornish hen did not disappoint. Well… hm. First our server seemed to go MIA for a short while and I noticed our hen was being walked around the restaurant for a bit by another server who seemed confused as to which table it needed to go to. When she finally delivered it to us, our original server came by and asked us if things were okay. You know how when you haven’t tried the dish yet and a server asks if things are okay…? Of course you’re going to say everything’s okay. Anyways, the hen was nicely split in half for each of us to share already so that wasn’t a problem. What seemed to be an issue though was the fact that I only had a butter knife (I’m talking no teeth here, smooth edges all around) to cut the meat. Is cornish hen small enough to be finger food? Like a chicken wing? What’s your take YEG? In the end, we both decided that the environment called for knives so we struggled a good deal to pull apart meat and bone to have a good bite. Obviously I know I shouldn’t be expecting a steak knife or anything but how… do I eat this properly? The cornish hen was well cooked, moist but with a nice skin, but not the star of the dish for neither me nor Joe – it was the smoked pearl barley risotto. Had to read it twice on the menu too because I thought it was such an odd texture for risotto (much tougher, and initially thought undercooked). But ahhh, pearl barley “risotto”. Makes a lot more sense, and yes! Texture of barley is much different than a white rice. Really well done and a great base. The roasted tomatoes added a nice touch as well. Some bites were saltier than others but when eaten with a bite of hen, mellowed out. Seems to be a trend at this restaurant to have pairings of seasoned and slightly under seasoned components.
It might have been all the hard work I had to put in to cut that hen but I gauged my fullness percentage to be only 80%. Faaaaaantastic! Room for dessert and hopefully not feel overindulged. I’ve got a weak spot for fruits and cheese for dessert, so an order of the pear and goat cheese galette was due. Boy was I glad I had room. A+ dish. Simple and surprisingly light, the dessert was a great addition to our meal. It was the pastry that had me impressed: nice and fluffy, no, flaky is the best term. I compared it to a croissant (and I loooooove croissants, or any French pastry that is). I asked our server if the pastry was made in-house and seeing that it’s a farm-to-table everything-local concept, I sure hoped it was. Apparently some of their staff came from Duchess Bakery on 124St and have had extensive training in pastry making. Score. Definitely recommend ordering any pastry they ever offer at Woodwork because chances are it’s going to be amazing. This particular dish wasn’t overly sweet, something the fresh whipped cream could have easily made over the top. Mmm, more more!
Overall impression? Either I’ve been out of the food scene for far too long and will rave about anything, or… Woodwork is definitely rave worthy. Somebody go try and back me up! Only comments for improvement: service seemed a bit dashy, and your standard, “how are things” with not much to discuss about. It would have been nice if the food was presented with more detail or history behind the local and ever-changing ingredients. We were also seated in the middle of the length of the restaurant but I did notice that every time the door opened, a nice gust of good ol’ Edmonton weather will come in and most likely disturb any of the tables closer to the front. Can’t even imagine what it’s like to be seated there. If you can, ask for a table closer to the middle-back of the restaurant to avoid this. And don’t you dare come early for your reservation because chances are the bar is filled and with such a small front area, it’s just a crowd of people standing around. With a constantly changing menu, I will be back for a second round for sure though. Even lunch looks promising. Give it a try and let me know what you think!
10132 – 100 St