I kicked off November with some pretty delicious eats at Edmonton’s newest restaurant, Ampersand 27 (&27). While others were more excited to dress up and celebrate the extended Halloween weekend, I was looking forward to date night with Joe at the Whyte Avenue hotspot. Promising an experience “crafted to be different”, Ampersand 27 was no trick, and definitely a treat!
You might already know of chef patron and owner Nathin Bye, previously the corporate chef at the Lazia Group (Lazia, Wildflower Grill, East). With an extensive repertoire of restaurants behind him, named one of Avenue Edmonton’s Top 40 Under 40 in 2013, and the youngest two-time winner of the Gold Plate Medalist competition in Edmonton, &27 will be his fifth venture, with a main concept of locally sourced cuisine but with a global and diverse influence. “Local” to Nathin doesn’t necessarily stop at just food though. The restaurant not only is from Edmonton, but for Edmonton, proudly supporting local artists and craftsmen within and around the Edmonton area. Their coffee mugs, for example, are handcrafted by Bon Accord potter, Heather Edwards; and our serving board for the night made by Truwood Artisans from Stony Plain. Sculptures, paintings and prints throughout the dining room were also locally sourced. Teaming up with chef de cuisine Greg Myshynuik, previously the executive chef of Stages Kitchen & Bar, Ampersand 27 also has a diverse culinary team. And the name? “Ampersand” at one point was considered the 27th letter in the alphabet, a slurred form of “and (&) per se and” that traditionally followed after “Z”. Because it didn’t resemble a speech sound, it eventually fell out of favour, seemingly, “different” from the rest of the alphabet.
I’ve never been to Murietta’s, the space which &27 has taken over, but judging from photos of the space, the interior has gone through a nice change. The space seats much less, has an open, lighter, cleaner decor, “Nordic”-inspired and very cozy. A large lounge area and bar to your right as you enter featuring an enormous television screen, big enough for a decent view no matter where you are in the restaurant. A dining area to your left, featuring two large communal wood tables with low hanging bulbs and a lattice of lights for a warm experience. A closed off dining room in the back corner of the restaurant looked perfect for private functions and events.
Drinks menu includes a good selection of cocktails and beers. I opted for the Scintillant Fig, a play on an Aperol Spritz (my new fave!). Presentation was impressive, my glass coming out with a frozen star anise on the bottom and an Aperol, grapefruit shrub, and Prosecco mixture poured at the table. Lovely! The grapefruit flavours were prominent, which I enjoyed, and near the end of the drink, the star anise had broken free and left a pleasant aroma.
Joe went for their version of a Caesar, the Vodka Swine: vodka, Clamato, crisp bacon, twisted Caesar fixin’s (dijon, maple, tabasco). It had quite the kick to it, and wasn’t overly salty as some drinks can get. He must have enjoyed it, ordering a second round for the night. For my next visit, I’m looking forward trying the wine selection. &27 has the Enomatic wine preservation system, which allows for a sampling of their available wines, charging by the ounce, your standard glass, or by the bottle.
The menu is extensive despite it all fitting on one page. Extensive enough for me and Joe anyways that I’ve determined we need to go back to try more plates! Most dishes are for sharing, bigger than your average tapas plate, comfortably allowing 3 – 4 people to grab a couple of bites each. We ended up being more conservative that night, ordering only two sharing plates. Ampersand 27 also features a handful of larger provisions (main entreé formats) and flatbreads.
The maple butter pork belly would make anyone’s mouth water. It’s pork belly, come on. A significant amount of slices will make diners happy all around. Additionally, it came with baked beans and (heavily) seasoned Southwestern mesquite corn, a little overpowering to my taste, but definitely flavourful. The fritters were ahh-maaaazing. A sweet corn batter mixed in with a little bit of cayenne pepper, hint of vanilla, and agar to hold when deep fried, they had the smoothest texture! Past the crispy exterior, the texture reminded me of cheese. They could have given me a plate of pork belly and fritters and I’d be in heaven.
Our second dish: an Arctic char crudo. Thinly shaved asparagus on top of sliced raw Arctic char, with what appeared to be tempura-based batter deep-fried avocado slices (yum!), sesame crisps and truffle and soy reductions spotted on the plate. One of Ampersand 27’s Asian-inspired dishes, the plate was refreshing for us, a stark contrast to our maple butter pork belly. Other dishes that peaked my interest: the Living Salad, Seared Albacore Tuna, Pastrami Pork Cheeks, and Confit Parsnip. Next time!
We ended our meal with a charcuterie board, customized to our liking. The menu features a variety of meats, cheeses, breads, patés, pickles, and condiments for a DIY-style of charcuterie. For meats, you can’t go wrong with Proscuitto de Parma, and to try something different, we ordered the lamb merguez (sausage), and chorizo. My favourite was the chorizo, an in-house recipe (it’s pretty spicy!) and made for &27 by D’Arcy’s Meats in St. Albert. Wildgame Consultants make the lamb merguez for them, a gamier flavour than I would have imagined and less flavourful compared to the chorizo.
Our cheeses for the night, both from Quebec: Brie Cendre Des Pres, a pasteurized cow’s milk soft cheese; and a wedge of Baluchon, a raw cow’s milk semi-firm cheese. Both were soooo good. The brie was beautiful, with a maple wood ash line, and oozed easily onto our baguette slices. Joe’s preferred the Baluchon, a super creamy cheese with a smooth texture and milder tones of earthiness and herbs. Ampersand 27’s selection of cheeses is a mix of in-house (herbed ricotta), local (pecorino from The Cheesiry), and Canadian selections. Yum! We also threw in full sour Kosher pickles to the mix. Total cost of our charcuterie – $34. With most charcuteries running around that price, I fully appreciated that we could choose what we wanted on our board. And we barely finished it.
By this time, Joe was looking at me with eyes that said, “Please don’t order dessert”. But we all know that’s not going to happen. I ordered the Citron Bleu, a lighter alternative to the other options on the menu (doughnuts, chocolate, toffee pudding, red velvet). The lemon buttermilk mousse was smooth, creamy, and very reminescent of a lemon meringue pie. Blueberry compote and Earl Grey gels to add another dimension of flavour, and milk crisps for an extra crunch rounded out the dish. Absolutely loved this dessert!
It’s early in the game, I know, but honestly if I hadn’t known it was a soft opening, the evening seemed as if they had been there all along. Our server was polite and knew the menu pretty well, although a little rehearsed but that’s to be expected. She was also training another server at the time. Our orders were taken quickly, and food was timely spaced. Our night ended with a little gift from the kitchen, housemade selections of taffy: creamsicle, root beer fizz, and cucumber gin. All delicious, although plating was a bit of an issue since the taffy was nearly stuck to it, making it difficult to pick up. Perhaps individually rolling it as some other restaurants have done, or just on waxed paper? The cucumber gin was surprisingly intense in flavor, fantastic! Nathin Bye was very much on the floor, visiting tables, chatting, and happy to answer my questions. It was a pleasure meeting him in person! Definitely will return for dinner, it’s a great spot for sharing plates for sure. Ampersand 27 also offers a lunch menu, plus a brunch menu on the weekend. Who wants to be my brunch date?
Ampersand 27 (&27)
10612 82 Avenue