This upcoming Thursday, July 16, marks the grand (re)-opening of The Westin Edmonton’s restaurant, Share — a reveal of the newly renovated space and of a new Canadian contemporary rustic menu. Giving free reign to Chef Ryan O’Flynn, Share Restaurant now showcases something different, unique, and incredibly fun. I had the chance to try the new menu in June, a preview of what the team at the downtown hotel restaurant has to offer. I’m a fan of being a menu guinea pig!
You might have heard of Chef Ryan O’Flynn, winner of the 2014 Gold Medal Plates Edmonton and subsequently the first Edmonton chef to take the gold at the 2015 Canadian Culinary Championships. At Share Restaurant, Chef O’Flynn is able to showcase what he does best: his art and his drive for competition. His winning dish, a terrine of pine smoked sturgeon and cured Québec foie gras, will be available to diners amongst some amazing dishes that also feature key Canadian or locally-sourced ingredients (think morel mushrooms and bison!) with a French cooking method fused with traditional Aboriginal techniques. A truly Canadian experience and one that was so much fun to be a part of.
Priced on the higher end of the dining spectrum (average of $30 per entree), you won’t be getting a “beef and potatoes” kind of meal. Share Restaurant wants to do something different; to have fun; to showcase the best ingredients Canada has to offer and a one of a kind experience with his diners. In addition to the newly renovated space (modern, contemporary, with a touch of rustic), the restaurant will now also feature a Chef’s Table, a personalized dining experience prepared and served by Chef O’Flynn. With five different tiers of pricing, your personalized meal (minimum table of 6 to book) can start at $80 a head and go all the way up to $400. The meal comes with at least three wine pairings and is designed around the diners, Chef O’Flynn personally working with you to create a menu concept. Once a month, the Chef’s Table will sell for charity at $100 per chair, a way for Share Restaurant to give back to the community. Definitely meant for special occasions and a meal to remember!
To start the night off, Chef O’Flynn served us a disk of in-house bannock bread, made with purple and green corn ground into flour using a recipe and technique he learned from spending time with the Dene First Nations in Fort Providence. Mimicking the Italian style of balsamic vinegar and olive oil mixture, the bread was served Canadian style – canola oil and wild birch syrup from the Yukon. At $380 a litre, the syrup was definitely unique to Share Restaurant and our table mopped it all up!
A light appetizer was next, the House Cured Organic King Salmon Sashimi Style. All the way from the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia, the salmon was topped with salmon caviar, a soy maple lime dipping sauce, and avocado puree. As this was a tasting menu for us, our portions were a lot smaller to allow us to get through the menu. A full plate would have three portions for diners. A big fan of full on umami flavours, I loved the dish!
Fitting for the summer season, the Innisfail Goat Cheese & Okanagan Beets was bright, refreshing, and full of citrus flavours. A whipped mousse of goat cheese surprisingly didn’t overwhelm the dish.
Our third starter dish for the night was the most anticipated one, I’m sure. The Terrine of Pine Smoked Sturgeon & Québec Foie Gras was the dish responsible for Chef O’Flynn’s win. A painstaking week in order to prepare, the the sturgeon comes in whole from Northern Divine (Sunshine Coast, BC) where they are bred for caviar. By buying the older sturgeons (roughly 18-20 years of age), it’s a win win for both the producer and the restaurant. The sturgeon is then cured then cold smoked with pine chips while the Québec Foie Gras is also cured in a ground nettle salt and Selrose (pink curing salt). The two are then married and pressed together into a terrine. To accompany: North West Territories Morel mushrooms and a mixture of Granny Smith and Gala Okanagan apples, and Alberta wheat brioche. Amazing how much passion Chef O’Flynn had describing this dish! A labour of love for him, the sturgeon is one of his favourites.
A Wild Salad, frisée, wild dandelion and foraged British Columbia arugula leave served as a palate cleanser. House smoked duck breast, Canadian prosciutto, venison salami gave a touch of salt whilst North Saskatchewan wild golden chanterelles and North West Territories Morel mushrooms made another appearance.
Hands down my favourite dish of the night was the Grilled Northern Lake Pickerel & Toasted Nut Crust. Considered the “Prairie” sea bass to Chef O’Flynn, the fish was so nicely done. Juicy, thick, and beautiful! A cauliflower and turnip puree and a side of fingerling potatoes and button mushrooms rounded out the dish nicely. Normal plating would be twice this size, a $28 dish that would for sure make me one happy diner. Absolutely loved!
For those who like the “surf and turf”, the Ficken is the dish for you. A pan roasted fillet of halibut (with a crispy chicken skin to top off!) sits next to a poached chicken breast. What’s happening here?! All the components, including the Rocky Mountain chorizo, Taber corn and wild Winnipeg rice, were delicious although I can see some diners scratching their heads on this one. Who would have thought to serve fish and crispy chicken skin together?
The meal continued (oh my heavens!) with the Inuksuk of Alberta Bison. Of all the dishes served for the night, this plate’s preparation was the most interesting. Trying to recreate what he had learned from the Dene First Nations tribe, Chef O’Flynn tried to recreate the smoking technique used. The bison was cured in pine sap and needles for up to four days, then wrapped in foil along with an onion and coffee puree. The package was then slow roasted under soil and birch twigs, mimicking the underground cooking technique. Butter and cream were also smoked and used for the smoked creamed Yukon potatoes. As we were the first diners to try the meal, Chef O’Flynn was concerned about the cooking technique and the dryness of the bison. My bison was perfectly cooked, tender, and not at all dry. Overall? Smoky. A lot of deep, rich flavours with only a few caramelized salsify to cut through. Was it because this was my 8th course of the night? Perhaps. But everything a little heavy for my liking.
We finished the meal with a light dessert, a chocolate crémeux, a showcase of Chef O’Flynn’s French cooking style. The dense, yet soft classic “pudding” was luscious, and the accompanying “Aero” bar bricks were a nice contrast. The dish was brightened by local citrus sea buckthorn berries and an inverted sugar crystal.
By the end of the meal, our table of eight were in good spirits, bellies filled, and all the more appreciative of fine Canadian cuisine. Chef O’Flynn’s passion for Canadian ingredients, Canadian methods of cooking, and the Canadian dining experience was truly inspiring. Every dish will feature a Canadian ingredient and everything is made in-house. Chef O’Flynn hopes to develop more relationships with more producers and supplies over the next few months, in addition to sourcing from small suppliers such as vendors from the downtown’s City Market. Since our meal in June, the dining room has been open for the kitchen’s experimentations but no matter what the tweaks are, I think that the grand opening this Thursday will be a great success! Absolutely love what Share Restaurant is doing and will be one of the first restaurants that come to mind when somebody asks me “what is Canadian cuisine?”
Congratulations to Chef Ryan O’Flynn and the team at Share Restaurant at the Westin Edmonton Hotel. A fantastic and unforgettable meal! Not only is the food delicious, but the stories behind the dish are equally wonderful. If you happen to be dining on a night when Chef O’Flynn is able to come to the table and personally explain the dish, I think that’s what makes this hotel dining experience all the more memorable. That’s what sharing is all about after all.Share Restaurant
10135 100 St