Dine across the beautiful Alberta Legislature grounds with Chef and owner Scott Downey’s coast-to-coast menu: concise, thoughtful, and beautifully representative of Canadian cuisine.
Hidden away before the High Level Bridge and past the street car rails, The Butternut Tree opened earlier this month to offer the best of Canada’s bounty. Previous tenants of The Ledgeview’s main floor space included The Copper Pot and The Phork, long gone and fairly distant in my memory.
The original 120 seats have been cut in half, the glass-enclosed kitchen reorganized, revamped, and a showstopper for diners. It’s not a bad view for the back of house either, the restaurant features panoramic views of Edmonton’s beautiful legislature grounds and river valley. It’s easily one of the most beautiful restaurants in the city. A dining space easily seats 12 for private functions, complete with fresh florals and fireplace.
Chef-owner Scott Downey has cooked at Michelin star giants, Daniel (New York) and Noma (Copenhagen), and most recently, Wildebeest (Vancouver). Downey also founded and operated a foraging company, which supplied numerous fine dining restaurants on the west coast. Growing up in St. Albert, returning home has always been in the plans. The Butternut Tree is named after the only walnut tree to grow in Canada and a memory of his grandmother’s backyard. It’s symbolic of the ingredients growing all over Canadian soil, ingredients waiting to be discovered.
BUTTERNUT, ONE OF TWO SPECIES FROM THE WALNUT FAMILY NATIVE TO CANADA. FOUND IN THE EAST, THE WHITE WALNUT HAS A SWEET TASTE & OILY TEXTURE.
I was able to enjoy The Butternut Tree on two separate occasions: one with a group of friends on opening weekend and one during their media event. I’m happy to say that on both evenings, the service and food was consistent, and surprisingly without a hitch.
Canadian beers and wine are featured on the drinks menu, as are unique long and short cocktails. A focus on locally foraged ingredients come into play with the cocktails: dandelion honeys, sea buckthorn berry teas, and birch syrup just to name a few. I found most of the cocktails to have very interesting flavour profiles and wished that they were more prominent. For my personal taste, I think the cocktails require a tweak or two, perhaps in dilution.
Sumacade Lemon Verbena, Dandelion Honey, Soda, Eau Claire Three Point Vodka
Sea Buckthorn Sweet Tea Charred Cedar Bitters, Sea Buckthorn Berries, Forty Creek Whiskey or Oaked Gin
Juniper & Birch Birch Syrup, Buckwheat Honey, Juniper, Screech Rum
The seasonal dinner menu is concise, thoughtful, and Canadian all around. Reading it piqued my interest, a varying number of ingredients I had never tasted before, and pairings where I could not imagine how my tastebuds would feel. It’s a menu that I think would bode well for the adventurous, and those curious to learn more about Canadian cuisine.
Broccoli Pork Belly, Soft Boiled Duck Egg, Pickled Garlic Scape, Cereal Grains. Curiously, the broccoli isn’t the star of the show, but it’s the burnt leek encrusted soft boiled duck egg. I’d order this numerous times over.
Grilled Bannock Wild Mushrooms, Currant, Kelp, Pumpkin Seed. Easily the best sharing plate on the menu.
Crab Tart Rye Tart, Unripe Crab Apple, Herbs, Smoked Crème Fraîche. This dish is one of the best looking dishes I’ve had all year. It’s a cold dish with a good amount of crab meat. I don’t think it will make an appearance for the next menu, but it’s a perfect way to say goodbye to summer.
Salt Baked Potato Swiss chard, Juniper Crème Fraîche, Pickled Dill Flower, Roasted Yeast. Of all the appetizers I’ve tried, I was conflicted with this dish. My potatoes were perfectly cooked and thoroughly seasoned with salt. The roasted yeast was a bit off-putting for my taste and overshadowed any juniper notes in the crème fraîche.
Miss Tatum Rock Fish Saskatchewan Wild Rice, Beans, Kelp Broth, Herbs. Downey’s use of herbs is prominent throughout the menu and this dish is the most representative its usage. Use of Thai basil brought the rock fish closer to home for me, and lemon verbena added brightness to the dish without adding acidity. A kelp broth is poured over table side, something any diner can get excited about.
Irvings Pork Crab Apple Butter, Lion’s Mane Mushroom, Leek, Potatoes, Hazelnut. For those that hesitate to order pork because of its potential to be a dried out piece of leather, don’t. The Butternut Tree’s pork was the best cooked pork I have ever had in my life. That’s saying a lot. My only criticism: just a touch more salt on the meat itself would have made this dish perfect.
Haida Gwaii Halibut Squash Ragout, Parsley Onion Pesto, Braised Leek, Lobster Mushroom. A dining mate’s dish showcased vegetables like no other. The accompanying sides overshadowed the halibut, although I’ll be the first to say that I’m not a halibut fan to begin with.
Bentley Bison Duo Lentil, Carrot, Cauliflower, Saskatoon Berry Jus. For the media launch event, I ordered the bison. Both cuts (tenderloin and short rib) were well cooked but much like the pork, I would loved a touch more salt. Eaten together with all the other components of the dish made up for a muted protein.
Plum Milk Ice Cream, Honey Meringue, Oat Crumble. I could eat this by the bowlful. Without the honey meringue, the dish reads more like breakfast fruit and granola. It’s perfect for those that don’t particularly have a sweet tooth but still want dessert.
Ployes Cake Maple Butter, Black Currant Jam, Alberta Rose. A beautiful showcase of buckwheat and wheat flour pancakes, popular in the New Brunswick area. It’s a sweeter dessert, and like the plum, could easily be mistaken for a breakfast dish.
Currently The Butternut Tree is only open for dinner service, but if my comments on desserts weren’t any clearer, I think brunch is on the horizon once the dust settles. With a view like that, I can’t imagine a better brunch anywhere else in Edmonton.
THE BUTTERNUT TREE BRUNCH IS COMING.
Overall, service at The Butternut Tree is fantastic: professional and friendly. I do think it’s considered finer dining, albeit without white tablecloths, but the atmosphere and vibe of the restaurant is classy and an approachable formal. I’m happy to see familiar vendors and producers on the menu, it’s a plus sign when a restaurant is transparent. With two meals under my belt, I’m excited to return to try the tasting menu, offered as a whole or vegetarian. Although all meats and fish were cooked beautifully, I think Downey’s vegetables are really what stands out. I’m hoping to get my fair share of vegetables at The Butternut Tree on my next visit. Priced on the higher end, I currently would reserve The Butternut Tree for special occasions.
Note: The Ledgeview is tricky to navigate. The building on the corner of 97 Avenue and 110 Street. Both are one-way streets and the best way to arrive by car is to head south on 109 Street and keep right as you approach the High Level bridge. Making an immediate right turn onto 110 Street northbound will take you to street parking. The Ledgeview also offers free underground parking for The Butternut Tree and tickets at the Impark lot just north of the building can be reimbursed by the front desk.Butternut Tree
9707 110 St
Disclaimer: I was invited to The Butternut Tree’s media launch dinner where my meal was complimentary. I was not expected to publish a post and all opinions are of my own.