My Edmonton-based pal, Jamie, turned 30 this weekend! We were planning a trip to Edmonton this weekend anyways, so dinner plans shaped themselves up marvelously with Jamie, Alyssa, Jenn and Leduc, who you may know from his food blog, Let’s Eat YEG.
Alyssa used to work at one of Edmonton’s top eateries, RGE RD (pronounced “range road”), so I should not have been surprised that we ended up seated at their private chef’s table on the popular “butchery” side of the restaurant. This little room tucked off to the side is the literal butchery and boasts a massive, heavy wooden table where staff break down animal carcasses of all shapes and sizes after hours. RGE RD focuses on ingredients from local and small producers across Western Canada and the seasonal, farm-to-table vibe is evident from even a quick skim of their tantalizing menu.
We decided to skip the heart-wrenching decisions and put our evening in the hands of the kitchen by ordering their chef’s tasting, the RGE RD Road Trip. (We may have also thrown in a round of wine pairings because hey, it’s a birthday!)
Their glassware and dishes were so pretty! Our opening cocktail (ahem, after we finished our opening bottle of sparkling wine) was billed as a sort of reverse-ratio martini made with vermouth, gin and lemon. It was so bright, citrusy and sweet without being syrupy. Delicious!
The amuse bouche was a tiny bowl of shrimp over a kohlrabi-based vichyssoise. (Have you tried kohlrabi before? I love it – a sweeter answer to cabbage hearts!) Vichyssoise, for those not in the know, is a chilled French soup typically made with leeks, potato and cream. Obviously delicious.
The next dish immediately caused a stir. Leduc had recently attended Edmonton’s celebration for Canada’s Great Kitchen Party (a re-brand of Gold Medal Plates) where area chefs vied for the opportunity to represent Edmonton at the national competition in Kelowna later this year. RGE RD’s head chef, Davina Moraiko, took home the gold with her pork blood sausage, cabbage and apples over cider hollandaise. This dish smelled rich, herbaceous and basically like a plateful of autumn fragrances. I know some might wrinkle their nose at the idea of blood sausage, but please trust me – it’s a real treat! The texture and flavour were so smooth – the flecks of barley and fatty lardo along with the finely ground pork made for a perfect bite. This was absolutely incredible and I can see how it won a gold medal!
Next, we worked in a supplement to the Road Trip with a couple of shareable treats from the regular menu – the Scotch egg being one of them. Incorporating zesty bison sausage and what tasted like a kale aioli and pickled veggies, the tart, rich, creamy flavours and downright pornographic egg yolk were divine. Splitting one order between two people was satisfying, but in a pinch you could probably share one of these between four for a decadent little taste before your main course.
The Grizzly gouda and potato perogy supplement came out next in an onion cream sauce with a warm cabbage slaw and dainty little slices of smoky bacon. Each order comes with six small perogies, so a great plate to share with friends (as long as they’re people you don’t mind seeing you lick the plate afterwards). This onion cream was absolutely insane – it carried really simple flavours but packed a velvety punch. The perogies themselves were delectable, but the sauce truly stole the show.
Land and sea came to mind with the next course, a smoky slab of pork belly topped with mussels over a garlicky pesto. Smoky, salty, but brightened up by the greens in the sauce, this was a delightful alternative to the more ubiquitous pork belly and scallop course I usually cross my fingers for.
The starch course was my absolutely favourite of the night. Creamy butternut squash risotto came out with toasty crushed hazelnuts, crispy fried sage leaves and a drizzle of apple gastrique. Autumn in a bowl! Leduc is a quick eater, but even he slowed things down to savour this incredible course. I kind of hated eating it actually, knowing each bite was bringing me closer to the end of the dish.
I don’t usually talk about a restaurant’s bread basket and the sliced baguette itself was simple and white, but the spread was actually whipped beef fat (!!!) Can confirm, it tastes like… glorious beef fat. Confusing to the palate since your brain definitely expects butter, but a really cool twist on a part of the meal we usually take for granted.
I often skip photographing the palate cleanser, but how cute are these little balls of plum sorbet?
Next came the entrée! We were pleasantly surprised to be served duck with bagna cauda, a creamy, garlicky Italian sauce. This was all dished up over a sour cherry reduction and a cherry-studded hill of spaghetti squash with crispy kale leaves. Tart cherries, cherry, super-rich bagna cauda and duck all bring such strong flavours, but they played off one another perfectly. Another home run!
Last came the apple-based dessert, which I regrettably remember very little of due to the staggering volume of wine and cocktails. I do remember loving the toffee cream at the base, the edible honeysuckle flower garnish, the cream-enveloped ice cream in the centre and the crisp sugar tuile topping the whole concoction like a hat. Apple, toffee and cream – what more could you ask for in a fall dessert?
Our Road Trip was pricey ($89 each + pairings at the time of writing), but well worth the quality, variety and preparation of these incredible ingredients. I would absolutely give this my highest recommendation for a celebratory meal in Edmonton – great for a romantic dinner for two, but also a fun adventure to take on with a group. I can’t wait until the next time I can take another crack at Edmonton’s thriving food scene (ideally once again with some of our lovely friends!)