With my human resources counterpart accepting a position elsewhere, I was put in charge of planning the go away meal. Normally this would just be a lunch (likely buffet) during the week, I wanted to do something a little more special. After all, when you spend your days working together on everything from employees, mangers, new hires and dismissals, you start to bond. Putting the food first and foremost, I ended up not being able to fit our group of 11 at my first two choices. As I pondered what to do, I remembered that I’ve been waiting for a larger group to sample the food at Creations Dining Room & Lounge. So I was happy to hear my expected group wouldn’t be a problem.
Arriving 10 minutes before our 6 o’clock reservation, I found a few of my fellow diners enjoying drinks in the bar. The first thing Sarah and I picked out was how striking the room is. Dominated by ‘nature’, the wood heavy room is bold, beautiful and clearly built with aboriginal influences. As we pondered the life-like trees, one of the wait staff who must have been within ear shot, informed us that the trees are in fact freeze-dried. As the clock ticked just past 6, I looked around the barren room and informed a friendly staff member (who turned our to be our waiter) we were ready. Leading us through the massive floor space, we soon found ourselves entering a private room. Decorated with gorgeous Canadian art and warmed by a gas fireplace, the cozy room instantly seemed like the perfect place for this event.
Part of me was surprised to find only two of eleven diners going for appetizers, with Giant ordering Tempura Soft Shell Crab & Dungeness Crab Cake, and The Dutchman bringing back his cheese loving childhood with a Petite Cheese Plate. Both seemed to go over well, with the crab cake and sauce being the hit of the two, while the impressive mini cheese plate included; le cendrillon, cantonnier, sir laurier d’ arthabaska, and alexis bleubry.
Thinking I may create a bit of a wait with so many dishes to photograph, the foodie in me took one in the chest. You see, the above two dishes, ended up being ordered three times each. My hopes of conquering the menu starting to sink. Maybe I need to start hinting to others when ordering in large groups. 😉 The Malaysian Chicken & Prawn (cilantro-soy marinated pineapple chicken | banana leaf | coconut milk marinated tempura prawn Himalayan red & basmati rice | carrot and cardamom fritter | red curry sauce) was a big hit at the table. I was lucky to be given a prawn, and found it perfectly battered but a tad overcooked. Sarah, who was first to order the Steak Chanterelle (char-grilled flat iron steak | roast onion & goat cheese strudel | brandied chanterelle sauce roast fingerling potatoes), described the dish as an outstanding success. I actually have to agree, as she let me sample every item (even the goat cheese!!).
The table also saw Pan-fried Alberta Elk with Chocolate Jus (tenderloin in wild boar bacon | dark chocolate | roasted butternut | wild mushroom barley), Oregano Crusted Breast of Chicken (breast of free range chicken | Mundare grown spicy oregano | meyer lemon | roasted fingerling potatoes), Almond Crusted Alaskan Sole (spinach stuffed Alaskan sole | shaved almonds | orange butter sauce | wild mushroom barley). There seemed to no complaints from the group, besides maybe the portion size. Call me crazy, but I think any time I take people out of their normal dining routines where they are used to massive quantities, this complaint comes up. For me, the one thing I started to see was a lot of repetition. From the wild mushroom barley to the side of broccoli and slice of beet.
Not knowing that there would be so many repeat orders, I started the table with Duo of Tenderloins (lamb tenderloin | brandied cherry chutney | Alberta elk tenderloin in wild boar bacon | dark chocolate jus roasted butternut | wild mushroom barley), which also happened to be the last order on the table. Might as well start and finish the same I suppose. Arriving with the same barley and sides as 80% of the group, I found just one of my two meats cooked perfectly to the requested rare. The lamb (on the left) was sliced into two strips and seemed like an odd shape for tenderloin. I imagine this display had more to do with plating (making the two proteins looked distinctly different), but I can’t help think it would have been cooked better if it shared the elk’s design. Both were tender, but I found neither had any game, or un-beef profile. Sarah, who isn’t a big fan of lamb, actually found that all she was able to taste was the cherry chutney. The barley was a miss, as it wasn’t cooked through, while Sarah and I both agreed that the beets could have also used some additional time in the oven.
I’m not a big dessert fan, so I let Sarah choose something to split. Just like the mains, we quickly realized that every order after ours (but one) was the same. So what did everyone want? Apple Strudel (green apples | dark rum | cinnamon | allspice | nutmeg | sun-dried cranberry ice cream | cranberry nougat). They only other option selected was Strawberry Grand Marnier Pavlova (grand marnier strawberries | french chocolate macroon | cinnamon sour cream | crème fraiche | guava granite grilled pineapple confitti). The strangest event occurred when the server forgot one of the strudel orders. I actually had to track a staff member down after about 15 minutes, in hopes of salvaging something. I say strange, because the two dishes below are the exact same thing; with the initial set of strudels looking like picture one, and the late arrival (which was comped from the bill) picture two.
While everyone enjoyed round one of the strudel, the second dish wasn’t so well received. Not only was the ice cream different, but it lacked the cranberry nougat. Interesting indeed. Sarah and I enjoy every aspect of ours, finding the thinly sliced apples and light pastry more refreshing than filling. As someone who isn’t a big fan of sweets, I found the dessert to be just right combination of ingredients so that my teeth didn’t feel like rotting at the base.
As everyone sat laughing, opening goodbye presents, and enjoying a few more adult beverages, I sat back and relaxed. I don’t remember the last time I was in a private room, but it was great. Of course, it wouldn’t have mattered if we were in the large dinning room, because even on our exit only two tables were occupied. From what I gathered, everyone enjoy their meals immensely. Besides the size issue I mentioned before, I think I lucked out in taking my friends and coworkers to something unknown. The food and concept is steeped in Canadiana, while the room is pleasant and warm. The prices ($40 for my duo), may be higher than your average weekday restaurant , but I think as we move into quality over quantity, we will see an appreciation for such things (don’t get me wrong though, I’m not justifying $40 entrees at run of the mill establishment). The service was a bit spotty (we were in a private room I suppose), but it actually made our evening a little more intimate. I walked in hoping to give all of you a sample of their entire menu but I left realizing that I could have conquered the same thing with a smaller group. Which, as Sarah mentioned, is more than enough reason to go back. Which I will, and I suggest you give it a try the next time you have something to celebrate or someone to swoon.