I found myself driving around the ‘burbs this past Monday; yes, even further than Thom’s house! Not exactly sure where Mullen Way was located, I hung a left onto Rabbit Hill Road and headed south with my fingers crossed. Thankfully, Nineteen is located just off the main drag, and is easily found in a strip mall that includes a big Shoppers Drug Mart and CO-OP liqour store. The anticipation for this preview dinner had been building for a over a week. After all, behind the helm of this new venture is Chef Andrew Fung; a winner on many fronts from Swiss Culinary cup to the 2012 Gold Medal Plates.
Taking our seats, Erin and I both found the atmosphere to be warm and refined. If there was no food offered, this masculine space would be a perfect place to pull out the brandy and grab a cigar. Add a beautiful open concept kitchen to the mix, as well striking touches of artwork and design, and this becomes a place that will be perfectly suited for a special dinner or business meeting.
The menu for the night, which included 10 courses, started with a bang; Ahi Tuna Twist – Spicy Thai noodles, Asian slaw and cilantro aioli. The warm noodles and cool tuna made for a tasty combination. The dish offered more spice than I first imagined, yet I quite liked how it built up through the course. We both enjoyed the warmed forks which ensured temperatures were held long enough for the food to be enjoyed.
Duck Sliders – Blueberry duck with chipotle aioli – made there way to the table next. I’m not a huge fan of sliders (for many reasons), so I wasn’t sure what to think. With a touch of micro greens and edible flowers, it certainly was not presented like any other slider I’ve had. The slider itself was rather plain; meat, bun, aioli. The brioche like bun was crispy to touch but yielded to a soft buttery feel- buttery enough to leave your fingers a little greasy. The rich, and juicy, duck meat was a beautiful hue of blue. While I didn’t get a hint of chipotle, I was pleasantly surprised by this slider creation. This is the kind of slider I’d order again.
Dish three was a Miso Marinated Atlantic Salmon – Baby spinach, Thai mussel and onion beignets, crispy onions and wasabi miso dressing. The perfectly cooked piece of salmon was the highlight of this dish. Rare in the middle, the soft texture was contrasted with the crispy onions and savory beignet bombs. The spinach was warm, but not wilted enough to lose all of its bite. Yum!!!
Learning that the fourth dish was going to be seafood, I couldn’t help but think that Chef Fung is really getting his seafood on at Nineteen. The Ahi Tuna & Scallop Ceviche – Ponzu sauce and wasabi pea foam, fresh thyme crackers – was a delicious change from the typical ceviche. Presented on raised plates, the wasabi foam added a creamy spice (think whipped cream), that contrasted beautifully with the citrus of the ponzu sauce. Add in some raw fish and this plate jumped to the front for me. I’m pretty sure that another diner, Linda, could have helped me devour any leftovers that the kitchen might have had.
From sea to land, dish five was Japanese Baby Back Ribs – Sake soy glazed back ribs, fresh herb salad. The ribs were sweet enough to make most happy, yet savory enough to let the meat shine. Not cooked to the point where you can’t pick up the ribs without falling apart, these tender bones gave you the joy of chewing. The herb salad was a big miss at our table, as it didn’t offer the contrast or body to compliment the ribs.
If Roscoe’s makes your everyday chicken & waffles, Nineteen is making something more suited for your birthday. Confit Chicken Waffle – Pulled chicken confit, brie cheese, grilled marinated peppers, quinoa-potato waffle and BC berry reduction. The soft and wonderfully textured waffles (a recipe I’d like to learn) created a base that stood up nicely to the heavy pulled chicken and brie. Easily the heaviest dish to this point, I couldn’t see you eating more than 5 or 8 of these.
Prosciutto Wrapped Scallops – Apple puree, crispy cauliflower, truffle perogies, and grainy mustard cream – landed next. With a rather beige appearance, dish seven did very little for me. The fried cauliflower was akin to a heavier tempura, while the perogy was just OK. Add a token single scallop and I found this dish missed the bright flavours found in other plates. Not a bad dish per say – just one that lacked the punch of those before it.
While I’m no sommelier, I should touch on the fact that Nineteen does have a great selection of wines. With something for everyone, the staff seemed knowledgeable and able to describe the options accurately. An added bonus is the Enomatic machine, which uses argon gas and air tight seals to allow a bottle of wine to be opened and kept fresh for 27 days. A hit for those who don’t want to purchase an entire $100 bottle or for a couple where one may enjoy a white while the other a red.
The Duo of Alberta Pork – Pan seared pork tenderloin, braised pork belly, roasted garlic reduction, sauteed king oyster mushroom and crisp pancetta – was a nice touch, and one that would I expect these days with pork belly still being an integral part of forward thinkers in Edmonton. The delicate loin, sweet yams and meaty king oyster mushroom rounded out a plate that I think will make for a very popular main. If anything, I heard whispers of the mushroom being quite intimidating. I’d be curious to hear what others though about that funghi choice, as I quite liked it’s presences on the plate and in my belly.
Wondering if we’d make it through the entire night without a pasta dish, our ninth offering proved me wrong; Grainy Dijon Crusted Pacific Halibut – Fresh Manila clams, tomato concasse, basil, linguini tossed in French curry cream. The mix of flavours in this dish was certainly surprising. The curry cream pasta base had your taste buds going in one direction, while the heavily dijon-crusted fish took you in an entirely different, tangy direction. Not something I’d have ever thought about combining, Chef Fung proved again that his team can cook seafood perfectly while creating dishes outside the norm. I should note, that while I had clam shells on my plate, there was certainly no meat left inside or visible on the plate.
After conquering nine dishes, our victory dish was a perfectly prepared Caramel Eclair – Creme patissiere and chocolate sauce. I’m not a huge sweets guy, but this airy, soft cream filled eclair was certainly a hit. The delicate dessert, laid diagonally across a paintbrush of chocolate sauce, helped finish the night in a most elegant way. It was so good that I was tempted to sneak in on Tina Faiz and grab her eclair while she was engaged in conversation. I may not be back for opening night, I’ll certainly be making this a stop in the near future. For those that live in the area, I can’t help but think that this will instantly become a huge hit as well as help introduce countless more locals to the joys of Chef Fung.
Finally, I want to thank the team at Nineteen for extending the invitation.
**For another read, check out Linda Hoang’s post here.