Andrea’s recent birthday was the perfect opportunity to take in the newly opened Alberta Hotel Bar & Kitchen. Located in the old Tavern 1903 space, just north of the Shaw Conference Centre, Alberta Hotel Bar & Kitchen is the brainchild of Chef de Cuisine Spencer Thompson (Toast Fine Catering) and General Manager Brandon Baker. The tag line on their website states “Expertly prepared cocktails, and strategically selected single-varietal wine glass pours. Local, seasonal ingredients, combined thoughtfully.” Even though the restaurant is barely up and running, reviews have been mixed. Mixed reviews actually help in my opinion because it eases expectations of those arriving and gives everyone a reminder that things may still need to be flushed out.
The menu is concise, something I like, and it should allow Spencer to focus on the details. To get the night going, I ordered the Bone Marrow Agnolotti. I haven’t found a bone marrow dish I don’t like, and this might have been the first time I’ve ever been pointed in that direction. I don’t blame the bone marrow though, I blame the pasta. It was far too soft for my liking (I have teeth). The celery root puree, which arrived in the bone, did little to enhance the dish while the mushrooms added a nice umami touch. A rich warm up but nothing crazy. My fellow dinners enjoyed the Beef Carpaccio and seemed lukewarm on the Warm Mushroom & Lobster Salad as it was missing seasoning.
For the main, I opted to tackle the Pembina Pork Cheeks. Plating with this dish felt a bit like present-wrapping, as the pork cheeks were hidden under the arugula and tomato jam. The only nitpick I had with the dish, was that the tomato jam was quite firm which made for a bit of a struggle when mixing it together. Everything else was fantastic. The grits were smooth and creamy, the pork was tender and delicious, and the arugula was fresh and peppery. Oh, and there were those delicious mushrooms again. I tried samples of the Duck Breast, which was good at our table but over cooked at others, and watched with amazement as the Manitoba Pickerel dish created some cringe worthy moments.
For desert, it was the deconstructed Banana S’mores. Not every deconstructed dish works, but this one did. The smashed up graham crackers, the brulee’d banana, the torched house-made marshmallow, the house-made banana ice cream…all of it was great. In fact, I’m inspired to torch bananas and marshmallows for dessert this week.
Our reservation of 16 ended up at 4 tables of 4, as they informed us it was a fire hazard to push the tables together. This meant the service was mixed, dishes were poorly timed within the group (some eating mains, while others were eating desserts), and we were still hit with the large group gratuity. I have no problem with the tip, but I did feel our group was proof the kitchen is struggling, both from a consistency and a timing perspective. At the end of the day, I’ll be back sooner than later. The ideas are good. The room is beautiful. I have faith they will get over the inconsistencies.
Fellow dinner dishes