What’s the first thing that pops into your mind when you think about eating at the Edmonton International Airport? Maybe it’s grabbing a Starbucks breakfast sandwich, a burger from Chili’s, or appetizers at one of the ‘bars’. I’m almost certain, you aren’t picturing hip, Friday night-out experience. Am I right?
Listen, I’m probably just as guilty as all of you when it comes to thinking about meals at the airport. Usually it’s all about something as fast and as unassuming as possibly, because I’m about to jump on a plane and security took too damn long! I mean, why would you come out to the airport and have a meal when you’re not even flying!?!
To find out why, two of my amazing friends, Linda (http://linda-hoang.com/) and Andrea (http://www.littlemissandrea.ca/), along with our partners headed out to sample the menu at Halo Bar and Bistro. Located in the Renaissance Hotel, which is attached to the Airport via luxurious pedway (if there is such a thing), Halo offers a warm, inviting atmosphere that is very un-airport. If anything, the vibe at Halo is certainly more downtown than wide-open-landing-strips. This Renaissance, which happens to be the only Renaissance-airport hotel in the world, has also gone out of their way to make this an all encompassing experience by hitting all of your senses. There is a cornucopia of textures throughout the restaurant and hotel, music to attract your ears, visual cues to open the eyes, signature scents to stimulate your nose, and, what we are all here for, food to satiate your tastebuds. When you think about it, this stimulating sense has a very Las Vegas vibe and you’d be right. This hotel was designed by the same team behind the Cosmopolitan in LV.
To snag a line from Linda, This evening was especially fun because we got to do it as a group – Andrea, Chris and I were all invited separately by the EIA to try their dining/shopping experiences but since we’re all really good friends and Andrea’s birthday was coming up, we asked if we could share this experience together and thankfully, the EIA obliged! Our hosts for the night was GM David Keam and Director of Rooms, Sumit Bhatia. They were wonderful hosts – whose passion for the hotel really shone through. Our incredible meal at Halo was made by talented Chef Daniel Ducharme and team.
We started our evening at the bar, sampling their small snacks – Perogies, Calamari, Charcuterie, and French Fries – while learning more about the space, hotel, and menu at Renaissance. Maybe it was our attentive audience, but I really enjoyed the passion and engagement shown by the team. They are customer focused, curious, and happy to talk about their traditions. Speaking of traditions, did you know that you can have a free drink at 5:15 every day!! Just look for the siren and listen for the Kim Mitchell.
I’m not much of a go out and just eat appetizers kind of guy, but when 90+% of your demographic is travelers, you better have some delicious munchies. The perogies are locally sourced and come out fried golden and delicious (as a side note, I grew in a family that boiled perogies), the charcuterie plate is made with meats sourced from Alberta and cheeses from all over Canada, the french fries come with a house made Saskatoon berry ketchup, and the calamari…well, that’s probably not local. 😉 All in all, the dishes really were delicious. I’m not drinking alcohol while I take my yoga teacher training, but some of our companions had the signature Manhattan and mentioned it was quite good.
After our snacks, we moved over to the dining room for the main show. Besides the normal assortment of tables, Halo offers two private rooms (separated by sliding doors) and this is where we found ourselves. After a brief rundown by Chef Daniel, we proceed to kick back, order some food, and really enjoy the next few hours. We shared a few more plates, Duck Nuggets, Pork Belly and Scallops. I was secretly hoping the duck nuggets were going to be tiny chunks, but they were full size tenders. I feel like they lost some humour points here.
I opted for the Sturgeon main, and the table was rounded out with an order of Beef Short Rib (they are struggling to get bison right now), Chicken Supreme, and three orders of Lobster Risotto. All of the dishes were beautifully plated and offered good sized portions. Again, they do their best to source local ingredients and showcase Alberta products. It really should be the norm, but again, I didn’t really think about an airport restaurant taking the time to do this. In the back of my head, I picture it being just another sysco supplied food shop. A quick general consensus had everyone feeling happy with their choices, with one knock towards the lobster being a bit overcooked on one dish. On an otherwise great dish, my only point was that I wish the latka base for my sturgeon was a fried crispy, but it also may have just lost the texture from the time it came off the line and to my mouth.
After some time to digest, we were shown around the hotel property. Being a Renaissance brand, the rooms here are above and beyond your basic hotel property. Well appointed spaces, crisp and clean design, and heavy glazing all surround you to ensure the sound of jets doesn’t disrupt your business, sleep, and/or relaxation. We were then shown the one bedroom suites, which are equally as relaxing, before eventually being shown the penthouse suite. A massive space, that has recently been home to Justin Trudeau and other celebrities. The penthouse even has a $6,000 toilet (with a remote) that left all of us wishing we had one at home.
After our tour, we were escorted into the banquet kitchen. Tucked into the wall is an amazing private dining table (for up to 8) with a direct view of the kitchen (including a live tv setup to oversee prep). It was here that we finished our night while sharing spoonfuls of decadent desserts. Chocolate, lemon, strawberry, marshmallow, cream….you name it, and there was something in it for everyone.
Looking back at the pictures as I wrote this, it’s easy to see Halo has no real competition outside of the city (except maybe Chartier in Beaumont). They menu offers enough, but not too much. The food has a local focus where possible. It might challenge the safest of eaters, but in my opinion, Halo offers great options. The food is prepared well and plated with precision. If you don’t go out that often and are looking for some serious value, it would be hard to go wrong at Halo.
The experience was put together by FlyEIA as a way to highlight some of the airport’s many dining and shopping opportunities. As mentioned before, the three of us inquired about attending together and the team at the Renaissance Hotel was kind enough to step up and provide us the space to visit together. A big thanks to the team for having us and showcasing their space. I have no doubt the team at the Renaissance/Halo is focused on providing a great experience and easily fits into a great part of the culinary scene in and around Edmonton.
Lastly, consider signing up for the EIA’s free Rewards program. As a regular traveler, I find great value in the parking discounts. Along with parking, each month they send out shopping and dining discounts. Members are also entered for monthly draws for flight prizes.