Red Ox Inn Review

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I really don’t feel like giving a too indepth review today, so I will cut this one short.

The good:

  • Best goat cheese salad I have ever had (appetizer)
  • Great choice for value house wine (Chilean Sauv Blanc).  Wasn’t superb, but it was a good choice by the manager to bring taste with value.
  • Desert was simple, but effective. Basically a large brownie, but it was good.  Not too much, not too little.

The bad:

  • Way too loud, it was difficult to have a conversation with someone sitting 2 feet away from me.
  • Privacy issues! somewhat related to the loudness, our table was about a foot away from our neighbors table. Which means that without even trying I get to listen to every conversation they are having!

Long story short? well, I wouldn’t return to this place, it just wasn’t all that great.  too bad I guess.

Blue Pear Restaurant Review

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This will be a little bit shorter and to the point than the previous two reviews, mostly because I just don’t have the time today to write up a large review like I did the last two.

We went to Blue Pear Restaurant on Wednesday of last week, this was said to be the most expensive of the four restaurants that I am trying for Fork Fest 2009.  The restaurant itself is tucked away just off of 107th ave on 123rd street, not exactly clearly visible, but easy enough to find.  Something that struck me as odd was that upon arriving at the entrance, the door was locked, and you must in fact ring the doorbell to get in (after someone comes to the door to unlock it).  Inside is a fairly small room, no more than 15 tables total.  This helps keep the dining experience a little more intimate and cozy (i suppose).  There are no walls or panels separating the tables, but when you are only dining with about 4 or 5 other tables the noise level is pretty low already.

Our waitress was extremely nice and very helpful (even going as far as fetching a wine book to feed my interest in a southern Italian location that I had not heard of).  The Fork Fest menu was predetermined, which means that you don’t have much choice on what you get for dinner.  There was a nice wine feature that we ordered, it was a paired wine with each course (appetizer, entree, and desert).  While I didn’t necessarily find the wines to pair immaculately, they were pretty good and I above all else appreciated the effort (and convenience of different wine with different food for one price).  The wine feature is for two people only (or multiples of two I suppose), which could be a little disappointing, but should be fine in most situations.  Our appetizers arrived shortly, a mushroom dish which unfortunately I could barely touch (though i did give it a taste just to be sure).  I absolutely despise mushrooms (as does my girlfriend) and this was just an unfortunate situation for the both of us.  The entree when arctic char, which considering I am not a big fish fan either, was pretty darn good.  I thought the food was exceptionally good, everything on the plate complimented one another and it was just an all around good effort.  For desert, we were given a home made lemon whipped cream dish with Saskatoon berries.  The cream was very lemony and tart, something that I enjoy a lot.

To sum things up, this restaurant surely deserves its reputation as one of the finer restaurants in Edmonton.  The food was on par for what I expected it to be, and the service was exceptional.  Definitely recommended to people as something to try if you are interested in a well prepared meal at the cost of a heavy price.  The prices are on the very upper echelon of the price scale, at $89 per person.  I would likely not eat here again, but that’s just because at my stage in life, the price simply outweighs the experience.  However, for someone who is more financially secure, this restaurant certainly has an advantage over many of the other restaurants in Edmonton.

Two Restaurant Reviews: Von’s and Jack’s

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Since it is Edmonton Fork Fest right now, I have been taking advantage of some good dining deals at some of the nicer restaurants around town. I chose to go to four restaurants over the two week period that Fork Fest is taking place (any more and it gets to be a tad too pricey). I picked four restaurants that sounded good, and were likely places that I would otherwise never visit (usually due to the cost of the food). Fork fest gives me the opportunity to test out whether or not their food truly deserves the associated price tag.

The reservations are as follows: Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday the 19, 20, and 21 will have myself and my girlfriend head to Von’s Steakhouse and Oyster Bar, Jack’s Grill, and Blue Pear Restaurant respectively.  Blue pear is tonight, so a review will follow our evening (likely tomorrow).  But for the time being, I can give a fair and unbiased review of the previous two experiences.

Before I start, I will explain that I am not the typical food reviewer, I am not snobby and I put emphasis on food rather than experience.  I am also not unrealistic (like 99% of the food reviewers out there), what I write I feel is fair and accurate.  What I write could be taken literally by someone looking to try the place out themselves.  Something else that separates me from the pack is that I usually opt for value driven wines.  I am  not interested in what the best wine a restaurant has to offer (you pay enough you can nearly guarantee a good wine).  I am interested in how well they select their value wines, because it is not difficult to find a REALLY good bottle of wine for under $20.

Von’s Steakhouse and Oyster Bar

This restaurant can be found just south of Whyte avenue on Gateway (which means you have to access it from the west on 80th ave, it will be on your right).  When we arrived (at 7:15 PM) the place was nearly empty, which I thought was a little odd, but I don’t do much dining on the week days.  As a benefit, the relative emptiness of the restaurant gave us a lot of privacy.  We were seated in one of the many booths that looks like it could accommodate up to 4 people.  The booths are separated enough to enjoy private conversation without having to reduce the amplitude of your voice, this is something I do value in a restaurant.  I’ll get this out of the way so I don’t have to get back to it, our server was friendly and prompt for the entire evening.  As you know I don’t care much about service, as long as it is reasonable, which it certainly was.  We were given some bread to start, I didn’t really like the bread, but I’m sure others might find it better.  It was something like rye with cranberries baked in, just didn’t appeal to me.  Our wine and appetizers arrived shortly after; I had the steak soup and my girlfriend had a caesar salad.  I had opted for a Chilean red wine, but they informed me they were out of stock, so I tried a Spanish wine instead.  The soup was good, kind of a salty gravy like soup with (rather large) chunks of steak in it.  The soup certainly was not a life experience, but the saltiness actually paired well with my wine.  The salad was nothing too fancy, the bacon was real bacon which was nice to see.  However, it was very crunchy, something that is also good to see, but it could also mean that it has been sitting out for a while.  None the less it was tasty.  Our meals arrived without too much delay (I would not expect much given the number of vacant tables).  We both opted for the beef tenderloin medallion.  I always order my steak rare, as i feel this is the best way to enjoy a steak; so something I look for when I order steak is whether or not the steak was cooked for the right length of time, I am pleased to say that it was.  The steak was juicy and tender, everything that i had hoped for.   I can’t go much more into detail since there isn’t much else to say, it was good.  For desert I had fresh fruit, while my girlfriend had a slice of carrot cake.  The cake was tasty, very moist and definitely delicious.  My fruit on the other hand was bland and still thawing.  Honestly, I didn’t expect much from the fruit so I was not disappointed.  All in all, I enjoyed my experience at Von’s, I really think that it is imperative for all wines on the list to be in stock, but other than that it was a good experience.  I would definitely eat here again (maybe opting to try oysters for the first time instead), however my next meal will likely be a the next Fork Fest, the prices did not match the quality of the food.  By that, I mean that the same quality of food is attainable at a lower price point in other establishments.  One last mention, by the time we left (which i can assume was around 9:00 PM) the restaurant was still relatively vacant, nothing negative, just an observation.

Jack’s Grill 

This restaurant can be found between the U of A south campus and the Southgate shopping mall.  Our reservation was for 7:30 PM, when we arrived the restaurant was already fairly busy, very few vacant tables.  We were however seated promptly, which I guess I should expect since we had reservations.  The tables are covered with paper, which struck me as odd, that is until I noticed that we had a glass of crayons near the edge.  I was a little confused as to whether or not we had been seated at a family table (and that this was a family restaurant), but I noticed that some other tables were sporting the gear.  The service was a little slower here, but understandably so since it was busy, nothing unreasonable.  The menu was a little confusing since it printed the Fork Fest price of $35 per plate at the top, then had prices of $35 for each entre as well as ~$10 for each appetizer.  You can largely ignore this (must be there so you know how much it normally costs), and just pick one of each, deserts are explained post dinner.  I ordered carpaccio and (another) filet mignon, while my girlfriend ordered the salad and the lamb.  The carpaccio was nice (I always love good carpaccio), could use a tiny bit more cheese on it, but otherwise it was pleasant.  The salad was a little strange, it looked like leafs of romaine lettuce  (unbroken) and a dressing drizzled over top.  It also came with a fish garnish (to which my girlfriend passed onto me) that looked like something sweet on a hardened bread slice with an anchovy on top.  The slice of bread is similar to what you would eat bruschetta with, the sweet something I couldn’t deduce, and I haven’t really had anchovies before (other than the, ugh, pizza 73 experiment) but it looked like one (and tasted how i expect one would taste).  To summarize, the garnish was surprisingly delicious (I was experimenting OK?!? I don’t eat all that much fish or random things that I don’t know what they are!).  After the appetizers, our meals took a little longer to arrive, longer than I would deem a comfortable waiting time.  When they did arrive, I was really getting hungry so I sadly devoured the steak a little faster than I normally would have done (don’t worry I still enjoyed it).  The steak was good, it came with garlic mashed potatoes (one of my favorites) and a large piece of brocolli.  The steak itself was not as juicy as I would have hoped, it was cooked just right but the juices were just lacking.  Unfortunate, but certainly not something to ruin my evening.  I can’t comment much on the lamb other than it was tasty and delicious.  The wine with our meal was, again, value wine.  A Chilean sauv blanc for my girlfriend, and an Argentinian red for myself.  The white was a good value wine, lots of flavour (a lot of granny smith apple).  The red was a little bland, but I’ve experienced this before from Argentina, still it was good enough to meet my required satisfaction levels.  For desert we requested a turtle pie (the chocolates, not the animals) and home made tiramisu.  Both were EXCEPTIONAL, probably the best part of the meal.  For my closing comments, Jack’s has serious privacy issues, the tables are way too close together and I can hear about 5 table conversations without even eavesdropping.  Because of this we had to lower our voices when talking to each other at our table.  I much prefer booths or at least some sort of separation between the tables at the restaurants that I frequent.  I was also a little upset that not all Fork Fest meal combinations were $35 a plate, some appetizers had surcharges applied to them (not unjustifiably, they were more expensive).  I think a better approach would be to seat people with the standard menu and an additional Fork Fest printout (like Von’s).  Finally, I cannot comment on the prices of the entres (unless they are indeed $35 a plate, which is far over priced), but the appetizer prices were a little on the over priced side, but still within range.  I would expect that (again) a similar quality meal could be found elsewhere at a better price point (and with better privacy).

That’s it for now, stay tuned for more restaurant reviews coming soon (next time probably one review per post).

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