Saturday, February 16, 2013

Harvest Room - Edmonton, AB



After my companion had surprised me with a surprise birthday lunch with all our close friends, he again surprised me with a birthday dinner at one of the most beautiful hotels in Edmonton. My companion had joked all week that he would take me to McDonald’s for my birthday so it was a good laugh when we pulled up to the front of the Fairmont Macdonald and its hotel restaurant, Harvest Room. (As a side note, the Fairmont MacDonald does not have its own designated or heated parking – a little disappointing for such a grand hotel – so we had to park at a parking lot about a block away from the hotel entrance).

Decorative Birthday Chocolate Platter
As he had called ahead for a reservation on a fairly quiet Tuesday, we were seated as soon as we entered the restaurant. The restaurant was simply, but beautifully decorated with white cloth tables and dark wooden chairs and tables. The restaurant featured an entire wall of windows that overlooked the edge of the downtown cliff, giving a breathtaking view of the Edmonton River Valley. As the restaurant was fairly empty, the server took us to a more secluded table of the restaurant adjacent to the large, panoramic windows. We spent a fair amount of time admiring the view from the Fairmont (one that really showcases Edmonton at its best) and the ambience of the restaurant while we perused the menu. As my companion had had a chance to peruse the menu ahead of time, he chose the Lobster Ravioli ($44) for his main course. Unfortunately for him, he mistakenly read lobster ravioli as lobster risotto online, and was a little disappointed when the ravioli was the only lobster dish offered (he is currently on an undying quest for the best lobster risotto). At any upscale restaurant, I will almost invariably order the duck course; however, most upscale restaurants do not offer my other favourite protein – venison – as an option. As such, I waffled between the “Very Berry Farm” Honey-Glazed Lavender Duck Breast and the Blueberry Crusted Venison Tenderloin (100 Mile) ($42) for quite a while before our server for the night, Ivan, recommended the venison dish (his very reasonable argument being that most other upscale restaurants do not offer venison as an option). For our appetizer, we opted for the Prawn and Scallop Provencal ($18) (though, again, we debated between the seafood starter and the Foie Gras Trio – consisting of Foie Gras Crème Brulee, Torchon, Foie Gras Mousse Red Wine, Fig and Balsamic Jam, and Gewurztraminer Syrup).

Lobster Carrot-Puree Amuse Bouche
The Harvest Room offered complimentary fresh bread which was served with a pumpkin seed butter and lavender-orange oil. Now, I hardly – if ever – mention the bread starters at any restaurant; however, Harvest Room serves one of the most delicious bread as part of their dinner course. The bread was warm, fresh, soft and had a wholesome all-grain taste to it. It was an excellent vehicle to the equally excellent pumpkin seed butter, which was soft, creamy, and deliciously aromatic. I found myself having to pace myself as to not fill my stomach reserve entirely with Harvest Room’s fresh bread! I must mention, however, that the lavender-orange oil was not a favourite of mine – it had a truly distinct lavender and orange flavour, which may impress some people, but was a bit jarring to my taste buds. In addition to the bread, Harvest Room also serves a complimentary amuse bouche, which was a bite of lobster salad. The lobster salad was a delightful melt-in-your-mouth mix of lobster, peas, and pureed carrots – definitely my favourite bite of the night.

Prawn and Scallop Provencal
After Harvest Room had adequately wetted our appetites, they served our appetizer course, the Prawn and Scallop Provencal which featured braised artichoke, spinach, Nicoise olive, and tomato beurre blanc. The seared scallop was cooked to perfection and went beautifully with the tomato beure blanc. I, as well as my companion who is not usually a fan of spinach (or green things in general), were especially impressed with the spinach! The prawns were cooked well, but were a definitely overshadowed by the scallop. The scallop and prawn were served on a bed of this white, semi-starchy vegetable which my partner and I could not ever recall eating before. Our curiosity directed us to question Ivan, our knowledgeable server for the night, who said that the bedding was an extensively braised artichoke! Now, I am not normally a fan of artichoke as I find it has a distinct bitterness to it, but after tasting a braised artichoke, I may have to modify my dislike of artichokes in general. The only disappointment about the dish was I did not get enough of the “Nicoise olive” flavour in the dish, which I was looking forward to.

Blueberry Crusted Venison Tenderloin (100 Mile)
The Harvest Room has an exceptional habit of timing their courses well, and we found our entrees were served only a minute or so after our table was cleared of the appetizer. I ordered my Blueberry Crusted Venison Tenderloin – which featured sweet potato and permesan pave, braised red cabbage, market vegetables and elderberry reduction – rare and was delighted that unlike other restaurants, Harvest Room got my order right. The venison was cooked beautiful, but I found it lacked a bit of seasoning in general. The elderberry reduction, while it had a nice taste, did not have a strong enough taste to flavour the venison. In addition, the first few bites of the potato and parmesan pave had much too strong a taste of “old cheese” that overpowered the rest of the dish. In fact, I was unable to finish my parmesan pave (my companion’s palate is quite a bit less sensitive to cheese and he finished off my pave without missing a beat). The cabbage and mixed vegetables were cooked well, but in my opinion, nothing special. By the end of my dish, although I didn’t regret choosing the venison, I remained curious about the duck dish.

Lobster Ravioli
My companion ordered the Lobster Ravioli which was composed of butter poached lobster tail, braised fennel, watercress salad, fennel chip, tomato concasse, bouillabaisse sauce. While I enjoy lobster, I am one of those weird (and hopefully wonderful!) people who prefers almost every part of the lobster except the lobster tail. I always find the lobster tail a little too chewy compared to the rest of the body. The butter poached lobster at Harvest Room was absolutely delightful! It had a warm, soft, and buttery taste – the only problem with it was there wasn’t enough to share! (The only other time I have had an incredibly good lobster was at Earl’s for Alexander Keith’s birthday, so make sure to check it out next year as well). The lobster ravioli was cooked fairly well (definitely not al dante, for all those who are die-hard Italian traditionalists) and had a sweet, tomato sauce. The lobster flavour was not quite as distinct in the ravioli, but nevertheless tasted good.

Belgian Warm Cake
Finally, for the dessert course we decided on the Belgian Warm Cake, served with raspberry sorbet and an orange-crisp waffle. Before that, however, Harvest Room generously brought out a decorative chocolate platter for my birthday. Two thumbs up for service and friendliness. The Belgian cake was warm, soft but definitely needed the acidity of raspberry sorbet to cut the sweetness. The fruits were sweet and fresh, and the orange-crisp waffle also added some highlights of flavour to the Belgian cake.

Overall, Harvest Room was a beautiful restaurant featuring equally beautiful food. The service that night was knowledgeable, attentive, and friendly. Although not every single dish that night was a home run for me, I would recommend Harvest Room for anyone looking to celebrate a special night.

Top Pick of the Night: lobster carrot-puree amuse bouche and poached lobster tail

Rating: 4/5 Erics'

Harvest Room on Urbanspoon

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