Monday, February 25, 2013

Manor Bistro - Edmonton, AB

Manor Nosi Goreng
It was a long 8-week rotation through Internal and our whole crew was absolutely exhausted by the grueling hours and call shifts. By the end of February, we were all beat and looking for something to celebrate. Coincidentally, my companion’s birthday was just around the corner – February 29th, a leap year baby! – and I decided that getting everyone together for his birthday and the end of our core rotations would be a fantastic way to end the month. Originally, I had planned to have his birthday celebration at Red Ox Inn, one of Edmonton’s best fine dining restaurants. Disappointingly, Red Ox Inn was unable to accommodate a party of twelve and neither was their more casual sister restaurant, Canteen. I had never had a problem with finding a fine-dining restaurant, in Ottawa at least, that could accommodate large parties and was actually baffled that any restaurant would turn down a large party ready to spend decent amount of money on a meal (don’t large parties booking a week in advance mean guaranteed business?!). After a little bit of digging on Urbanspoon, I found a quaint little restaurant which featured French-style cuisine with just a bit of a new-age twist, that was perfect for the occasion. Manor Bistro, a restaurant owned by and operated by Executive Chef Alex Sneazwell, was located in Edmonton's Westmount neighbourhood and were more than happy to accomodate our party of twelve.

Lamb Tangine
We all arrived to a fairly empty restaurant for our 6:30PM reservations. Manor Bistro features black wooden floors with simple yet elegant black dining tables. Our table of ten (trimmed down from an original of party size of twelve due to last minute cancellations) was set and prepared with ice-water filled glasses as soon as we walked in. Since it was his birthday, my companion ordered the beer special of the night – Gipsy Tears – which was described as a dark red brew from Vancouver. Although not a beer connoisseur, my companion has tried his share of beer from all over North America and Europe and has decent appreciation of different beers. Overall, he generally enjoyed the beer. On the other hand, having tried a sip of his beer, I felt Gipsy Tears was much too strong of a beer and left a harsh bitter aftertaste; not exactly the type of beer for us girls who are only casual beer-tasters (I’m more of a Heineken and Stella Artois gal, truth be told).

Parmesan Pomme Frites
As  we were dining with Eric W. and his companion – another big foodie and general fan of the dining experience – we decided to order an appetizer between the four of us. I had read in previous reviews that Chef Alex Sneazwell does an excellent Parmesan Pomme Frites ($8) and we were all eager to try it. When I was traveling across Europe, one of the most anticipated stops on our trip was the great Dutch city of Amsterdam. In Amsterdam, we found a great little place – Chipsy King – across the bridge from the Red Light District which sold traditional Dutch friets or potates with frietssaus (a low-fat mayonnaise substitute) served in paper cones. Amsterdam fries were large, hand-cut potatoes which were always freshly cut and fried and served with the most delightful garlic mayonnaise sauce I have ever tasted in my life. After Amsterdam, I had definitely been converted to a fries-and-mayonnaise kind of person. I had had Chipsy King’s friets at least once every single day I spent in Amsterdam and was extremely excited when I saw pictures online of Alex Sneazwell’s Parmesan Pomme Frites served in a paper cone. The Parmesan Pomme Frites were hand-cut Kennebec potatoes served with chili ketchup, peanut satay, and roasted garlic mayo. We ordered our Parmesan Pomme Frites with the shredded ox meat and house-made ricotta, but were disappointingly told that Manor Bistro had run out of ox meat for the night (a little strange, I thought, considering the restaurant was fairly empty and it was still fairly early in the night). The waitress, however, assured us that the Parmesan Pomme Frites were just as good as a stand-alone. The Parmesan Pomme Frites were actually quite consistent with the rave reviews online and I was definitely not disappointed in our choice. The fries were steaming hot and had a nice, though not overpowering, infusion of parmesan and herb flavours. The roasted garlic mayo dip was reminiscent of the Amsterdam frietssaus, though not nearly as garlic infused and flavourful. Although it was not up to par with its Amsterdam comparison, it was nevertheless my favourite dip of the night. The chili ketchup sauce had a nice sweet ketchup flavour with a bit of a punch, similar to Siracha, which I also enjoyed. The peanut satay, however, fell a little short compared to the other dips and it was agreed around the table the peanut satay was a little too thin and fell rather short on the sweet peanut flavour we were all used to at Thai restaurants. In addition, the fries were cut very short (maybe only 2-3 cm max in length) which made it a little bit difficult – or rather annoying – to actually eat the fries by hand.
Roast Duck

For our main dishes, I decided on the Roasted Duck ($34) while my companion decided on the Catch of the Day - Special of the Night ($28). Eric W. and his companion decided on the Manor Pasta ($22) and the Chicken Supreme ($28), respectively. The Roasted Duck featured seared duck breast, blueberry gastrique, crispy pork belly, apple fennel puree, and house gnocchi and was served on a gigantic square plate. The elements of the plate were actually quite a distance from each other and the size of the plate actually made the elements look very disjointed from one another. As mentioned in many previous posts, I generally like my proteins rare (except when it is unsafe to do so, as is the case with pork) and was a little disappointed that the duck breast came out medium-rare. The duck breast overall was quite tender and went very well with the apple fennel puree. The duck breast skin was crispy, well-salted, and not overcooked. I would have liked to see more duck breast skin in the dish, however, as it is generally my favourite part of a duck dish. The crisp pork belly  was tender and the pork belly skin was quite crispy. However, Manor Bistro made one of the most fatal flaws (in my opinion at least) in serving crispy pork belly – the fat-to-pork belly ratio was grotesque, with the fat portion being much too overwhelming for the small bite of pork belly. While flavourful at first, the pork belly fat leaves an unappetizing residue on your taste buds and ends up sitting heavily in your stomach by the end of the night. Having traveled through a majority of Italy, I had tasted my fair share of gnocci – from the good, to the bad, to the ugly. Manor Bistro’s house gnocci was the traditional flour-based dough pasta and was pan-seared along with the rest of the dish. The gnocci themselves were relatively lukewarm by the time it was served to me and were definitely leaning more towards the “bad” side of gnocci. I found the gnocci rather tasteless and starchy and found myself trying to scoop up as much of the apple fennel puree as I could to give the gnocci that little bit of flavour boost. The blueberry gastrique, though full of fresh blueberry flavour, was somewhat at odds with the rest of the dish and did not add any highlights to the dish nor unify the dish in anyway. Overall, although the duck breast and crispy pork belly combination sounded like a gastronomical experience, the execution of the dish fell flat of expectations.
Catch of the Day - Tilapia Special
My partner ordered the Catch of the Day – Special of the Night which featured tilapia, roasted potatoes, and steamed vegetables and the soup special, which was an asparagus puree soup. We both found the asparagus puree soup rather bland and overall entirely underwhelming. His main course was a pan-seared tilapia in a white sauce served with roasted potatoes and steamed vegetables. The tilapia was actually very well cooked and I found the sauce was extremely flavourful. However, having had many tilapia-based dishes, I have decided that I am not the biggest fan of tilapia as a fish; I find tilapia a very bland white fish that flakes in all the places I don’t want it to. My companion mentioned that the potatoes were well cooked but a little under-seasoned. The vegetables, similarly, were well cooked but under-seasoned.

Chicken Supreme
Some mentions regarding the other dishes of the night: the Chicken Supreme – featuring pan-roasted Alberta chicken breast, smoked corn and squash ravioli, and roasted tomato couli – had a flavourful and well-cooked chicken. However, Eric W’s companion mentioned that the smoked corn and squash ravioli was a little too sweet for her palate and the arugula greens were a little over salted (even for me! – and I generally enjoy my dishes on the saltier side of things). Eric W’s Manor Pasta – which was composed of sauteed chicken, pancetta, wilted spinach, leeks, goat cheese, and sun dried tomato cream – was described as fairly average and he ended up taking a sizeable portion of it home that night. The Lamb Tagine ($24) – made of braised lamb, moroccan spice quinoa, sultanas, spiced olives, and saffron juice – ordered by our good friend Heidi – had a surprisingly tender lamb which had a minimal amount of gamey lamb taste. The Nasi Goreng ($23) – which was the Manor’s take on a classic Indonesian and French dish featuring chicken, prawns, curry infused rice sauteed with vegetables, fried egg, kroepoek cracker – was described by fellow blogger Peter Chung as “alright.”
Goat-cheese Cheese Cake
The night ended with a round of dessert, which was literally shown to us on a platter – the most creative way I have ever seen a dessert “menu” presented! Of the four house desserts made from scratch, we decided on the Goat-cheese Cheese Cake ($9), Tiramisu cake ($9), and Chocolate Ball ($9). The Goat-cheese Cheese Cake had an overwhelming goat-cheese flavour that I found took away from the light and creamy flavour of cheesecake that I so enjoyed. Only Eric W. was able to wolf down the goat-cheese infused cake at the end of the night. The Tiramisu cake had a nice wine flavour to it and was definitely a good choice by my companion. Eric W.’s companion settled on the Chocolate Ball which featured a delightful chocolate cake encrusted by a familiar chocolate coating (though we never quite figured out which chocolate bar it resembled). The Chocolate Ball was definitely my favourite dessert of the night.

Tiramisu Cake
Overall, the Manor Bistro was a quaint little restaurant that provided the perfect ambience for the entire crew to catch up and celebrate my companion’s birthday as well as the end of our core rotation. The food was fairly hit or miss, however, and I’m not sure my palate is entirely compatible with Chef Alex Sneazwell’s take on French-cuisine. With the final bill between the four of us coming to $193, I think I would have to think twice about coming back to Manor Bistro.
Chocolate Ball

Top Pick of the Night: Parmesan Pomme Frites and Chocolate Ball


Rating: 3/5 Erics'

Manor Bistro on Urbanspoon

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