I was just beginning my rotation in a small, rural Alberta town and was already beginning to miss the little conveniences of life in the city after just a week. With a town of only nine-hundred people, there was really only one cafe/restaurant that the locals recommended called Jam Tarts on Main Street (which I have yet to try). That being said, I was ecstatic when the weekend rolled around and I hopped in my car and headed to Edmonton almost as soon as my duties were done for the day. I had booked dinner reservations that Saturday for my companion’s birthday at Edmonton’s second most popular fine-dining restaurant – Hardware Grill. My companion initially came to pick me up in jeans and a T-shirt, thinking that “Hardware Grill” was just some macho steakhouse. Fortunately, he lived close enough to go back home and throw on a decent pair of dress pants and a dress shirt and we had a good laugh about the whole ordeal.
We found Hardware Grill across from the Shaw Conference Centre; it was situated on a large corner block and had tacky, green-striped awnings around the entire building. I was definitely not a fan of the awnings – they looked very outdated, especially for what was supposed to be considered high-end dining – and I was a little skeptical of the environment as I opened the door. Surprisingly, Hardware Grill was much more pleasing to the eye on the inside compared to the outside (never judge a book by its cover I guess!): it featured large wooden tables and booths and unassuming though classic green-brown seats, which gave an upscale feel without being overly pretentious. My favourite part, however, was the large open kitchen and windows that allowed you to look right into the kitchen from your booth! I thought it was an excellent touch which gave Hardware Grill a modern feel even with its classic decor.
I had originally chosen Hardware Grill for one of its featured appetizers, the lobster risotto, which is one of my companion’s favourite dishes (did I mention he was on an undying quest to find the best lobster risotto?!). After perusing the menu, we decided on the Butter Braised Lobster Risotto ($20) and Kobe Beef Carpaccio ($20) for our appetizers, and the Duo of Bacon Wrapped Elk & Slow Braised Beef Short Ribs ($46) and Lacquered Duck Breast ($38) as our entrees for the night. Our meal was started off with a basket of bread served with olive oil. I thought it was a bit strange that the bread was only accompanied by olive oil without any balsamic vinegar (or even butter as an optional side!). To be honest, the bread was not the best I had (especially compared to Harvest Room where my companion took me for my birthday) and tasted very oily with just the olive oil. Hardware Grill would better serve its diners by offering the option of balsamic vinegar or butter to pair with its bread instead of just plain olive oil.
|Kobe Beef Carpaccio|
|Butter Braised Lobster Risotto|
|Lacquered Duck Breast|
|Duo of Bacon Wrapped Elk & Slow Braised Beef Short Ribs|
Overall, the Hardware Grill was a great choice for a birthday dinner and definitely lived up to all my expectations. The decor was modern, classy, but unassuming and provided an upscale yet casual ambience. The food at Hardware Grill was flavourful and served in very generous proportions – we actually ended up taking a box home for each our entrees, which made for an amazing gourmet lunch the next day. Hardware Grill definitely deserves to be on Edmonton’s top five fine-dining list (though I have yet to try Red Ox Inn, Pampa’s, and Wildflower Grill) and even at a hefty price tag of $150, I would not hesitate to go back to Hardware Grill for another dining experience.
Top Pick of the Night: Kobe Beef Carpaccio, Butter Braised Lobster Risotto, duck breast, and truffle-creamed spinach
Rating: 4.5/5 Erics'