Monday, April 15, 2013

Packrat Louie Kitchen & Bar- Edmonton, AB

Last time my sister visited Edmonton on a business trip, she raved about her company meal at Packrat Louie, remarking that the beef tenderloin was "SOOOO GOOD!" Strong words from a girl who usually prefers chicken fingers and burgers. Looking at the online menu, however, it was clear that Packrat Louie is not a place for budget dining. So when a Groupon popped up, it was the perfect chance to try it out for myself. After a subpar dinner at Select, I wasn't sure what to expect from Packrat Louie, which shares the same managing group.

Packrat Louie is tucked into a corner just off Whyte Ave. The exterior is quite unremarkable, not giving off the appearance of a fine-dining establishment. From the entrance, you can either turn right into the restaurant or left into the bar (which actually looked like it had a similar setup). The restaurant decor was welcoming, upscale but not pretentious, and thankfully not as dimly lit as some of the other places I've visited recently. We were warmly greeted and seated. I was surprised at the number of diners already seated, as it was a Monday night and the restaurant was more than half full.
I'd browsed the online menu in advance, planning out a strategy to accomodate my student budget. Even with a Groupon, the prices still veered into special occasion territory, with the majority of entrees over $30 and ranging as high as $42. We decided on the pan-seared calamari ($14), lamb and mushroom pizza ($15), and chicken and chorizo tagliatelle ($24). Almost right after we ordered, warm bread was brought to the table. Disappointingly, the bottom of the bread was burnt.

Soon afterwards, our calamari came to the table. It was unlike any calamari I'd ever tried, cooked in a curried shrimp butter sauce with baby spinach, and finished with creme fraiche and mango chutney served in a tortilla chip cup. The plate did not look appealing at all, with my companion remarking before the first bite that we should have tried something else. It was a curious choice of presentation for such an upscale restaurant that obviously pays a lot of attention to the plating of its other entrees. However, you can't judge a book by its cover and this time it was definitely true. The curry sauce was so tasty we asked for extra bread to sop it up. The calamari was nicely cooked, not too tough, although I wouldn't consider it seared as stated on the menu. The only thing that didn't work with the dish was the mango chutney. The giant pieces of mango easily overwhelmed the calamari when the two were eaten together.
Next to the table were the pizza and the tagliatelle. The pizza was smaller than I'd expected, and though the ingredients sounded interesting on paper, the pizza just wasn't anything special. The tagliatelle fared much better. The garlic cream sauce was perfectly seasoned and the dish had a good proportion of fresh vegetables to make the dish lighter and more visually appealing.

Following our entrees, we asked to see the dessert menu and were surprised when the waiter returned with an ink pad which he used to stamp the menu directly on our paper tablecloth. We settled on the chocolate plate and the creme brulee of the day, which was chocolate chip. The chocolate plate included a warm brownie, mousse, and ice cream. It was a standard offering, average but nothing special. The "chocolate chip" creme brulee actually consisted of a layer of chocolate beneath the custard. It was a little too soft for my liking, and a bit cold in the middle, but otherwise it had good flavor.

Our server was very friendly throughout the night, although he was difficult to track down at times. As the restaurant filled up and neighbouring diners became more boisterous with dinner drinks, it was a bit hard to hold a conversation. Most of the diners seemed dressed in at least business casual attire, and I could see Packrat Louie being a good venue for a company dinner but not for a romantic date. Overall, I had a nice time at Packrat Louie. I didn't think the food lived up to my expectations, though perhaps the more expensive entrees have something more to offer. I would perhaps return when (if) I find myself with a great deal more disposable income than I have now.

Top Pick of the Night: Pan-seared calamari

3.5/5 Erics

Packrat Louie Kitchen & Bar‎ on Urbanspoon

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