Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tzin Wine & Tapas- Edmonton, AB

Starting this blog with my fellow writers (and friends) has really been a great experience. It challenges us to find new and exciting restaurants so that we can bring our experiences to our devoted readers, but it also allows us to share our favorite restaurants with the people who are interested. Now, I have been to Tzin a total of three times: the first time, my companion and I thought that we could just casually walk in and get a table but we were sadly disappointed. My second attempt was much more successful as we made prior reservations and we had a great dinner with good wine. This was my third encounter with Tzin Wine and Tapas, which is roughly the size of my bachelor's apartment and houses no more than maybe 25 diners. Knowing how busy Tzin can be, we decided to make reservations a few weeks in advance to ensure a spot. 
Upon entry into the restaurant, we waited in the front foyer (literally one step away from a dining table) for about five minutes until a hostess came and greeted us. She told us that it would be a few minutes as the other diners were just about finishing up and our table would be ready soon. Looking around, Tzin has a very modern appearance with many paintings and pictures on the vibrant red walls. As we sat, the waitress periodically checked up on us to see if we had decided on drinks or food. A few of us decided on some drinks and we decided on five tapas. With the waitress's help, we chose the braised bacon with apple compote crostini, the wild mushroom and spinach tart, grilled scallops with bacon and onion relish, grilled flat iron steak and the seafood paella. The waitresses were very bubbly and had a nice warm personality to them, something that I had become accustomed to on my last visit at Tzin (the waiter gave us free wine to sample before we made our selection - his theory was that you shouldn't pay for wine that you don't enjoy!).

Tzin Martinis 
TN Dang: After our group collectively decided to opt out of a bottle of wine, Shannon and I decided on a couple of cocktails to pair with our tapas. While Tzin has an extensive wine menu, including both reds and white wines from the most famous wine-making regions of France and Italy, it lacks severely in terms of its cocktail selection. In fact, they do not have cocktails listed at all on their drinks menu. We asked our lovely hostess for the evening if Tzin served any cocktails and were enthusiastically offered a choice of two martinis: a raspberry-liqueur based martini (left) and a lime and "lychee"-like liqueur based martini (right). With the small venue, we were able to actually watch the two martinis being prepared at the bar less than five-feet from where we sat. The raspberry-liqueur martini that I opted for had a nice foam at the top and tasted delightful! It was sweet with a mild creaminess, comparable to ice cream, which helped mask the strong taste of alcohol. I had no trouble downing it at the end of the night. Shannon's martini, on the other hand, tasted overpoweringly of alcohol. While you could taste the lime and hint of lychee flavour, it definitely had a kick of its own - and not in a good way. The hostess actually ended up bringing Shannon her own glass of ice cubes to dilute the martini and neither of us were able to finish that particular martini, despite the fact that both had similar alcohol content.
Braised bacon with apple compote crostini
The first dish to come out was the the braised bacon crostini with maple and balsamic apple compote and a sweet calvados (apple brandy) gastrique. A gastrique is basically caramelized sugar which has been deglazed with vinegar to enhance the flavor of sauces. This was by far the best dish of the night. The oh-so-good-melt-in-your-mouth bacon had me devouring my own piece and then hungrily eying those of the slower eaters. The apple gastrique perfectly complemented the saltiness of the bacon.
A warm wild mushroom & spinach tart
The wild mushroom & spinach tart with Gruyere cheese was served with a merlot-truffle vinaigrette sauce. This one was a letdown. The pastry was flaky and buttery, but the ratio of toppings to base was just a little bit off. It seemed there just wasn't enough flavor from the ordinary mushrooms and bland spinach to make this dish anything special. It also came out lukewarm and could have been served a little bit hotter. For $15, this dish had nothing special to rave about.
Grilled Scallops with a caramelized onion relish
The grilled scallops sat on a bed of bacon and caramelized onion relish. Usually an order comes with three scallops, but since there were five of us dining, the hostesses added two more scallops for a price of $5/scallop. These scallops were perfectly cooked, which is hard to find at many restaurants. What I found more surprising was the fact that I ALMOST enjoyed the bacon and caramelized onion relish just as much as the scallops. The relish had a perfect saltiness due to the bacon and just really complemented the meatiness of the scallop.
Grilled Alberta Beef Flat Iron Steak
The grilled Alberta flat iron steak was organic, grass fed, hormone-free beef. The steak was cooked to a good medium rare, but the caramel sauce it was served with was a little odd. The sauce was very thick and sticky and did not seem to pair well with this cut of beef. The sauteed mushrooms on the plate, however, were full of flavor and a tasty accompaniment.
Seafood Paella for Two
I was really anticipating the seafood paella for two ($34) since the last time I had visited Tzin, it was clearly the best thing I had eaten. The paella had a bountiful array of muscles, large shrimps, scallops, and slices of chorizo all centered around a handful of crabmeat. Unfortunately, it didn't live up to my recollection of last visit's deliciousness, as the rice was a bit bland and didn't seem creamy enough. However, the seafood and chorizo were perfectly cooked. From my experience, paella is definitely one of those dishes where the saying "hit or miss" has never been more true. This time, it was a miss.

Overall, the hostess did an amazing job at explaining each dish to the point that I wanted to try all of them. She was very helpful, friendly and efficient. The dishes were spaced out a bit too far apart for my liking (as there was 15-20 minutes intermissions), but it was somewhat understandable as it was a full restaurant. At the end of the night, I wasn't too full and I wasn't too hungry; it was a good amount of food but it helped that there were periods in between each dish to allow me to digest. The atmosphere at Tzin was very modern with a nice cultural feel, but since each dish is ~$20 and since it is a tapas restaurant, Tzin is definitely not a place you would go to fill your belly full.


Top pick of the night: Braised bacon with maple and balsamic apple compote


3.5/5 Erics

Tzin Wine & Tapas on Urbanspoon

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