Monday, June 10, 2013

Parkallen Restaurant - Edmonton, AB

As a student, I am a huge fan of sites such as Groupon. Amongst all the obscure products and cheap gadgets are real deals to good restaurants around the city that I might otherwise never try. An enjoyable experience will bring me back again and again at full price. That is why I have such a hard time understanding restaurants that take the opportunity to scam their Groupon customers - isn't the point to entice them back?
Parkallen Glass Wine Cellar
I can honestly say that tonight's dining experience at Parkallen Restaurant was one of the worst I have ever had, 95% due to the service. Upon entering, the restaurant looked promising, with a lovely glass wine cellar situated in the middle of a room decorated with warm colors and interesting wall fixtures. However, after we were seated we were left alone for a good 15 minutes before our waiter came to the table. His first words were, "Oh you've been ignored. Well I'm not a very good waiter." At least we were warned. He then asked if we had a Groupon, and it all went downhill from there. The $124 Groupon was to include one appetizer, four entrees, four desserts, and one bottle of wine. It had not included any stipulations, but our waiter proceeded to tell us that the appetizer had to be less than $15, the entrees less than $30, and rather than choosing from the wine list, we could only choose white or red and he would then decide on a wine for us. He then disappeared before we could tell him our wine choice, and we were left alone for another 15 minutes before another waitress appeared. She asked if the Groupon had been explained to us, and rather oddly added that the rules had only been changed THAT DAY. In the meantime, we had become suspicious and looked up the Groupon itself, and upon noting the lack of restrictions, she then told us to speak to the manager, a little hostile in my opinion. We explained the situation to the manager, who unapologetically told us the rules had changed. We pointed out that the waitress had told us the rules had only changed that day, and the manager told us it was "irrelevant when the rules had changed." Had we been dealt with pleasantly, we would have been more accepting, but without an apology or any attempt to rectify the situation we were all left with a bad taste in our mouths before we had received any wine or food.

The Groupon advertisement and accompanying Q&A 
Lamura Grillo Sicilia
Market Price $14 USD
As it was clear we were not getting anywhere with the manager, we decided to just order the wine - at least the manager allowed us to choose our own from the wine list (which was still restricted by the $40 rule). I was amused to see that the bottle of wine didn't have a cork but a screw cap, and had a tag advertising a store on Calgary Trail. The wine itself was fairly acidic and was marked up quite a bit from market value of $14 USD. For $14, Costco actually has a much better selection of white wines that I have enjoyed on many occasions with my dinner at home.
Fatouche Salad
We placed our orders fairly quickly after that: the Fatouche Salad and Baba-Ghanouj to start, and the Black Pasta, Seared Ahi Tuna Steak, and the New York Steak. The Fatouche Salad (romaine, tomato, cucumber, radish, green pepper, red onion, parsley and mint in a lemon, garlic, olive oil dressing with secret spices) and Baba-Ghanouj (pureed roasted eggplant blended with garlic, lemon, and tahineh, served with pita) were first to the table. To be fair, I have very little experience with Lebanese food but I did not enjoy either of these dishes. The Fatouche salad was too acidic for my tastes, and consisted mostly of romaine lettuce rather than all the advertised components. The Baba-Ghanouj was rather bland, and we were all a little confused as it had very little eggplant taste. Perhaps the taste would have been better enhanced by using roasted eggplant. I was also disappointed to see that the accompanying pita pieces weren't even warmed.

The entrees fared better, with one exception. My friend had been looking forward to trying the rack of lamb, but Parkallen had recently updated their menu and the lamb was nowhere to be found. We were also informed that his second choice, the tenderloin, was not available so he settled for the New York Steak, which was cooked to an acceptable medium-rare. It had good flavor although it was slightly tough. The accompanying baby potatoes were well seasoned and roasted well.
New York Steak
The Black Pasta (a new addition to the menu) was probably the best dish of the night, consisting of mussels, baby scallops, white fish, and calamari rings in a tomato sauce. The sauce was nice and light, allowing the seafood to shine through, and the mussels were well cooked although the rest of the seafood was rather scant. I did find it odd that around six slices of "garlic bread" lined the outside edge of the dish - far too many pieces for one diner, and not tasting of garlic whatsoever.
Black Pasta
TN Dang: The real let down was the Seared Ahi Tuna Steak, another new addition. It was the most expensive entree on the menu at $38, meaning that we had to subsidize an additional $8 as per the day's new Groupon "rules." Actually, a let down is an understatement, as the dish, especially at a ridiculous price of $38, had components that were actually inedible. The Ahi Tuna Steak was overcooked and slightly chewy. It had a strong, sharply acidic flavour owing to the salsa, but otherwise was rather bland. The "salsa" which I can only assume was supposed to be the main flavour component of the dish was composed of diced tomatoes, herbs, and a vinaigrette. The salsa was essentially what made the dish almost inedible - it had a very strong sour and acidic taste, no freshness, and was extremely bitter. The bitterness had a strange citrus quality to it and reminded me strongly of the taste of lemon peels. None of us who tried the salsa could keep from grimacing and I was only able to finish the dish after scraping all of the salsa off. Like the other dishes, the tuna steak was served with a mixture of roasted baby potatoes, which unfortunately were the best part of the dish, and steamed vegetables at varying degrees of being "cooked" (there was definitely a fairly crunchy carrot on my dish). The vegetables had no seasoning whatsoever, and like the salsa, remained on the plate along with the salsa after I had "finished" with my dish. A disaster of a dish at a ludicrous price; I would take Joey's Tomato's Ahi Tuna Club any day over Parkallen's "gourmet" version.
Ahi Tuna Steak
There were three choices for dessert - red velvet cake, baklava, and creme brulee. We wanted to try them all and doubled up on the red velvet cake since there was only one creme brulee left. The creme brulee was by far the best of the bunch - normally, I find creme brulee far too heavy and sweet, but this one was creamy and light, with a perfect sugar crust on the top. The red velvet cake had a delicious icing although I found the actual cake portion a little less dense than I am used to, which could be good or bad depending on personal taste. The baklava was average at best - the phyllo was chewy rather than flaky, and the nut filling tasted slightly stale.
Crème Brulee
At the end of the meal, we didn't receive a bill outlining all that we had ordered. Instead, our bill simply gave the outstanding amounts from the tuna and steak entrees, but our waitress made sure to tell us that the total had come to around $220, which I found quite tacky as it seemed a blatant attempt to remind us to tip on the entire amount. Normally, I make sure to tip more generously than usual when using a Groupon, but after tonight's experience I was not inclined to do so. We ended up leaving about a 10% tip on the entire amount, which I thought was more than fair, but I could see from the waitress's face that she was not pleased. Somewhere along the lines, it seems that Parkallen's waiters and waitresses forgot that a good tip, even at a fairly up-scale restaurant, still needs to be earned.
Red Velvet Cake
Overall, the food at Parkallen seems to be hit or miss, although definitely overpriced as even the Groupon totaled $30 per person. This alone I would be willing to forgive, but the service tonight was absolutely appalling. No customer should ever be treated the way that we were, Groupon or not. The most disappointing aspect had to be the behavior of the manager, who was completely unapologetic and unwilling to make any attempt at improving the situation. If a restaurant chooses to offer a Groupon, it should be willing to respect the terms of the Groupon and not change the conditions by day or the seeming financial status of the diners using the Groupon. Tonight, Parkallen's actions showed it to be underhanded, arrogant, and yet still at the end of it all believing itself to be worthy of a generous tip. It was one of the worst dining experiences I have ever had, and I will certainly never return nor would I encourage anyone else to as both the food and the service left us all leaving with a rather bad taste in our mouths.

1/5 Erics'

Parkallen Restaurant on Urbanspoon


  1. We had almost similar experience when we went there with a Groupon. Horrible service!

  2. Absolutely! Too bad since the restaurant itself was quite nice. Thanks for following our blog!

  3. I cannot stand that guy (and I know who you are talking about)- worst service I have ever had and I didn't have a Groupon....