Friday, January 23, 2009
Fantastic Fork Fest offerings at the Red Ox Inn
Worried that Zed and I would not be able to get a reservation at Red Ox Inn during Fork Fest, I called yesterday to inquire whether or not any seats were available for this Thursday evening. Luckily they had a table for two at either 8 or 8:45, so I happily took the 8PM seating, which ended up working well with the bus schedule.
We walked through the door and immediately found that we had arrived in a tiny (but tastefully decorated in a contemporary style) dining room. I had heard Red Ox was small, but I was still expecting somewhat of a larger space (the tight space worked out well until a louder group of six arrived, who also ended up taking lots of flash photography. I think they almost blinded the woman next to them, and we thought they would have been asked to turn the flash off, but...). At any rate, we were greeted at the door by one of two servers who took our coats, seated us, and immediately provided us with water.
A lengthy wine list was already laid out on the table, but after taking a glance I think Zed and I both knew we needed a beer. Our server appeared again with both the Fork Fest menu as well as the regular menu (he mentioned that he was aware we were down for Fork Fest (I asked them to note it when making the reservation), but just wanted to let us know the regular menu was still available). He inquired about drinks and in return we asked about our beloved beer. I was glad to find that Anchor Steam and Alley Kat were a part of the lengthy list, so I went for the Anchor Steam and Zed for a Keith's (apparently the last in the house).
The second server appeared to ask whether or not we had any questions about the menu, which I did - I was in for the Wild Mushroom Soup with Madeira and Gruyere-Mushroom rye crostini, but found out it included chicken broth (not unexpected). But he did mention that holding the bacon in the Warm Goat Cheese, spinach, almond and cranberry-port dressed salad was an option, so I took it. I also chose the Seared Arctic Char with ratatouille and mashed potatoes with a garlic-butter sauce and the warm chocolate cake for dessert. Zed did take the Mushroom soup, then also opted for the Char and chocolate cake.
Our meal started off with the soup and salad shortly after placing our orders. This was the first time Zed had ever looked at me and said, "Wow, that's really good," after taking a bite of any food, especially soup. My salad was also very well done: the tart cranberries mixed well with the sweet port and coated the spinach and almonds nicely. A warm round of soft goat cheese crusted with Panko bread crumbs sat on top of the salad and provided a nice fresh and tangy side to the dish.
The char followed soon after. This was a great entree - the meaty fish was nicely lightened by its crispy skin, and the slightly spicy ratatouille set it off well. I was really glad to see the crispy skin on the fish; ever since I saw Jamie Oliver do this with a piece of salmon skin I have wanted to try it. (Also, in the middle of our mains Sharon Yeo of Only Here for the Food arrived with Mack and was seated next to us, so a review of Red Ox will be coming from her shortly. I was really glad to meet Sharon, however brief, as her blog was the first I stumbled on about food in Edmonton. And although I know taking pictures of our restaurant fare is important, I haven't quite worked up the confidence yet to do this at each place, and I know Sharon will have some nice shots of their meals.)
The evening finished off nicely with the warm chocolate cake and a scoop of vanilla bean. The cake was full of a deep rich chocolate, and the warmth met nicely with the coldness of the ice cream.
I also have to mention the service - Zed and I both agreed the service was some of the best we've found in Edmonton. From taking our coats upon entry to the knowledge and help they provided with drinks and food, it helped make the evening really fantastic. The two dining room servers sort of tagged teamed it throughout the evening, not because the other one didn't have time, but more because it looked like we were ready to order, we were finished our meals or were in need of a cup of coffee. We both enjoyed this approach and thought we received the perfect amount of attention.
At the end of the evening Zed and I were really impressed with Red Ox Inn - the food was fantastic and the service really matched and made the evening. Fork Fest provided a great introduction to the restaurant and Zed and I will definitely be returning for more.
Red Ox Inn
9420 91 Street
Open for dinner only Tuesday - Sunday beginning at 5PM
Lots of Bloggers have hit up Red Ox in the last little while; check out some of these write ups: from Take it and Like it, from Foodie Suz, from Brulee Blog