I can say with great confidence and certainty that Anthony Bourdain won’t be filming “The Layover” in Edmonton anytime soon. He’s too busy chasing flavours in mainstream cities. That’s a real shame because he’s missing out on some impressive eats in Alberta’s capital city.
During a recent visit in the Rockies, I took my travels to Edmonton with my food blogger friends Anna (@annasappetite) and Patricia (@miss_foodie) where we met up with our friend/tour guide Dong (@therealbuntcake), a homegrown Edmontonian.
Dong is our version of Eddie Huang when Mr. BaoHaus hosted Bourdain in New York on The Layover. Except Huang is cooler and less creepy. *smirk*
Unlike Toronto, there isn’t a new restaurant opening each week in Edmonton but the city’s food scene does well for its population size coupled with the current economic downturn.
Quality over quantity is the name of the game here.
Check out these five restaurants that are boosting the city’s culinary culture:
NONGBU KOREAN EATERY
NongBu was born out of John Ahn’s desire to share his childhood dishes with his beloved city. He puts a lot of heart and Seoul from the minimalist interior design to the modern Korean dishes.
If you’re unfamiliar with the menu, don’t be shy and ask John. He’ll enthusiastically suggest fan favourites including the Fried Ddukbokki.
These cakes are perfectly crispy on the outside and pillowy on the inside wrapped with a slightly spicy gochujang sauce. The table unanimously fell in love with these little cylinder-shaped rice cakes.
I suspect John sprinkles crack on them.
The next three restaurants should be counted as one yet Daniel Costa’s trifecta on Jasper Ave offers its own unique selling proposition in taste, style and ambience.
The menu is filled with ingenious Italian dishes (including handmade pasta) utilizing locally-sourced ingredients. In fact, it’s not an unusual sight to see Costa carrying bags of groceries from the local farmer’s market.
If you want to try some of Costa’s dishes at home, check out Tavola, his integrated cookbook app.
Head next door to Costa’s wine bar. You won’t be disappointed with the extensive list of vino and small plates. The best seat in the house is the stand up bar facing the street – ultimate back drop for interesting people watching and bright light for a food photo shoot.
Another brilliant creation from Costa, the addition of lemon zest in the Eggs Moliterno will leave you frothing for more. It’s so sensual … even Barry White would swoon. Oooooh yaaaah.
With the agnolotti dish (below), it’s a simple process: dip, coat, eat and repeat until you fight your friends for the last one.
Upscale Mexican street food sounds like an oxymoron but it’s done right at Tres Carnales with high-quality fresh seafood and appealing presentation combined with the homey personality of the room.
At this point, I couldn’t eat anymore but the crew proceeds to order tacos. As I take a bite, I wonder how I would look in a muumuu.
We make our way back to Costa’s newest restaurant Uccellino – a trattoria (causal dining) with a menu of simple dishes incorporating traditional Italian ingredients and techniques.
After 5 restaurants in 5 hours, I had a serious case of abbiocco – the Italian definition of drowsiness following indulging in way too much food. This is when Bourdain and his host will find a seedy underground bar for drinks and late night eats.
I’m ready to fold like a cheap suitcase and call it a night when Dong suggests pork bone soup at NongBu. I begin foaming at the mouth for more rice crack cakes, a true sign of an addiction.
Unfortunately (but fortunately for my arteries), NongBu’s kitchen was closed.
Featured Image: Chocolate Torta with Salty Hazelnuts, Corso 32