Ever so slowly, I am trying all the “good” restaurants around the city. It’s kind of an expensive hobby though, so most of the time these visits are regulated to special occasion events.
With this in mind, I made a special request to my mother. Instead of buying expensive Christmas presents that sit around and gather dust, I asked to be taken out for dinner at The Blue Pear. This is a somewhat unique restaurant in Edmonton. The menu is seasonal and changes every month or two. They have a small dining room and reservations fill up quickly. The menu is a five-course set dinner at $85 per person (not including tax, tip, or drinks), where you can choose your meal from a limited number of appetizers, entrees and desserts. You also order a side dish of Atlantic lobster tail or seared grade A foie gras for an extra charge.
The restaurant’s interior is what I would call simplistic modern elegance; white is the predominant colour, and large paintings and a funky lighting fixture dominates the dining area. Lighting is dim, with candles at each table. (I’m mentioning this because my photos were quite dark until I figured out that I could move the candle to give me more light. I guess I could adjust the lighting in Photoshop, but I’m too lazy.)
As we sat down, I was struck by the unusual way they had set the table. All the utensils were sitting face down on the table, and the butter knives were balanced on their edges. To start, I ordered an iced green tea. It was very refreshing and tasted 10 times better than any pre-processed iced green tea that seems to be everywhere on store shelves nowadays.
We were offered a bread basket with a couple of different kinds of bread. Not bad, but nothing memorable. Frankly, I only took the picture because I was trying to figure out the lighting.
For appetizers, Mom had the slow braised duck thigh over warm cannellini bean and Arugula salad finished with braising liquid and red wine poached pear. She raved about this dish all night and said she would have been more than happy to have it as her entree, rather than just as an appetizer. I tasted a small piece of the duck and it was very tender.
I chose to try the crisp fried sweetbreads, baby roasted root vegetables, ale foam, and citrus puree. This was the first time I had ever had sweetbreads, and while I can see they wouldn’t appeal to everyone, I liked the texture. They taste a bit lighter than most offal I’ve had in the past. (Sweetbreads are are the thymus glands of lamb, beef or pork, in case you didn’t know. I forgot to ask which animal these ones came from.)
These ones were fried perfectly and did not taste greasy at all. Intellectually, I appreciated the pairing of the ale foam, but at the same time didn’t like the taste of it and ended up scooping about half of it onto the side of the plate. I’m not a big fan of most alcohol tastes, but I think someone who actually likes ale would have loved it.
Next was the soup course. We were served a potato puree soup with cheddar fritter and mustard oil. This was one of the best dishes of the night. It was so smooth but not fatty tasting, and was not oily at all. The cheddar gave the soup a lovely cheesey flavour as well, kind of like eating broccoli and cheese soup but without the broccoli and with a more subtle cheese flavour. At first I thought the mustard oil was superfluous, but when mixed into the rest of the soup it gave the soup a slight mustard tang. This is one of the best soups I’ve had in a while. I wanted so badly to stick my face in the bowl and lap up all the lingering bits of soup.
The salad course was a plate of mixed greens with hazelnut oil dressing and dried cherries. The cherries gave the salad a sweet kick. The dressing was mild and nutty, but I found it almost a little too oily. Perhaps the dressing was a little too mild and to make up for that they needed to add more dressing? I’m not sure.
For her entree, Mom had the poached fish with seafood rice roll, baby soybean along with purees of curry, lobster, coconut & cilantro. I only had a small nibble of her dish but from what I remember the purees all tasted different from each other, yet complementary. The cilantro puree had a bit of molecular gastronomy applied to it and appeared on the plate as a bright green blob. Once the outer skin was gently poked with a fork, the puree oozed out just like an egg yolk in a sunny-side-up egg. The seafood rice roll was soft and tender and and the fish was perfectly cooked. My mother loved the noodles most of all, surprisingly enough. I asked her if these were the best noodles she’s tasted outside of a Chinese restauarant and she emphatically said, “Yes!” And then she stupidly decided to eat the whole hot pepper (seeds and all), and nearly died from the heat while I laughed and scolded her for being greedy. There weren’t enough carbs on the plate to counteract the heat!
My entree was the grilled lamb loin, ratatouille goat cheese tart and potato, finished with rosemary scented lamb jus & olives. The lamb was cooked until just pink in the centre and was not at all gamey. The ratatouille goat cheese tart had a bunch of vegetables on top and nicely toned down the sharpness of the goat cheese. I was sad when I realized that I had finished everything on the plate already.
After all this food, we were stuffed. Dessert was still to come, and we were given a short dessert menu to peruse. Mom chose a trio of desserts: flourless chocolate cake, papaya coulis and mango sorbet, and a passionfruit cube. The cake was dense and chocolatly, and the coulis, sorbet and passionfruit were sweet and refreshing. My photo of this is quite blurry; I think I was too tired from all the good food to hold my hand steady.
For my dessert, I didn’t want anything too heavy, and eschewed the chocolate for a piece of lemon coconut cake, raspberry meringue crumble, candied lemon peel, and fresh raspberries. The cake and frosting was light and fluffy without being overly sweet, and the meringue crumble was infused with the taste of raspberries. I throughly enjoyed this dessert; it satisfied my sweet tooth and rounded out my meal with a light touch.
Other than a couple of minor quibbles, I’d have to say that this meal was practically perfect. The creativity of the dishes were interesting, the flavours spot on, and the service was outstanding. This is easily one of the best restaurants in Edmonton, and I will definitely be back as soon as my wallet gives me some wiggle room.
The Blue Pear
10643 – 123 Street