Edmonton: Sage Restaurant
So i've been a bit down on restaurants specializing in "Western"/North American/Euro-cuisine lately. Very demotivated. Heck, im tired of posting about the same restaurants in every city. Im tired of the lack of creativity, and for many of the places that do have excellent creative chefs, the lack of a changing menu (read: Culina, Wild Tangerine, Hardware Grill for example. A special a night doesnt cut it. Your menu's need to change please!!!). There is only so many ways you can tolerate eating frilly bison, elk, pork with potatoes.
Well, tonight, as my best friend and I drove around Edmonton aimlessly, trying to come up with some place to eat that wasnt fully booked, with a "finer" dining atmosphere for the celebration of a birthday, we were stuck. After 90 minutes of checking on places, and driving around town for inspiration, i decided we should take the plunge and head out to the River Cree Resort and Casino and try Sage. Someone on the board had mentioned that Sage served Canadian Prime, and my friend, who refuses to dine at locations that serve US beef (which apparently is more than we expect), agreed that it was worth the try.
And oh, was it ever.
The space itself is awfully nice in a modern interpretation of river running through mountains. The restaurant itself is quite open, with a lot of flexibility in seating, and a very nice atmosphere. We chose to sit at the bar, so we could watch the hockey game on the only tv in the restaurant.
The service was phenomenal from beginning to end. Friendly, attentive, but not over bearing. Helpful in making suggestions, and generous in bringing little extras that helped make the meal an A+ experience. I don't believe i could have asked for better service. The bartender who served us was Kathleen, a very gregarious, and competent staffer.
The food: was great. There isnt much else i can say. The bread came warm from the oven, with appropriately soft butter. Water with lemon wedge was brought without asking (even though we had ordered drinks). Kathleen recommended the Fried Calamari, Gulf Shrimp, and Rock Cod appetizer. My friend had the big eye tuna carpaccio. We shared a Sage Iceberg lettuce salad. I had the Canadian Prime Striploin, my friend had the Canadian Prime Bone-in Ribeye. Everything ala carte, we split a baby bok choy for some veg. For dessert, peppered raspberry cheesecake.
The salad was excellent. Served with red and yellow cherry tomoatos, fresh crumbled bacon, and a fantastic blue cheese dressing (a smoother bleu, similar to St Azur if anyone has ever had that), the iceberg lettuce was a perfect crisp, crunchy contrast to the creaminess of the blue cheese. Iceberg, which is not my favorite lettuce, also didnt allow the flavours of the dressing to overpower the entire salad. Excellent.
The tuna carpaccio was excellent, but not amazing in my mind. The tuna was very fresh, well seasoned, but with a bit too much oil for my liking. Freshly fried chips were a perfect accompainiment.
My appetizer, on the other hand, was as good as an appetizer gets. A huge portion of perfectly fried and seasoned calamari, shrimp, and rock cod. salty and peppery, lightly dusted, and fried without being overly greasy. The squid was extremely tender without requiring scoring, and it came with fresh lemon, lime, and a great aioli to dip in. This got a 10/10 for appetizers for me. I was ecstatic.
The steaks were perfect. Ordered rare-medium rare, the marbling on my striploin was perfect. And cooked perfectly. And served with a nice mix of greens on top (including beet tops, which are underused from my perspective). The Ribeye was perfect as well. Not only cooked perfectly, but the right combination of warm (with the fat not completely congealed into cold lumps, but melting into the muscle), and rare. Juiciest ribeye i've ever had. And a complementary au jus was brought for it as well.
The bok choy was bok choy. Not much else to say about that. No grit, no hard bits, not over cooked to mush.
I was too full for dessert, but was reassured that it was awesome - not that i was offered any. Being told of my penchant for salts over sweets, the server brought a very small bowl of house-made blue potato chips. Now that's a dessert!
Total bill for this extravagant meal, including 2 drinks, was 180 including a fairly generous tip. Great value in my mind.
Next time, the lamb porterhouse.
I wont tell you all to rush out and try it immediately, as this could have been the perfect storm of disenfranchised diner, hunger at 9:30pm, meeting creative chef. But i was as happy with this meal as i've been in a very long time at any western restaurant - and that includes my Thomas Keller experience at Ad Hoc last week. I think Sage was phenomenal. And combined with the fact that the kitchen is open until 11 when many in the city close at 9, and there is ample seating without a tremendous number of patrons, this place should come to mind the next time you find yourself wandering aimlessly, trying to find a "finer" dining establishment. I don't believe you'll regret it. :)
You basically take Whitemud until you hit Winterburn Road (215 Street) and it's there. Far western edge of the city.
There are a couple oddities i did fail to report though that i think i should.
1. The entrance to the restaurant is from the casino (all the restaurants are on the edge of the casino - which is "circular". So this is not a romantic walk to a fancy restaurant, unless your idea of romance includes squealing, groans, and an electronic barrage of noises fit for the Price is Right. However, if you're looking for it, turn to the right and walk around the edge from the main entrance. If you turn left like we did, you realize you walk 3/4 of the way around! :)
2. The casino, which is on reserve land, has certain priveleges that can contradict certain bylaws. The casino allows some smoking, which you can smell when you first walk in (if you're sensitive to this sort of thing). But the restaurant does not, and i couldnt smell smoke from it. And im sensitive to smoke. But some people (hi John!) are quite militant about this sort of thing, so i thought i should mention it.
Went to Sage last week for the first time. By far the best steak I have ever had, a filet that was cooked to perfection and melted in my mouth! The whole meal was visually appealing and delicious.
Definitely one of the finer restaurants in the City (or in this case just outside the City limits) at this time.
I was told the chef was enticed to come here from Las Vegas. Let's hope he sticks around!
If you haven't been to the River Cree Casino, it is well worth the trip to have a great dinner at Sage. Dinner for two with wine around $100.
re: Hugh Jass
I went last Saturday, it was around half full. I think they are getting by, and even if they aren't making a lot of money I think the casino has an interest in keeping it open to satisfy people that pay the bills in the pits and the hotel.
My meal was excellent - the kobe style ribeye was really succulent, and everything was well executed. Servings are huge, as is typical of a steakhouse, so I didn't get anything but steak and some sides.
I thought the sauce on the creamed spinach was a little runny, but the taste still worked. The onion rings were incredible, and I would honestly go just to eat an order of them if I thought that would fly. The mushrooms were a really nice addition and came in a huge serving. The combination plate of three sides came with only 6 onion rings, which is stingy iyam, but there were so many mushrooms we could have covered all three steaks.
The only reason I might not go there next time I want steak is that I haven't tried Ruth's Chris yet.