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Feb 19, 2008 11:19 PM

Weekend Roundup - Edmonton

I know i have a tendency to ramble. But im tired. And feeling some sickness coming on. And the caffeine i so wisely ingested at 10pm is wearing off. So i will try and summarize in digest form.

I've been fairly complimentary to a few places in Edmonton - places that provided me with some great food experiences. However, things can change, and i feel it's important to get back to specific restaurants at least once a year, just so you can refresh your knowledge, and confirm that your opinion still holds true.

I spent the weekend revisiting a bunch of places i really enjoyed in the past. Here are my observations.

1. Friday Night, Dinner - Syphay (Thai and Laotian).
It's been a while, but i was picking up dinner to take to a friends house. Wanting something close by, i figured Thai was a good option. I ordered three dishes - green curry (chicken), Pad Thai with prawns, and a Laotian Beef dish, and two orders of coconut rice. Total bill, 45 bucks + tip.

The food was excellent - too much for 3 people really, but we were all hungry, and it tasted so darn good, we polished it off. The green curry was nice. Great blend of flavours. The Pad Thai was good, but i swear they put ketchup in there. And the Laotian beef dish. Damn, was it tasty. Coconut rice was amazing - best flavour i've had in a while.

Great price, good food. Still good.

2. Saturday afternoon, lunch - Betsy's (South African)

Had a big breakfast at a friends house, and a long chat and coffee turned into a light lunch. I had a bunch of errands to run, so i took off. One thing that Edmonton has that i miss is Betsy's - a South African deli. I needed some quick, easy food to eat on the go, so i picked up a big bag of chili bites, and biltong (both regular, and chili biltong). If you've never had them, you should give them a try. It's a better, more flavourful jerky.

3. Saturday night, dinner - Sofra (Turkish)

Probably my favorite restaurant in Edmonton (tossed up with Culina), i hit Sofra every chance i get. 2 friends and i split two dips (red pepper, my fave, and spicy feta (spice coming from an insane amount of garlic). The pita wasnt up to par, a bit soggy. But they were slammed, so i'll give them a pass this time, as the dips themselves were awesome as usual. They were also out of Kofte (meatballs), so we had to share a lamb skewer, a chicken skewer, and a veggie skewer. Amazing as always - the three of us, who normally talk a lot, had complete silence during the entrees. Split a baklava dish for dessert.

The prices have gone up - a couple bucks on most items. Not the raging steal it used to be, but still awesome, with dishes with a flavour profile you just don't get anywhere else in Edmonton. Glad it has maintained a high standard of quality still.

3B. Saturday Night - drinks - Sherbrooke Liquor (Beer)

Sherbrooke liquor - we stopped by on the way home to pick up beer. For those who don't know, Sherbrooke liquor is home of the most diverse beer selection in Alberta. There was a new Unibroue beer that we tried, and a couple of old standby's - Fischer, Alsacian beer. Combine the french with the germans and you get a really good bevy!

4. Sunday brunch - New York Bagel Cafe (Breakfast)

My favorite breakfast place in Alberta. It doesnt need anymore business, so people, please don't bother going when im in town! :) Huge lineups as always, amazing food as always. Eggs Benedict or French Toast is the way to go here. I always go with one of the Benny's. Still amazing, the only thing about this place that i dislike is the lack of drip coffee. When im hung over, i dont want to be paying $3.50 for "house coffee" that is really a latte. I want refills on good diesel fuel. Or a P&S to make my day.

As an FYI, i tried the Blue Chair cafe for brunch a few weeks ago, and it was decent. No lineup. A worthy alternative if you don't want to wait. Only annoying thing was they brought musicians in, but then ask everyone to chip in and pay for them. I've never been a fan of passing the buck after the fact - either charge a cover, or pay for them yourselves has always been my opinion.

5. Sunday Dinner - Sage (Steakhouse)

Google Sage edmonton and one thing pops up - my over enthused, glowingly complimentary review of my first experience at Sage. Since the first few times i've been, i've heard mixed reviews from a few friends. Mostly service related, but some food related issues as well. I owed a good friend a nice birthday meal (from August!), so i took him to Sage. I had to get some new intel on it.

Well, the menu has changed. Things have gotten a bit cheaper (!? I know!), and they've removed a few choices, replacing them with others. My sentiments are: bread isnt as good, though it was a Sunday. Likely not fresh. The appetizers and salads are less ambitious, less interesting, and no where near as good as they used to be. My salad was very average. The calamari was decent, but not great. Nothing like the old rock cod, shrimp, and calamari appetizer they used to serve.

The entree's - i ordered bone-in ribeye ($38), friend ordered striploin ($40). Both Canadian Prime. Both were awesome. Perfectly cooked in my opinion (most Albertans would probably say slightly undercooked - i ordered medium rare and it was probably more like R-MR, but i prefer that over overcooked). Awesome cuts of beef.

Sides we shared - mushrooms, and truffled macaroni. Both were tasty. No complaints there.

With a couple of drinks, the bill came out to $130 + tip.

This wasnt as good as my first experience, but i don't think it could possibly live up to the same lofty expectations. The steak was as good as the first time. The appetizers, not so much. It was still worth the money in my mind, but not the mind blowing experience of times past.

6. Monday Lunch - Pagolac (Vietnamese)

I used to eat at Pagolac all the time. From my first experiences on 97th Street when my mom would take me while we would run errands, to working at an office that shared my love for satay soup and 68 - going for lunch 2-3 times a week, to working next to the southside location and going there every day, i definitely miss the laughing cow.

Prices have gone up to match inflation - still quite reasonable, but not as ridiculous as it used to be. I ordered the veritable institution, Beef Satay soup, and an order of spring rolls.
Soup, regular size (7.95), is of the thick variety. Alau2 loves this soup. I used to miss this tremendously, but i have to say, this time, it was only average. Too much ginger. Not enough heat. Noodles endlessly tangled together. It was good, but i think i've adopted the Calgary coconut milk-chili broth as my new preference. Im sad...i thought some things would always stand the test of time. This hasnt for me. Next time, im sticking with #68. Maybe a trip to the Oriental Noodle house, the home of the beef satay soup is in order to try and find my love again!

Anyway, those are just some updates on places around town. I see i failed at my attempt at writing with brevity, in digest form. I'll have to work on it.

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  1. Thanks for the updates on both cities.

    I still have not made it to Sofra. It has been on the list for quite awhile. Unfortunately, once I get out of downtown it takes a lot of urging to head back...that having been said I only myself to "blame" for the complaints of yet another meal at Earl's on 170th ... at least they have Osoyoos Larose at a decent valued $50 compared with retail...or CHOP ... mind you I do like the people and their prime rib dip ... or Koutouki.

    Sometimes I am in the mood for a leisurely "graze" drinking wine and munching on the dips and pita you described. They are only open for dinner arn't they?

    Is Becky's the spot on the west side of 104th [?] when you are heading south out of town ... mind you if it is on the west side I figure it would not matter whether one is heading north or south [grin] ... saw a spot with a banner hanging outside advertising South African meats and/or sausages.

    I have to get to the Sherbrooke Liquor store. I do not know how many times I have been at the intersection and thinking I should go back. Some day. I have always been a fan of Unibroue's products... even back in the day when Quebecois singing legend Robert Charlebois was one of the owners. I enjoy Blanche de Chambly [used to go to the fort in Chambly featured on the label as a kid], Fin du Monde, Maudite and the like.

    Have a hankering for the Phillips Chocolate Espresso Stout from Victoria that we enjoyed when out on the coast. Sounds like Sherbrooke would be the place to find it or an alternative.

    Sage is also the spot on our radar the next time we want a big feed of beef. I finally headed out that way on Saturday afternoon as I had not been to the Casino site before. It was of course closed but I did manage to strain my eyese and manage to make out the menu,

    Without your comments, probably would not bother. Just looked like so many other chop houses. As you described, appetizers and extras seemed standard, read ho-hum but the truffled mac and cheese did get a big thumb's up from the bartender in the Casino's sports bar.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Bob Mac

      We revisited Sage on Friday night, I was so looking forward to the truffled mac & cheese, in fact I have been salivating about it for months.

      Our service the first time was not great, although the server was new (he told us), but not too bad. This time he was very cordial, albeit a little over the top. I too noticed that the menu changed, I did not notice the price drop though. We started with Calamari, I agree good, but not great. I was impressed with the beef tataki though, seared perfectly blue rare, tasty sweet tangy marinade, and a wonderful wasabi mayo. My husband and I had the fillet, his was perfectly marbled and cooked med rare. Mine was a little disappointing, it had less marbling, so a little drier, not as tasty. I asked for mine medium, it was m/r, had to send it back, much better the second time around. We ordered the trio of sides for $16 aspargus/mushrooms/sweet potato fries, all great. As I was craving the mac/cheese, I wanted more than what came on the trio....get was the same size!! So $9 for one side or 3 for $16 all the same do the math! I was angry about that, the waiter even said that it would be bigger, when we complained nothing was done, no offer to bring more, no option to make it a trio, no removal from the bill. Oh well lesson learned, next time I am getting the trio of mac/cheese!

      I would concur with Yen, not mind blowing like the first time. But I will still head there first for beef.

      1. re: Bob Mac

        Sofra - only open for dinner. And getting really busy. When i called for a reso, the only one they had available all weekend was a late seating on Saturday (8:30pm, which i don't think is that late, but i guess they start filling up at 5:30).

        Lol. Yeah, Betsy's is just past the Strathcona track (a big field on the west side), next to a convenience store and a dive shop. Their Boerwors are really good too, but i never have a BBQ when im in town so i can't partake.

        Espresso Stout - big rock has an espresso stout product - limited offer! We found it at Sherbrooke on Saturday and picked up a pack for a friend. E-stout is usually a bit too hefty for after dinner drinking for me, but they probably have 6 or 7 options along the same vein. I think i saw a Purdy's Chocolate Espresso stout when i was there (shudder). If you're looking for unique beers, be warned - you'll be spending a lot of time in their cooler. Dress warmly!

      2. You know what? I just tried that coconut milk-chili broth in Calgary last weekend - at Pho Anh Huyen on Centre St./14th Ave - and I loved it. Very excited to find something like that.

        1. I went to Pagolac over the long weekend (54th ave location) and tried the satay pho, thanks to a few recommendations on this board and a couple other sites... It wasn't really my cup of tea. The soup was too viscous (my noodles were pretty much floating on top of it), and didn't really have a distinct sate flavor. The noodles were mushy, and - to steal yen's words - endlessly tangled together. The worst part - my bowl of pho cost $10. I dont think I've ever spent that much for pho, even in the cleanest, most caucasian-oriented places in Calgary. But from the sounds of it, it's not as good as it used to be.

          7 Replies
          1. re: Strider

            Aw man, as a fan of Pagolac's satay pho, I'm really sorry to hear you had a bad experience.

            1. re: alau2

              is that Pagolac the same as the one that used to be on the west end by the mall? i never did like it.

              1. re: cleopatra999

                I think you're mistaking it with a different place. Pagolac has two locations - downtown chinatown (97 street and 105A ave) and southside (97 street and 52/53 ave).

                1. re: cleopatra999


                  You may be thinking of La Pagode or something to that effect...used to see it as I drove by that strip mall on 170th Street but never popped in....

                  1. re: Bob Mac

                    thank you bob mac you are correct it was la pagode!

                    1. re: cleopatra999

                      SS Pagolac's standards were never quite to the level of those in Chinatown, their soups were consistently sub-par for me.

                      La Pagode hasn't impressed me much either.. their portions are too small, lots of noodles and not alot of anything else.

                      My favorite for Pho in Edmonton is on Jasper Ave 1 block east of Furama.. I can't remember the name, but it's right beside P&L. Consistenly hot (temperature), flavorful soup, and ample meat, tripe, tendons, etc.

                      1. re: taiphun

                        we have been enjoying Hoang Long, since we moved to the west end. Prior to that we frequented Ninh kieu (sp?) right in chinatown, their pho was great.