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Zinc at the Art Gallery of Alberta - a huge disappointment

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Culinary Crusader Feb 9, 2010 07:39 PM

The new Art Gallery of Alberta opened recently. It is a stunning building and is a significant addition to Edmonton's downtown. The building also has a new restaurant called Zinc. We were very excited to try it out as the word was that they intended to take the city's fine dining to another level. Boy were we disappointed.

When we arrived, there was no one at the door to greet guests. We waited several minutes and a number of staff walked by, but no one even acknowledged that we were there. The restaurant was not busy. Finally we were seated. The room is modern, but a little cold and the room dividers have a bit of a cubicle feel.

The server was nice, but obviously not comfortable in a fine dining atmosphere. The food was extremely bad and over-priced. Appetizers - Many of the "roasted" beets in the beet salad were raw. The foie gras with anise ice cream was horrible. The anise completely overpowered the foie gras. The flavours were not well balanced.

The main courses were not much better. The bison was dry and over cooked. The pickeral was cooked fine, but quite bland with some gluey potato thing on top. The only main that was decent was the duck. It was prepared very well, but was served with mushy, flavourless chickpeas.

The desserts were unremarkable. The frozen chocolate cake was fine, but the mango mousse tasted like styrofoam.

Not only was the food average to very bad, the prices are very expensive, particularly for the quality. Dinner for 4 with one bottle of wine (the wine prices are very high compared to most fine dining restaurants in the city) was over $125 per person.

The food lacks elegance, subtly and finesse. This is not honest food. The chef obviously lacks the understanding and the ability to combine flavours.

We really wanted this restaurant to be good. Unfortunately, if they do not get better quickly, I don't think that many people who dine at the restaurant would go back a second time. We felt ripped off. Hopefully they will get better, but I honestly do not think they will.

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    cleopatra999 RE: Culinary Crusader Feb 10, 2010 07:24 AM

    wow, that is really disappointing. hopefully we will see some improvement. I look forward to hearing from other chowers.

    2 Replies
    1. re: cleopatra999
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      Bob Mac RE: cleopatra999 Feb 10, 2010 07:54 AM

      I echo cleopatra999's comments and hope for signficant improvement as what Culinary Crusader described was/is dreadful

      1. re: cleopatra999
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        foodiesnorth RE: cleopatra999 Feb 10, 2010 08:16 AM

        Thanks for the detailed report. I hope someone at Zinc will hear/read about your comments as they are new and obviously have much room for improvement.

      2. mianoelle RE: Culinary Crusader Feb 17, 2010 08:23 AM

        That makes me really sad. I was so hopeful. Don't they test dishes before putting them on the menu? There's a certain amount of pride that has to go into running an establishment and it makes me sad when it isn't there.

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          Foodie Riverbend RE: Culinary Crusader Mar 5, 2010 03:47 PM

          We also had a very substandard experience at Zinc, with dismal service and unimpressive food. Hardly worth the money when there are so many other good places in the city. In a nutshell, we had slow, incompetent and rude service, and mediocre food. I did mention to the maitre'd our disappointment and it was received with a shrug. Not a good sign.

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            Dan G RE: Culinary Crusader Mar 11, 2010 06:31 AM

            Was at Zinc a couple of days ago - went to the AGA with a group of friends and decided to try it (despite having read all the bad reviews here and elsewhere). Overall, good but not great. Some of the food was very good but some was lacking in flavour. Not bad, but a bit bland really. Service...odd, but not outrageously bad. They seem like they are trying, but don't really know what good service should be. Server seemed very uncomfortable (maybe partly becuase we were discussing at one point the bad reviews!). Wierd things were his mannerisms, like calling the female mademoiselle! And he called the compote that was on a cheese plate compotay, heavy stress on the last syllable. Design of the room didn't help - there was a pillar behind me that the server couldn't get past so he had to reach accross me or, a couple of times, just hand me fresh cutlery. And the ceiling is very high and the acoustics are strange so we had a had a hard time hearing him and he us.

            Overall, OK but not great and not up to the level other places in town in that price range.

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              hungryneko RE: Culinary Crusader Mar 11, 2010 03:08 PM

              Dined here a few nights ago as well, and went in with low expectations due to the mediocre reviews. I thought everything was fine, not fantastic but not terrible either. The server was not overly attentive. Had the beef cheek starter and was slightly surprised by the large portion. The flavour was very good. The tart part of the dish I didn't get because it was some kind of crusty bun covered with leeks and muchroom in a madeira sauce. The cod was cooked just right, the sauce had a very subtle flavour which may be considered bland by some. The fennel and wild boar salad underneath was tasty enough.
              All in all, I agree with Dan G that it was OK but not up to the level of other places in this price range. I do hope it improves as I do enjoy the restaurant space.

              1 Reply
              1. re: hungryneko
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                Dan G RE: hungryneko Mar 11, 2010 08:11 PM

                I had the cod too (black cod/sablefish is probably my favorite food!) and the flavours on the plate were good, but the texture of the fish was a bit odd. I would say it had been frozen and then maybe slightly undercooked.

                The beet salad (beets may be #2 favorite food) was really lacking in flavour though.

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                foodiesnorth RE: Culinary Crusader Jul 15, 2010 08:20 AM

                Finally made it here and expected the worst. We had a wonderful meal with excellent, knowledgable service. Restos can have good and bad days and I don't doubt for a moment that the other posters had bad days. We had Alex as our server (apparently he usually works the bar not the floor). He had both enthusiasm for food and excellent knowledge of the food, the wines and the pairings.

                After our tasty amuse bouche (brioche, pate and a jellied consomme of chicken - yum)We started with appetisers, duck ravioli and taste of Alberta. The ravioli was superb and used duck from Greens Eggs and Ham. The taste of Alberta had good and bad. The alberta beef burger was perfect, lots of taste, perfectly cooked. The alpaca chop was dry, overly peppered and tough. We suggested adding yak from southern Alberta to the menu and they seemed quite open to that idea.

                The entrees, tagliatelle with game hen and Cheek to Cheek (halibut and beef cheeks) were both excellent. The portions were large and filling - so much so that we no room for dessert!

                The place does a good job of relying on local supply to the point that they told us they personally attend at Greens Eggs and Ham to get some supplies. They get their wild boar from Texas (!) so we gave them Earl Hagman's contact info to ensure a local supply of that product too. We found the presentation good to very good; service excellent, food very good, price excellent (with food and wine it was $70 pp) overall value excellent. I encourage those with less than perfect experiences at Zinc to give them another shot. They need to be supported as a high end resto in a city with very few and one that focuses local - again a relative rareity. Unfortunately they did not hav any river scallops although Alex did ask the chef about them ;-)

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