Friday, 30 March 2012

Niche Edmonton, AB - missing seasonings, ingredients and lacklustre food

Rating Service 8/10, Food 6/10

Touted by some as the best new restaurant, we stopped by with some friends for dinner. Niche is set in a dim dark dining room with a bar dominating the room, and a touch of rustic charm with a red brick wall running up the other side. Avoid the tables close to the windows unless you like it cool and drafty. Our waitress was friendly and efficient. Sadly, Niche was a major disappointment as the kitchen did not deliver... they forgot some of the ingredients and forgot to season most of the dishes. More on that in a bit...

the DRINKS
We killed some time sipping and chatting after we ordered our food. We started with a mug of Hot spiced apple cider and Spicy caesar. The hot apple cider was served steaming hot with a generous shot of rum (I think.. the alcoholic fumes cleared up the sinuses with only one sip!), a cinnamon stick and 2 slices of dried apple that rehydrated and soaked up the yumminess. If they added in some brown sugar, it would be drinking liquid apple pie. Mmmm. The spicy cesear was laced with wasabi, which was added into the regular mix of clamato, tabasco sauce and worchestire. Nice and savory salty.


Spiced apple cider on left, spicy ceasar on right
the FOOD
Mussels
We started off with a platter of what was supposed to be mussels laced with a saffron and cream broth with tomato concasse (chopped tomatos) and fresh herbs served with toasted baguette. Oddly, there was no saffron color nor flavor, and the tomatos and fresh herbs were nowhere to be seen. When I asked if the mussels were supposed to have tomatos, the waitress replied "they should be in there". Well, they weren't. We were hungry, shrugged it off as the mussels were fresh, so we had them au natural.

Slow roasted lamb
My entree was supposed to be a slow roasted shoulder of lamb with fig and red wine reduction served on minted pea risotto with nicoise vegetables (came out as steamed asparagus). What came out was a few thinly sliced unseasoned though tender and well done lamb shoulder. Since the lamb was a bit bland, despite the cloying sweet fig reduction, I was really looking forward to the pea risotto, and sadly, it was a total disappointment. There was a small bit of pulsed grainy (frozen?) peas, in a dry Uncle Ben's like rice. It was a bland rice side dish rather than the creamy, deeply satisfying and flavorful plump grains of rice I was expecting. And yup, the mint was missing completely - it wasn't incorporated into the dish, not even as a garnish. The kitchen must be having issues with sourcing fresh herbs and spices.

Duck confit
My boyfriend's duck was served in a large pool of light cream sauce and asparagus. The duck skin was crispy, however meat was dry as the duck was overcooked. It was also served with a bland gluey-pastey bread pudding thing that we didn't touch after one bite. The sauce was oddly thin, bland, had an sweet note, and didn't add much to the dish. Its opaqueness despite having cream in the sauce was a little off putting.

Swordfish
One of my girlfriends had this, and said it was tasty though needed a bit of salt and it was overcooked and thus, dry despite the tomato based sauce it was topped with.

Beef Cheeks
Braised in a red wine reduction, on a bed of yukon gold potatos, seasonal wild mushrooms and topped with a caper lemon creme fraiche - this was the only dish that delivered and was executed well, though it needed a bit of work in the presentation area.

the DESSERTS
A bit wary after the lackluster entrees, we made room for a chocolate brownie with salted caramel and lemon creme fraiche. The best part was the caramel - creamy, smooth with a light hit of salt. The brownie was quite light and not dense. It resembled a over baked cakey chocolate lava cake rather than a nicely rich dense sink your teeth into brownie. The creme fraiche added in a spot of flavor, though it needed more lemon as it tasted mainly of lightly sweetened creme.

the VERDICT
We initially thought they were having an off night with the mussels, but as 4/5 dishes we ordered were either missing seasonings (saffron, herbs, salt, mint, butter) or missing ingredients altogether (tomatoes, cream), and the tables being steady but not overly packed nor busy, this may speak of more systemic issues that Niche should work on. For the price and what we received, we'll be eating out elsewhere.

Niche
Address
11011 Jasper Avenue, Edmonton, AB T5K OK6
Phone (780) 761-1011
Hours Mon-Thu 11am-12am, Fri 11am-2am, Sat 4pm-2am
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