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Saturday 14 April 2012

Wildflower Grill Edmonton, AB - Canadiana fare marred by abysmal service

Harvest creme brulee

Rating Food 6/10, Service 3/10
For a girlfriend's special occasion, we called ahead and made reservations to Wildflower Grill a place she frequented for lunch. A couple of us had come here before shortly after their reno's a while back and of all the couples present, all of us had celebrated one anniversary or another at Wildflower, so we were hoping for a great meal and a good time. What defines Canadiana fare? From previous experiences, it was locally sourced foods presented in a tasty and creative manner. Dark woods, large wine displays and white linens greet you when you step into the dimly lit dining area. We ate mainly by candlelight, so apologize for the blurry pics - haven't mastered cranking down the flash settings on the camera yet.  Unfortunately, the experience was marred by the rude and unacceptable service from the waitress assigned to our table, despite the manager assuring me when I made the reservation "you'll be well cared for". Anyways, onto the food!

Unbeknownst to us, things have really gone downhill. Our experience began quite well, with the friendly manager offering us coat check and the waitress reviewing the drinks specials. As one of our party was late due to weather, we did not order food right away, and whiled away some time catching up - we were only one of 4-5 tables the whole night as it was a weeknight. When the last guest arrived, we asked the waitress to repeat the drinks specials and the reply was "which ones?". We had to prompt her with our memory of the drink specials she had rattled off earlier. We found it a bit odd she seemed reluctant to tell us what the specials were since everyone was at the table - instead of having guests at the table guess and have her reply "yes". Maybe she was annoyed most of us had to stick with one or no alcoholic drinks as all of us had to drive. We shrugged it off and ordered a round of beers, raspberry something or another and a blueberry iced tea. The raspberry cocktail was refreshing and was a mix of syrup, pop and something alcoholic (not super memorable, so didn't get the name). The blueberry ice tea was brewed in house -surprisingly had a decent hit of blueberry flavor, and was quite enjoyable.

One of the guests sitting at the end of the table got whapped upside the head with a menu as the waitress was passing them out *oops #1* as well as taking back the dinner and wine menus *oops #2*, however she murmured an apology, so we chatted while we waited for our appetisers to come out. We had a complimentary bite come out which helped pass the time. In house candied salmon with red currant marinated in a sweet port/sherry. They should consider putting these on the appetiser menu. Mmm.

Next up were the brioche buns Wildflower is known for (1/2 a bun is complimentary). Its like a rich buttery warm croissant, and being served in a measuring cup adds a fun touch.

We're not sure what type of butter it was served with as the waitress forgot to tell us. Usually its a flavoured cow butter, with the occasional flavoured goats or sheep's milk butter tossed in for variety. It was a cow's based butter tonight with some toasted poppy seeds.

Braised beef shortribs
Deboned and served with a charred onion and celeriac dice, port demi glace and white balsamic reduction - was a bit of a hit and miss. One piece was fall apart moist and tender yummy, while a second piece was dry and hard despite rich sweet port sauce its drowned in.  The side was a bit on the bland side and needed something to brighten it up.  Used cutlery were taken away and replaced in proper spots by other waitstaff, and on wrong sides by our waitress *oops #4*.  Minor, but odd since she placed hers last and could clearly see how other wait staff have placed theirs. Moving on...

Crabcakes with avocado, citrus, roasted pine nuts and tango greens
The crabcakes were good, with lots of crab, little filler, and a light crunchy exterior. The greens don't dance literally, but the salad was refreshing with a light citrus based vinaigrette.

Warm Cippolini Onion Tart, Natricia Dairy goat cheese, and spring greens in charred jalapeno and buttermilk ranch dressing
While the presentation was nice, this appetiser was a bit disappointing. The tart was presented luke warm, and as the goat cheese ball was ice cold, it did nothing for the tart filled with well, lukewarm mooshy one note caramelized onions. The crust was also quite wet from the moist caramelized onions. The heavy dressing the salad was drowned in didn't salvage the dish.  The crisp cheese chip was tasty.

Mesquite sockeye salmon medallions with grilled prawns, root vegetable gnocchi, grilled asparagus, iced wine reduction
While the flavors are well balanced and worked really well for this dish, in the execution area, the fish was a bit overcooked. Otherwise, quite tasty, with the gnocchi a soft tender side.  The asparagus was grilled to a bring out its natural sweetness.

Sirloin steak with grilled veges and gnocchi
Sorry for the super blurry picture here. It looked ok when we checked in the viewfinder, but in retrospect, shouldn't count on it when taking pics in candlelight. The steak was deemed good and the gnocchi and vegetables enjoyed.

Rack of lamb with pomegranate mustard seed crust, Yorkshire pudding and fontina fondue
This dish was disappointing, and I'm glad to see they've changed things up since. The rack of lamb, though presented beautifully, was so cloyingly sweet, several of us had to scrape/cut off the crust and still found it too overly sweet despite dunking it into the lightly salted fontina fondue. The fondue was fun, but didn't mesh with the lamb, and was only used to dunk the brioche buns into. Our waitress was a bit.. peculiar - we had an extra setting at our table that was never cleared away, so we set out cameras and purses on the table after moving the utensils aside.  Every now and then, she would return to adjust the table mat so that it became parallel with the table as our camera or jostling of multiple dishes would offset the mat.  Unfortunately, she also radiated disapproval and was not unobtrusive about it *oops #5* While snapping pics, I asked the waitress to hang on for a sec so we could take a picture of our food. We were then floored when she grumbled that "well, now I can't reach the other fondues" (to light up the candles) *BIG oops #6*.  Wow.  Really? You are assigned to 1 single table the whole night, and you can't wait the 30seconds it took for someone to take 1 single picture during a special occasion dinner?! Yikes. We understand you're the bartender and you'd much prefer to be back behind the bar and not waiting on any table, but we've forgiven you for your sullen attitude and serving mistakes all evening so far.  Comments like that are totally unacceptable. Unbelievable.

Peppercorn Herb Crusted Bison Tenderloin
Ordered rare, the bison unfortunately came out closer to medium well done, making it a candidate for resoling the bottoms of shoes rather than a tender melt in your mouth texture we were expecting. It was served with grilled asparagus, butternut squash puree, blackberry sage reduction and a brick fried starch - fig and cheddar bread pudding that was quite tasty. Is it bad to enjoy the vegetables and sides more than the main?  Waitress processed to drop a steak knife on a guest's toe while clearing the cutlery. *oops #7*

Harvest creme brulee
We ordered some coffee to go with the spiced pumpkin creme brulee with creme filled mini beignets served with a tasty candied sugar glass with pumpkin seeds.  Creamy and delicious, the candied glass was a nice upscale touch.  Unfortunately our waitress then brained a guest in the head with the hot coffee pot. *oops#8*  Partially it was because she wasn't paying attention, and partially because she was serving the coffee from the wrong side and did not notify the guest she was lobbing a hot carafe of coffee about his head before doing so.  *Sigh* So unimpressed.  She quickly apologized and disappeared for the rest of the evening.  Water glasses refilled a total of once throughout the night.

Maybe it had to do with her normally being the bartender and not waitstaff. So, you're probably wondering after the "service" provided by the atrocious and condescending waitress, if the restaurant did anything to remedy the situation? Given the manager was on the floor and circulating that night, we were surprised he didn't swap out the waitress. Not wanting to ruffle feathers during the event, I had a conversation with the manager the next day to give him some feedback. The manager extended his apologies, said he would chat with the waitress and the next time my girlfriend came in, he would take care of her personally. We've had no issues with the waitstaff in the past, and have had the manager as our waiter before - merely saying you'll assign yourself to her table from now on is NOT a fix.  We thought the server at Teatro was bad, but Wildflower's takes the cake. There was clearly 2-3 other waitstaff plus the manager, and 4-5 tables total for the night, so it was a bit odd our waitress didn't stay at the bar and have other trained waitstaff take care of the dining room floor. There was more going on than just a terribly sullen, indifferent and sadistic waitress (beating up guests with menus, dropping steak knives on toes and braining them with hot coffee carafes - luckily no burns from the spillage of hot coffee). There was almost no table turnover that night, with each waitstaff having a single table of 2-4 the entire night. The kitchen should have been easily able to execute everything flawlessly. With the execution blips despite being an extremely slow night, and our waitress we were extremely unfortunate to be assigned to, we all agreed that we would remove Wildflower Grill permanently from our go to list.

Wildflower Grill
10009 – 107 Street NW, Edmonton, AB
Phone (780) 990-1938
Hours Lunch daily 11am-2pm, Dinner Sun-Thurs 4:30pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 4:30-11pm
Wildflower Grill on Urbanspoon


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Anonymous said...

If this has been a go to place for yourself and friends in the past, perhaps forgiving 1 awful experience as A random occurrence would be optional. On occasion mistakes can be make at even the best of the best, I would personally give it another shot before crossing it off the list. It's a beautiful atmosphere and delicious food, with friendly and competent staff. Its so unfortunate that the experience was so awful for you. said...

Normally, I'd agree with you, however:
1) when the restaurant was given advanced notice when we made rsvps that it was a special event, we were assured we'd be taken care of.. and undoubtedly we were not
2) it was a slow night with low turnover, so execution blips should have been minimal. If it was crazy insanely busy, we understand and let mistakes slide - but it was not busy
3) execution, creativity and flavour profiles not up to par with previous experiences - subjective, yes, but since many of us had dine here before, we had a "baseline" to draw from
4) the manager being on the floor not noticing and not rectifying the repeated egregious and at times dangerous behaviour of our waitress - dropping knives on toes, braining guests with HOT coffee carafe, striking guests with menus - repeatedly...
5) The waitress' behaviour overshadowing a meaningful and happy special event - that was the deal breaker

... I think there's justification enough to take our business elsewhere. I hope they take the comments to heart so noone has to pay to sit through what we have experienced, ever.

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