Monday, 15 October 2012

Murrieta's Edmonton, AB - Italian fare that has potential but flops in execution

Rating Food 7/10, Service 7/10
Not feeling like cooking since I was looking forward to a lot of cooking for the Thanksgiving weekend, we dropped by on a weeknight as a break for me, and as several folks had raved about Murrieta's.
Dim lighting, white tablecloths and dark seating are enlivened by some Italian themed paintings and wine casks that add character against an impressive (and almost daunting) full wall wine rack. While the night started off promising, our inexperienced waitress and poor food execution made the night fall bit flat.

We quickly ordered and nibbled on some crusty warm bread with nice warm centers while we waited for our appetizers to come out. We reminded our waitress to give us new knifes after our bread was cleared away, which she promptly did.
the APPYS
We went a bit overboard for two (we were hungry so our eyes were definitely bigger than our stomachs!) and ordered three appetizers to start. The first was the Pacific Crab Cake $15 served with preserved lemon, fried leeks, and a tasty mellow burnt tangerine sauce. The crab cake was the best item of the night, with a good ratio of crabmeat to seasoned breadcrumb ratio. The burnt tangerine sauce almost overshadowed the crabcakes as it went with the crabcakes quite well, the sweetness bringing out the flavors. Shame there was only one crabcake.

The 2nd appetizer out was the Lamb meat balls $11 served in a pool of sweet roasted tomato sauce. My boyfriend really loves meatballs, so he finished most of this dish despite the meatballs being overcooked, dry, dense and super incredible gamey (rosemary oil or younger ground lamb should be used). The tomato sauce cut some of the gaminess but the taste lingered for quite a while after.

Our last appetizer was the Trio of dips $10 served with warm flatbread. The lime pico de gallo (think bruschetta but with the addition of cilantro) needed a bit more cilantro and lime, though call me traditional - I feel crostinis are a much superior vehicle for bruschetta rather than warm thick flatbread that masks and obscures the flavors. The warm cream cheese and crab dip was tasty, though we think they completely forgot the crab - it tasted only of garlic and cream cheese. The herbed garlic mushroom duxelle, while having a delightful texture of mousse was lacking in any flavor other than half cooked mushrooms. We combined the cream cheese dip and mushroom one together to give the mushroom mousse a hit of flavor. The manager clued in that we were sharing our appetizers and brought us out sharing plates and served us each a meatball after our waitress forgot to set them out as we had impatiently started eating straight from the appetizer plates.

the Entrees
Still with high hopes for the entrees, after our table got swept for crumbs (should have been after bread course, but the thought was nice), my boyfriend dug into his House Made Gnocchi $16 with arugula, tomatoes, brown mushrooms mixed in a Gorgonzola herb sauce. While his dish smelled amazing, the gnocchi were overcooked, mushy and positively drowned in oil (great if you like your gnocchi on the mushy side - we like them slightly firm, not too chewy, with a dreamy cloudlike teature within). We packed it up after a few bites (the mushrooms were great!), and hoped some time in the fridge the next day would help firm up the pasta a bit (didn't work but was worth a shot). Waitress forgot to introduce the dishes as they came out (its a nicety at higher end restaurants so you get more info on the food you're about to dig into), but she was friendly, so we didn't point it out.

My entree was the Apple wood smoked chiken supreme $24 with bacon lardons, sauteed kale, on a bed of Israeli couscous. I love smoked meats, and unfortunately, this one was quite a bit oversmoked. My boyfriend coined it "a campfire in my mouth". Once I removed the blackened and extremely smokey skin, the meat itself was much more palatable though a bit dry. More basting and less smoking time would have improved the chicken. The accompaniments, flavorwise worked quite well, but could have been better executed. The bacon bits was mushy and scant, the kale added in scraps of color rather than an actual portion size of veges I was expecting. The couscous had strange bits of near raw lentils scattered throughout that I had to pick out of the soft almost mushy couscous so I didn't have to damage my teeth crunching on the popcorn-kernel like texture. Cooking the lentils thoroughly would have added a nice creaminess and depth to the dish. If the couscous was executed better, I wouldn't have minded just having a bowl of it and forget about the chicken.

the DESSERT
The dessert salvaged the evening. We had the Molten chocolate lava cake ~$10 served with a berry sauce, butterscotch gelato and whipped cream. Served in a mason jar, while cute - folks have been doing this for years now so we focus on the dessert rather than the vessel. While the cake itself wasn't bad - overcooked and lukewarm rather than hot, and the butterscotch gelato got lost and overwhelmed by the chocolate cake, the berries in the berry sauce made us smile. We jokingly asked out waitress if they were marinated in soda, and she told us the chef used a special sugar with an effect like pop rocks! The strawberries fizzed in your mouth as you bit into them. Very cool and fun note to end the night.

the VERDICT
The menu items had the potential to be great, though the execution fell far short with missing ingredients, overcooking and undercooking items. Perhaps it was just an off night for the kitchen, though they were only 1/4 full at most during the whole night. I see huge potential here, and will be back to give them another chance... after some time for them to work out the kinks in the kitchen, and bring along a better camera cuz the dim lighting did nothing for the food.  And for those fans always grumping I don't put up prices (receipts usually only have total, and sneaking in pics along with scribbling down prices would make it really obvious folks lol!) - their website did have some pricing I referred to, so the meal came to just shy of $90 for two before drinks, taxes and tip.

Murietta's
Address 10612 82 Ave NW, Edmonton, AB T6E6R9
Phone (780) 438-4100
Hours Open daily 7am-10pm
Murrieta's on Urbanspoon

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