Tuesday, 19 February 2013

XIX Nineteen Edmonton, AB - casual fine dining with a twist from Chef Fung

Rating Service 7.75/10 Food 7.75/10
After hearing mainly positive reviews from the food blogging community, we headed to XIX named for the "nineteenth" hole where you'd get snacks and booze after a game a golf.  Its a fitting as its location is smack dab in golf-happy area of Tewilliger and Chef Fung used to work at a golf club.  We had a good friend up: MatchMeanTea was totally up for helping us taste XIX's cuisine.   After a bit of circling around and with the help of a GPS, we located the restaurant, parked in a huge parking lot outside and headed in to thaw out.  The waitress was friendly, though not overly knowledgeable about the menu, but the restaurant was newly opened a little while ago, so we just poked our heads into the menu instead.  On to the food!
The decor was elegant with dark panelling, tables and a glassed in kitchen where you can watch the culinary team bustle and create their dishes. 

As it was a weeknight (I think) we passed up on alcoholic drinks, and instead, ordered way too much food lol!  We nibbled on cold bread that resembled rye bread in its tougher texture with some butter (and a touch of salt) while we waited for our appetizers to come out.  Heard that Chef Fung bakes his own bread, and if so, was very very surprising that the bread was stone cold.
the APPYs
We were initially tempted to order the Fung Bun, Chef''s take on Chinese pork bun slider - but they were sold out.  So we went with the Duck Slider served with chipotle aioli and some crispy mandolined potato crisps presented with some edible flower and mini greens. 


While we couldn't fault the presentation, the duck burger was not what we expected - possibly the most dense and game-y duck I have ever tasted.  It resembled a dry mutton burger more than the succulent, tender, fatty, rich and mild tasting duck we were expecting.  The chips with the chiptole aioli we enjoyed.

We enjoyed our next appetizer: Ahi Tuna and Scallop Cerviche.  I'm a sucker for cerviche and will always try to order it if I see it on the menu.  Chef Fung's take on the cerviche looks most like something out of an art gallery than food - not complaining!  Ahi tuna slices are wrapped around some raw baby scallops, topped with a thick yet refreshing wasabi pea foam and garnished with thyme crackers that look like wings

While we loved the Ahi tuna gently flavored in a mild ponzo sauce, and loved the wasabi foam, we found the scallops a bit of a disconnect- small diced cubes of hamachi or a fresh sweet firm fish would have made this dish killer.  We also found the thyme in the crackers distracted from the flavor profiles in the main dish - fried roasted nori (or even homemade fried crispy wonton wrappers) would have tied things together better, and still allow the kitchen to create the "wings" for presentation.  Bit of a hit and miss as we head into...

the ENTREEs
My boyfriend ordered the Truffle chicken linguine. It came out redolent with a generous splash of truffle finishing oil, a few pieces of tender chicken scattered on top of pasta, and a perfectly cooked sunny side up egg just waiting for you to poke it with a fork and let the yolk ooze out.

Which, of course, we did!

We were a bit surprised there were very few slices of brown run of the mill mushrooms you can pick up at any grocery store within the pasta, cuz as the aroma of the truffle oil dissipated, not even the runny rich yolk added too much to this pasta dish.  A handful of wild mushrooms, morels, oyster mushrooms or even chanterelles and a good splash more wine or garlic would have easily elevated this dish to something sublime, as the dish veered towards bland after a few bites.  Mushrooms are relatively inexpensive and super flavorful... wish more Edmonton chefs would flex their muscles in the mushroom department.

MatchaMeanTea ordered the Chilean Sea Bass special served with mashed potatoes and green salad.  The crust on the fish was executed well delicately seasoned the fish, though the fish was just slightly overcooked, taking away from sea bass's inherent uber rich creamy texture.

The salad added in a punch of color, but did not add to the dish.  The mashed potatos while tasty, seemed like it was meant to be paired with red meat rather than the delicate fish as it was quite heavy... maybe we'll see couscous or a light risotto in the future. The fish was also surprisingly cut from the tail and back, rather than the thicker collar section towards the front of the fish that usually yields a much richer cut by virtue that the fish flesh is thicker.  Perhaps we got a small fry :P

I ordered the Duo of Pork which consisted of two small pieces of crusted pork tenderloin, a small chunk of braised pork belly, roasted garlic reduction, sauteed king oyster mushroom, mashed yams and a salty dry pancetta chip.  The pork tenderloin I enjoyed the most as it was cooked perfectly, with a nice crust (not too different from the one used on the sea bass), though we all found the braised pork belly undercooked resulting in quite a tough, chewy mouthful.  The King mushrooms while tasty (not uncommon, as its available at most Chinese grocery stores for years) was sort of sitting in its own little piece of plate saying "Eat me, though I'm not sure why I'm here!".  As a tasting platter, this dish would have done well (except for the mashed yams - that was such a disconnect its in the far left field), however, as it proclaimed itself a duo - expectations were that the two pork options would be distinct yet marry well together.. which it unfortunately didn't.

the DESSERTs
This was a lot of food for three, so we shared the Caramel Eclair for dessert.  Advertised as a Creme patissiere and chocolate sauce, it turned out to be three eclairs served on a chocolate sauce painted dish - the sauce made presentation pretty, but didn't add much flavor (as it dried out on the dish).  We found the pastries a a bit dry and almost chewy instead of a delicate pastry we were expecting.  The rich, medium bodied vanilla scented creamy goo within along with the buttery caramel sauce saved the day and we ignored the pastry as just a vehicle for the wonderful pastry cream inside. Nom!

the VERDICT
There's potential just simmering under the surface here at XIX.  There's some hits and misses, but give Chef Fung some time to work out his recipes and the usual kinks of running a new restaurant, and I bet XIX will shape up to be a great place where we'll head to for the "nineteenth hole".

Address 5940 Mullen Way NW, Edmonton, AB T6R0R1
Phone (780) 395-1119
Hours Open Tues - Sunday for dinner only
XIX Nineteen on Urbanspoon

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