Monday, 27 May 2013

Red Ox Inn - Chef Sean O'Connor at the helm with some tasty changes

Frank and Andrea Olson have created and kept Red Ox Inn as a culinary gem in the city for countless years.  They wprked crazy hours and had 3 beautiful kids along the way. Over the last while, to focus on thier family as well as their new restaurant Canteen, they have given the apron to Chef Sean O'Connor who has run the kitchen as head chef for quite a while now. We gave them plenty of time to iron out the kinks – though a couple of foodie friends have already hit them up several times since Chef O’Connor has reigned in the kitchen. It’s large shoes to fill and its hard not to compare the years of excellent culinary plates of Frank and Andrea to Chef O’Connor’s offerings. Still, Chef O’Connor has made some tasty changes while still keeping some of the favourite dishes customers have grown to know and love over the years. Let’s get on to the food!
The décor is still the same clean austere look – dark woods, black linen napkins, small tables which unfortunately means as the night goes on and wine flows… the noise level gets pretty loud. They still have portraits of their kids showcased as soon as you walk in. Service is as usual super knowledgeable about the menu, friendly, and professional.

the APPYS
Beef tartare - caper aioli, pickled shallots, parmesan
Beautifully plated, the beef tartare highlighted the natural sweetness of the finely ground beef, and played off the tangy notes of the lightly creamy caper aioli and gently pickled shallots. The capers were thoughtfully sliced up, so they added in notes of caper goodness instead of a huge hit of salty acidity – many places just dump them on the plate whole.

Small pea (?) shoots tossed in a mellow vinegrette gave a punch of color and sweet grassiness to the dish. The crunch provided by the thin crustinis was a nice touch, though the presentation required us to dismantle the pretty plating job so we could pile the tartare on the crustinis to eat. The only odd note was the parmesan petals – they were too salty and though a nice aged parm - the parm flavor completely overwhelmed the rest of the flavors. Otherwise, well composed and a great start to our meal.

Sweetbreads - mushroom chips, chestnut puree, walnuts
As soon as I saw sweetbread on the menu, I nearly squeeked with glee. My boyfriend thought I was nuts. That’s ok. It was my boyfriend’s first time trying out sweetbread and I’m happy to say, his hesitation and leeriness about eating thymus glands disappeared after the first bite... as well as most of the sweetbread on the plate I was looking forward to eating lol! The super savory sear on the sweetbreads contrasted nicely with its characteristic savory-sweet buttery creamy interior. We definetely wanted MORE!

This was the favorite dish of the night and we made it vanish like magic. My boyfriend’s only complaint – there was only 3 delicious morsels of sweetbread interspersed with the light as air crispy (dehydrated?) mushroom chips and toasted walnuts on the plate. Though the colour composition of the plate was a bit single toned, the flavors of the velvety chestnut puree, earthiness from the walnut and savoriness of the sweetbreads, sautéed wild mushrooms and mushroom chips made it culinary gold. Nom!

the ENTREES
Duck Breast - gnocchi, confit and roast carrots, parsnips and goat cheese
Just like the Frank’s duck breast of the past, this duck breast is brined overnight to tenderize and keep it moist while cooking. Chef O’Connor then adds his own tiwst and smokes the duck breast rather than cooking the duck in a pan and rendering off most of the fat in the skin to produce Frank’s infamous duck breast. The smoking process adds in a nice moderate amount of smokiness to the meat – I enjoyed it, though my boyfriend found it a bit too strong. The smoking process also drew out some of the moisture from the meat, leaving it less velvety amazing than we were expecting. Unfortunately, the smoking process doesn’t render off as much fat, and the skin instead of crisping up nicely, was rather tough and was discarded... so while still tasty, it has a ways to go before its as tasty as Frank's version.

The sides to the dish really shined, and we actually enjoyed the sides more than the duck.  The pan fried gnocchi were savory and al dente and worked well with the creamy confit carrots, roasted carrots and parsnips. The whipped goat cheese was more of a mousse foam with light hints of goat cheese and topped with delightfully aromatic crunchy crisp puffed rice.

Lamb - lamb rack, Israeli couscous, artichokes, bacon jam
Roasted onions (I guess they ran out of artichokes) sit on a bed of lightly seasoned couscous, lamb jus, a creamy mousse sauce and is crowned with a rack of lamb.

The lamb is encrusted with a layer of herbs and breadcrumbs, but would have benefited from a quick brine or marinade as it was surprisingly gamey, even for those used to lamb. The plating fell short on this entrée, the bacon jam was extraneous, and felt out of place both on the plate and palate.

the DESSERT
We had to make room for dessert, so we packed up most of our entrees for lunch the next day and shared Chocolate. Yup, its just called Chocolate- chocolate brownie, caramel ganache, chocolate mousse, brown butter praline. Its presented as an unassuming brown mousse cylinder covered in what looks to be edible dirt… and then proceeds to blow you away with its deliciousness. Winner!

Lightly sweetened airy chocolate mousse is on a thin base of dark chocolate brownie. There’s caramel ganache in there somewhere and the brown butter praline is dehydrated? and tops the mousse with along with some airy chocolate crumbles and cocoa powder. It’s the first time I actually had to compete with my boyfriend to get my fair share of dessert lol! Nom!

the VERDICT
Red Ox Inn is in good hands with Chef Sean O'Connor in the kitchen with well executed dishes that marries new flavors and techniques along with the old favs.  With a bit of time and practise, we'll soon stop comparing and say "this is just as good as Frank and Andrea's food!"

Red Ox Inn
Address 9420 91 Street NW Edmonton, AB
Phone (780) 465-5727
Hours Tues - Sun, Closed Mondays Dinner only with sittings at 5pm and 8pm, website
Red Ox Inn on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

ea said...

This is making me super hungry.

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