Monday, 7 April 2014

The River House St. Albert, AB - Tasty casual fine dining

A few months ago, we went to The River House in St Albert for his birthday dinner.  The River House is a little hard to find if you're not familiar with St Albert - you sort of have to drive past it and loop back in order to get to if off St Albert Trail. You'll hit the historic Mission district and the restaurant looks like a quaint Victorian style house and overlooks the the scenic Sturgeon River. They also have private dining rooms that accommodate 10-60, but we sat in the main dining area.  You're greeted at the main doors by a gorgeous sweeping circular staircase and massive chandelier, and the seating area has a mix of dark woods, red panels and burnished fixtures.  On to the food!
Most of the boys that night enjoyed some Cooperhead draft beer (I may be totally out to lunch as I don't really remember).  It had nice malty hop notes and served in a pretty beer glass I wanted to take home lol!

the APPYs
Most of us went with the panko'ed Crab cakes with black pepper sauce.  

The panko crust was light and crunchy crisp, with the crabcakes having a good amount of crab meat inside and garnished with a handful of baby arugula. The black pepper sauce had ginger and sweet notes to it that lent it a really familiar Asian flavor we puzzled about.  Delicious.


Some of our group went with the Fois Gras on Toast.  After one taste, I wished I had it as an appetizer as well... good thing our friends like to share!  Velvety smooth and rich savory slices of foie gras is simply served on thin circles of toast, topped with sweet soft onion slices and some crumbled soft cheese. Sweet, salty, savory mmmmm!  The fois gras was on the mild side, but the additional flavors made it a killer appetizer. Nom!  The picture doesn't do it justice.

the ENTREEs
The kitchen didn't have any specials that night, so I had the Fresh Salmon with Snap Pea Risotto, Shaved Brussels Sprouts and Truffle Chili Dressing.  The Salmon was simply seasoned with salt and pepper and nicely seared to a moist toothsome yum.  I hate overcooked fish and this was well executed.  Its topped with a lightly dressed salad of shaved brussel sprouts and everything sits atop a pile of risotto dotted with chopped up snap peas.

I was hoping the peas would have been shucked and added to the risotto, but it was still a light and tasty risotto.  The truffle chili dressing was drizzled around the dish - didn't make out the truffle flavor, but the earthy roasted? chili dressing added in a good hit of heat and complexity to the otherwise very light and simple tasty dish.

The birthday boy went with the Elk and Potato 3 Ways. Our waitress told us the elk was sous vide and then pan finished, while the potatos were cooked in 3 different ways.  The sous vide method (vacuum sealing in a bag +/- herbs and flavorings) then slow slow slooooow cooking in a water bath made the elk one of the most tender melt in our mouth morsels you'll ever try.

The sous vide method also sometimes mangles the meat into odd shapes - some of our friends had sausage shaped bits, but as long as the chef teases out all the tendons/sinews prior (some pieces were quite chewy whoops!), the elk was really tasty.. so much so I nearly ate half my boyfriend's entree heehee!  Potatoes were mashed, roasted and fried? I didn't try all 3 as I was busy noshing on the elk hahaha!

The 8 oz Tenderloin served with Asparagus, Seasonal Carrots, Black Pepper Sauce, and Mashed Potato Parsnip Vanilla Puree and Squash Chips was ordered by a few of our friends.  The steaks were cooked to their liking and the vanilla potato parsnip mash was a nice change from the usual steakhouse garlic mashed potatoes.

The sweet roasted purple carrots (from the St Albert Farmer's Market?) was a nice touch.

Some of our friends had the Braised Lamb Shank with Carrot Bubbles, Celery Root Puree, Roasted Potatoes and Fried Fennel and were very happy with it.  The massive lamb shank was braised to a fall off the bone tender and the carrot bubbles was a light way to add in a burst of colour without having more on the very full plate.

Some of our friends had the Beef Short Rib with Soy Lime Jus, Snap Peas, Mashed Potato and Green Apple Puree which they enjoyed, but no pictures as the ones I took turned out to be quite blurry.

the DESSERTs
We had an epic LEGO cake I made waiting for us at home.. I wasn't about to lug a 35+lb cake around town... so we all shared a few Warm Chocolate cake

A moist soft chocolate sugar sponge cake with a delicious scoop of vanilla ice cream (forgot to ask if it was made in house) and garnished with raspberry sauce and a ripe gooseberry.

We also shared the special dessert the chef created that night - Warm Chocolate Ravioli filled with cream cheese and served with raspberry sauce and garnished crisp brown sugar thingy (I know, my very technical term heehee!) and shaved chocolate.  The ravioli has cocoa powder incorporated into it and the cream cheese filling lent a nice tangy gooey interior.  If they were stuffed with some lightly sweeted marscapone, they would have been out of the park!

the VERDICT
Overall, a great place to have well executed casual fine dining with knowledgeable service and great kitchen staff!

The River House
Address 8 Mission Ave, St Albert, AB T8N1H3
Phone (780) 458-2231
Hours Tue-Fri: 11am-2:00pm, 5pm-9pm; Sat: 10am-2pm, 5pm-9pm; Sun: 10am-2pm, 5pm-8pm, Closed Mondays
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