Weekly Dish: Dining at Zinc is breath-taking BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: TUESDAY, JANUARY 24, 2017
2 Sir Winston Churchill Square (north-west corner, Art Gallery of Alberta)
Food: 4.5 of 5 Suns
Ambience: 5 of 5 Suns
Service: 4.5 of 5 stars
11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday
5 p.m. to 9 p.m. - Tuesday and Wednesday
5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday to Saturday
Closed Monday and Sunday evening
Dinner for two (excluding beverages and tip): basic, $50; loaded, $120
When Zinc Restaurant is good, it is very, very good. In fact it’s easily in the Top 5 restaurants of Edmonton.
But when it is bad …
Inconsistency has plagued executive chef David Omar’s kitchen since the lovely restaurant opened on the ground floor of the equally beautiful Art Gallery of Alberta in 2010.
I’ve dined at Zinc at least a dozen times over the years. The inconsistency has been consistent. When the kitchen is on, it produces a cornucopia of beautiful food. When it’s not, you wonder what the reviewers were raving about.
On a cold Tuesday evening in January, possibly six tables were taken, the kitchen’s A-team had the night off, but this time the food was … fantastic!
The menu is very much an Edmonton fine-dining compromise. The entries look boringly familiar – duck breast, Arctic char, lamb, smoked chicken, beef sirloin, pork belly. But it’s in the preparation that Omar’s creativity flourishes – the duck is orange tea cured, the char comes with wild boar bacon, the lamb accompanied by a squash barley risotto.
The starters are far more interesting – cauliflower croquettes, dumplings in spicy black vinegar, veal tartare for instance. We ordered four starters to share – more than enough sustenance for two, and at $10 to $16 per small plate, easier on the Christmas-depleted wallet than Zinc’s entrees, which run from $26 for the smoked chicken to $38 for the duck breast.
What beautiful surprises! What splendid presentations!
The knock-out was the sausage of the day, presented not as your usual sliced or whole sausage on toast, but chopped and mixed into a lightly curried, well-simmered stew/sauce with spinach and julienned red peppers, so gentle and warm, yet with an edge.
Zinc’s appeal also lies in its presentations. The egg yolk to ladle on top of the veal tartare mound was presented in a cute curvy silver spoon. A trickle of fine-chopped celery completed the picture. You hated to dig in, the visuals were so pleasing. But the combo piled on crostini was as tasty as it looked.
The cauliflower croquettes, I thought, would be your usual all-the-rage charred cauliflower inside a heavy batter. Not at all! The cauliflower had been thoroughly mashed with feta cheese, in a batter so delicate as to be eating wisps of heaven.
The deconstructed potato was delicious and great fun – a rectangular black plate with crispy purple potato chips liberally sprinkled with truffle oil, regular potato halves half-hiding under rosemary sprigs, bits of orange and red pepper and dabs of golden dill mustard creating a riot of colour.
Dining in Zinc on a winter’s night is breath-taking. The art gallery’s swoops and curves dance overhead, the room itself has a clean, modern Nordic look. The enormous windows give a panoramic view of the blue-light festooned Churchill Square. An illusion is created of actually being in the park, yet one is snug as a bug in a rug in a lovely restaurant eating lovely food with lovely company.
If you must go out on Valentine’s Day – we celebrate before or after to escape the crowds and pre-set menus - Zinc on a winter's night is this town's most romantic setting … as long as its food stays consistently terrific.