Century Grill Comes Up Roses: Weekly Dish originally published in Edmonton Sun February 13, 2013
3975 Calgary Trail
Food: 4 of 5 stars
Ambience: 3.5 of 5 stars
Service: 4 of 5 stars
Dinner for two (without beverages): Basic, $50; Multi-course, $120
Chef Paul Shufelt, who writes in the Edmonton Sun about food creation while I talk about eating it, has reason to be proud.
The Century Grill, the flagship of the Century Hospitality restaurant group over which Paul presides, will be 13 years old come April.
I have dined at the Century Grill dozens of times, in formal occasions, business luncheons, even grabbing a burger with a beer in the adjoining bar.
But this is the first time I have approached the Century Grill with a critical eye.
It came up roses, as it has so often in the past.
One has to establish context.
The Century Grill is not in competition with the top-end Hardware Grill or the Harvest Room, nor with chef-centred bistros.
Its target customer would be at home in an Earl’s or Cactus Club – upscale, but not too upscale, something different but not a whole pile different. The Century Grill, however, isn’t a cookie cutter product. It’s very individual, as are all the restaurants in the Century Group. And all are made-in-Edmonton.
The décor in the Century Grill is subdued, the lights dim. An indirect energy flows over from the bar, kept very separate from the dining room, with the kitchen between. The crowd, however, is not what you’d expect. There’s a little bit of everybody, grown-up families where dad is still footing the bill, baby boomer couples for whom dining is the evening’s activity, plenty of late 20s/thirty-something couples starting off date nights and even three-generation families with kids, welcomed by the Century Grill as long as, the menu declares, they are well behaved.
The staff are friendly, without being overbearing. The advice about wine is excellent. The introductory bread passes muster, a warm, fresh assortment with dried-tomato and cilantro infused butter buttons.
Century Grill stays within the known. The appetizers are standards that would work in either bar or dining room – calamari, chicken wings, baked brie. But within the familiar, Chef Shufelt offers a Century Grill twist.
We’re drawn to the “in the raw” starter specialities, choosing a tuna tataki – sliced fresh tuna nestled between quick-baked kale chips. It’s something different, and a winner. Our other starter is a culinary variation on a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup, i.e. a made-from-scratch red-pepper/tomato bisque with an island of crostini bread covered with baked goat cheese. The soup/toast/cheese hits the spot.
It can be difficult, in Alberta’s elegant/casual restaurant scene, to find light entrees in cattle country. At Century Grill, chicken, salmon, tuna, seafood pasta and even a vegetarian dish are interspersed among the steaks, ribs and lamb.
We’re in the mood for lighter fare, and are served well by the chicken breast, plump with a gently crisped skin and a delicate sauce, on top of risotto. Maria’s seafood tagliatelle is still hefty, the fresh seafood being equal in volume to the pasta, all doused with the Century Grill’s own tomato sauce and chopped olives.
Dessert is exceptional. The “Hawaii 5-0 pie” is a flat puff pastry, covered in a salty/sweet caramel and macadamia topping with a scoop of coconut ice cream. The sweet and salt, the hot soft pastry, the cold coconut ice cream, is quite delicious.
The Century Group continues to evolve. In addition to the Century Grill, MKT pub, Lux Steakhouse, One Hundred and two Burger Delux(s), The Parlour will open as an Italian restaurant downtown in the spring. Keep up the great work, Chef Shufelt!
Yes, yes, Thursday is Valentine’s, but why battle the couple crowds and over-priced, pre-set Valentine menus? Wait a day or two. Take her to her favourite restaurant for a deferred Valentine’s, when the staff will have the time to treat her like the queen she is.