Some advice for Normand's Bistro: Weekly Dish originally published in Edmonton Sun March 6, 2013
10177 99 St. (Citadel Theatre building)
780 425 1008
Food: 3 stars
Ambience: 3.5 stars
Service: 3 stars
Dinner for two, basic (without beverages) $60; multi-course $90
Normand’s Bistro has now been open on 99 Street, across from the downtown library in the Citadel Theatre building, since last fall.
It’s veteran restaurateur Normand Campbell’s’ third restaurant. For decades he has owned Normand’s Restaurant and a few years ago became a partner in the Glenora Bistro.
Norman, please consider this review as constructive criticism of your latest venture.
One, the menu has to change. The location, for a target theatre-going audience that has an hour to 90 minutes to eat before a show, begs for lighter fare.
Two, the cooking has to improve.
Normand, your menu is old school. The entrees are heavy and traditional, all short rib, steak, duck leg and pork belly, osso bucco and salmon. There’s a few pizzas, a few salads, but little choice. The pricing is at the upper end, $28 for the beef short rib, $27 for the duck leg and pork belly.
What’s on offer is the kind of dinner an older generation might enjoy as a full evening’s entertainment, heading home to bed after the meal.
But theatre-goers aren’t at Normand’s Bistro to linger. They have 60 to 80 minutes to eat before crossing the theatre lobby to be in their seats before a 7:30 p.m. start.
The Citadel is also in the midst of a transformation. With its mean audience age creeping up, the theatre has set out to woo a younger audience with new programming and new pricing.
A younger more casual audience, with an hour and a $50 budget for two for a light dinner, will not find the current offerings at Normand’s Bistro terribly appealing.
Normand, your kitchen needs to turn out better product. What looked tasty on the menu, chorizo sausage “poppers”, turned out to be dry cornmeal balls with a few specks of chorizo, so small as to hardly register. The accompanying chutney didn’t help.
The pork belly part of the pork belly and duck leg combo was disappointing, the meat being stringy and tired, the fat not coming close to the warm buttery texture expected. The duck leg did better with a crisp skin, but the meat was as tired as the pork belly.
My companion’s beef short rib was much better, nicely slow cooked as to render a knife unnecessary.
The side veggies were dated and dull. Normand, a piece of cauliflower, a squash wedge and boiled carrot sticks don’t cut it anymore.
Dessert was a highlight, bananas flambed (in the kitchen) with dark rum, topped with maple syrup, pecans and a rich vanilla ice cream. This one I’d leave on the menu.
The cure isn’t that drastic. Bring in a new chef, somebody with fresh ideas and the ambition to be a contender in the “new cuisine” bistros now dotting the city. Whoever was in the kitchen for our visit was on auto-pilot, with no interest in excellence, no passion.
Toss out the expensive old dishes, the boring vegetables and move on from the berry sauces that have been on the mother ship’s menu (Normand’s Restaurant) forever.
Demand freshness and a menu with much more mid-range choice, and at least 10 small plates from which a couple could easily mix and match according to appetite and whim, before heading off to that 7:30 p.m. show.
Normand’s Bistro is open early, a logical place for meetings over breakfast, given its proximity to the city’s central business district. It’s a good idea on Normand’s part, as there has not been a go-to spot for downtown breakfast business meetings since the late, great Sidetrack Cafe. Just make sure the menu is creative, the ingredients are fresh.
780 707 6379