Ratings from a Dishcrawl-organized restaurant tour on June 12. 

One overall rating per establishment, based on sample dishes, service and ambience. 

Fionn MacCool’s Irish Pub: 3.5 Suns 

Koutouki Taverna South-Side: 3 Suns 

Creations Restaurant at the Sawridge Hotel: 4 Suns 

Century Grill (Hawaii 5-0 dessert): 4 Suns

Dishcrawl is an intriguing, for-profit company that organizes what’s best described as restaurant crawls.

You register online, pay $50, meet your 40 new best friends at a pre-assigned restaurant on a pre-assigned date, go on to visit three more restaurants and are home by 10:30 or 11 p.m.

The other three restaurants are not revealed until the gang gathers.

Last Wednesday’s theme was location-centric, four restaurants bordering the Whitemud/Gateway Boulevard interchange, all within walking distance of one another. Which was ironic, given it’s the least pedestrian-friendly part of all Edmonton.

How would it work? Might Dishcrawl turn up hidden culinary gems? How would restaurants cope with 40 drop-ins, in and out within 45 minutes? How well organized would the Dishcrawl be? What kind of folks would show up?

It was intriguing enough to make the $50 investment.

Local Dishcrawl representative Gemma Huber did a good job. The evening ran on time, the restaurants were ready, the people were interesting. It’s good value for the money. In fact, too much value. You end up quite stuffed! Drinks are extra.

This particular Dishcrawl originated at Fionn MacCool’s Irish Pub, with stops at Koutouki Taverna South Side, Creations Restaurant in the Sawridge Hotel and dessert at the Century Grill.

Fionn MacCool who? It’s a generic Irish pub nobody’s heard about — a franchise in the Holiday Inn just north of the Whitemud. Fionn MacCool’s was pleasant, with good service from young ladies in kilts and a convivial pub atmosphere — but it’s a franchise, and, like all franchises, lacks distinctive personality.

Fionn MacCool’s does emphasize fresh food. Each Dishcrawler received a plate packed with mini-portions of showcased dishes — the Rueben sandwich, lamb shank, a shrimp-cake slider and short rib nestled in a Yorkshire pudding. I’d return for the braised lamb shank on home-made mashed tatters, likewise the short rib, though the Yorkshire pudding toughened up in the trip between kitchen and table.

Koutouki Taverna South-Side was good, not great. You could tell this particular Koutouki is no longer part of the Psalios’ family’s Koutouki Taverna group. The sampling plate was decent but conventional, with no attempt at presentation, i.e. no lemon slice, no parsley, no garnish: The hummus and tzatziki sauce were fresh, the spanakopita ho-hum, the dolmades and lamb meatball tasty indeed.

The pleasant surprise was Creations in the Sawridge Hotel. When the Sawridge Hotel Group took over what was the Holiday Inn Palace and transformed the interior into a Rockies/aboriginal wonderland, Creations was arguably a Top-10 city restaurant. But as time went by, Creations dropped its fine-dining aspirations, dropped out of view.

Based on a delightful Dishcrawl plate, chef Prakash is re-energizing this kitchen. Along came a custom-designed chicken quesadilla, a delicious in-house dry ribs recipe on a thin slice of soft-cooked turnip, plus a bacon-wrapped mega-prawn.

Each mini-dish reflected a desire to be different. The turnip slice was inspirational, beautiful to look at, with an unexpected soft flavour that enhanced the ribs. The sauces were fresh and tantalizing, the presentation thoughtful and pleasing. This sneak preview worked. A full Creations dinner is on the to-do list.

The Century Grill’s Hawaii 5-0 pie is fast-becoming an Edmonton signature dish. As previously reviewed, it’s a dessert to die for, a light puff pastry covered with pineapple and salted caramel, presented pizza style with a scoop of coconut ice cream. I swear half the city heads to Century Grill for its Hawaii 5-0 pie.

Dishcrawl is a success: An interesting sweep of restaurants and an intuitive social mixer. At each stop, with no suggestion, the diverse group naturally shook itself up to allow for new conversation and new introductions. Indeed, the social interaction may be part of the Dishcrawl’s own secret sauce.

The next one is July 10, in the same area. Dishcrawl.com/Edmonton for more info.

• Former CTV Edmonton weatherman and community booster John Berry passed away last week after a four-year fight with cancer. John’s passion was cooking. We often teamed up for charity causes — John bashing about in the kitchen, my assisting and serving. He was my partner in charity crime. I will miss him dearly.