Thumbs up for Suede Lounge: Weekly Dish review originally published in the Edmonton Sun, Wed. May 2, 2012
It's a pleasure to find a gentle, unpretentious, consistent place to eat.
It's even more unusual when the establishment is actually a chameleon, a gastro-pub/lounge in the early evening, morphing into a nightclub as time goes by.
Suede Lounge has managed to own this turf on the west end of Jasper Avenue (across the parking lot from Earl's Tin Palace) since Jeff Koltec opened the restaurant/lounge in 2004. He sold it last fall.
The new owners, thank goodness, see no need for drastic change and have in fact brought in Chef Andrew Seguin from Calgary to maintain Suede's calling card of good, original food.
The room is truly versatile. Modern without going overboard on trendiness, it's 60 seats or so, with a stand-up and mingle area, separated by a few stairs from the dining space.
We dined at Suede Lounge as a most successful Art of Conversation LXVIII wound down in the stand-up area. While the crowd continued to socialize, the dining area didn't feel crowded or overwhelmed.
Suede is known as a wine bar, but its menu tends more to gastro-pub. It features a dozen tapas plates for light eaters, the obligatory "flat breads" (we don't call 'em pizzas anymore), and six "large plates" ranging from roast chicken to the Suede burger to a masala curry. One classic that's not been seen on local menus in many years is the Beef Wellington Ñ tenderloin in puff pastry with a red wine demi-glace.
Most burgers are pretty routine, but the Suede burger looked so appealing Ñ a mix of ground duck breast, tenderloin and rib eye, served with bacon and chorizo beef Ñ that it had to be tried. On a fresh house-baked bun, served with hand-cut fries and an in-house sweet ketchup, it did the gastro-pub trick. Please, let's not talk cholesterol or calories!
The roast chicken came recommended by chef Seguin, and again, it didn't disappoint as the local chicken breast was fresh, nicely spiced, stuffed with mushrooms and basil and served with a yummy garlic potato mash. It helped that the skin was perfectly crisped. (Who cares about calories on your one night out a week?)
Slightly mundane was a tapas-sized diced ginger chicken ordered as a starter Ñ it did have its own flavour but the "chef-designed" ginger sauce didn't distinguish itself from the varied brands you can pour on at home.
Making up for the ginger chicken was the lobster ravioli tapas. Generous portions of lobster meat were encased within three or four ultra-large, in-house made ravioli, smothered in an excellent tomato sauce and baked with parmesan. Very good!
Suede doesn't pretend to be more than it is Ñ the kind of place you'd drop into with friends for what's almost mom's home-cooking but prepared by a chef who knows his stuff and livens up every dish with a little something special. There's popcorn, for instance, on the tapas menu, but it's popcorn with truffle oil, very fresh and perfectly buttered to be a true treat.
I love a menu that doesn't feel the need to be decked out in Italian or French or whatever the trendy food language of the month happens to be.
At Suede, it's "Roasted Chicken" or "Atlantic Salmon" or "macaroni & cheese" with a brief description of what makes the dish unique. Prices, incidentally, are most reasonable for the quality, $6 to $15 for the tapas, $12 to $22 for the "large plates."'
Suede's a good place for the kind of cooking you'd love to do at home, if you had the culinary talent and the time. There's even a grilled cheese sandwich Ñ $4 extra for the Italian white truffle oil!
If there's a criticism, the presentations could use a little work. The plates are crowded, sauces are excessive.
Suede Lounge occupies an excellent niche on the local dining scene, with the added bonus you can hang around until the wee hours of the morning if nightclubbing is your thing.