Hicks' Weekly Dish: Ampersand 27 a great place for sharing BY GRAHAM HICKS, EDMONTON SUN FIRST POSTED: TUESDAY, DECEMBER 02, 2014
10612 82 (Whyte) Ave.
Food: 4.5 of 5 Suns
Ambience: 4 of 5 Suns
Service: 4 of 5 Suns
11 a.m. – 11 p.m. seven days a week
Sat. and Sun. brunch, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Dinner for two, just food – basic $30, loaded $80
Congratulations, Nathin Bye and Greg Myshynuik.
You set out to make creative fine dining as accessible, fun and adventuresome as humanly possible.
Within eight weeks of opening Ampersand 27 on Whyte Avenue, you have already succeeded.
Expectations were high.
Bye made his name when, as executive chef of the Lazia Group and chef de cuisine at that group’s Wildflower Grill downtown, he won the city’s Gold Medal Plates competition in 2012.
At the Wildflower, Bye embraced “small plates” … steering his clientele away from one large entree toward multiple small “sharing” dishes. Diners could try a greater range of food, leave the restaurant well-filled but not stuffed.
The young but highly experienced chefs formed a partnership to become their own bosses, found a deep-pocketed business partner and the right space – the former Murrieta’s beside Old Strathcona’s Varscona Hotel — to call their own.
Bye, as Ampersand 27’s executive chef, overall manager and operating partner, is the culinary equivalent of Citadel Theatre Artistic Director Bob Baker. He’s inventive, innovative and artistic, sharing Baker’s uncanny ability to lead and challenge but never leave his customers behind. This deep, intuitive understanding of Edmonton’s culture is a gift, perhaps the result of both Baker and Bye being native sons.
So what’s coming out of chef de cuisine Myshynuik’s kitchen?
A cornucopia of small, exquisite and entertaining “share and share alike” dishes, 16 of them ranging from $11 to $18, from confit parsnip to roasted cauliflower, pressured octopus to pig ear pad thai, maple butter pork belly to pastrami pork cheeks.
We did not try the charcuterie selection — a stomach can only hold so much — but it’s unlike any other; a build-to-your-own-specification enormous selection of cold cuts and cheeses, priced in individual 50-gram servings.
Finally, nicely nodding to the Old Strathcona college crowd, five unique flatbreads and thin pizzas are on offer.
Entrees? If you must. Just six in the $23 to $28 range, including “butcher’s pride” and seafood paella specials of the day.
Our table of four opted for five small plates, one flatbread and two desserts.
The silky, smoky pastrami pork cheeks on spaetzle and red cabbage were spectacular. The rainbow-coloured beet texture was so pretty and colourful, you didn’t want to dig in. The pressured octopus, cooked as to remove all rubberiness, was deliciously different. “Seashore” featured a sushi-style delicate, herbed trout.
The “swashbuckler” all-black flatbread (i.e. thin pizza) with its squid-ink coloured dough was a true taste treat, its hot seafood toppings robustly flavoured with powerful black garlic.
Final thoughts about Ampersand: It’s most reasonably priced for its quality. You could go back 50 times and never eat the same dish twice. The space is open, well-designed, big (160 seats not including a summer patio) yet cosy. On the weekend it hums with energy.
•A $24.50 evening parking fee, of which I wrote while reviewing HALO in the Renaissance Edmonton Hotel, provoked this gracious and apologetic email from hotel GM David Keam: “ All guests who dine in HALO should receive validation for their parking so there is no cost. I apologize that this did not happen and we are reiterating this very important point to all of our serving staff.”
•As Ampersand’s Myshyniuk and Bye move into their prime, two giants of the Edmonton restaurant scene retire. Peter Johner (Packrat Louie, Boccolino, La Suisse) has packed up his Swiss Chocolaterie near Devon and headed to the Okanagan. Peter’s contemporary, Hans Kuhnel (Walden’s, Pagliacci, Bones and others) has sold his last remaining restaurant, the vintage Creperie. Both were highly-trained chefs from Europe, who, starting in the mid-‘70s, dramatically improved Edmonton’s dining standards.
•Fans of duck, call the Glass Monkey to check when duck confit is its special of the day. Never have I had such sweet, delectable duck as was served following a delightful Art of Conversation XCIX last week at the gastropub on 114 Street close to Southgate.