Hicks' Weekly Dish: My requests to Santa BY GRAHAM HICKS, EDMONTON SUN FIRST POSTED: TUESDAY, DECEMBER 23, 2014
If The Weekly Dish could advise Santa Claus on gifts and suggestions for Edmonton’s restaurateurs and their customers …
First urgent request, Santa: Could you mediate this ridiculous dispute between Tavern 1903 owner Larry Stewart and his landlord in the rebuilt Alberta Hotel, architect Gene Dub. That two such respected community leaders and veteran businessmen should get so mad at each other as to close the immensely popular Tavern 1903 is literally inconceivable, but it happened. Maybe Mayor Don Iveson could put on the Santa suit and do the talking..
Santa Claus, could you rein in the runaway prices for glasses of wine? I know, I know, restaurants are a tough business, but operators keep sneaking prices up. What used to be a $6 for a six-ounce pour, even 12 months ago, has moved up to $8 or $9. This from house wines you can buy at liquor stores for $15 a bottle.
My Santa would turn back the clock. Too many of the city’s legendary restaurateurs are retiring. Peter Johner has moved to Kelowna. Hans Kuhnel has sold the Creperie. Former La Ronde maitre d’Hans Voegeli is working a few evenings a week. Another front-of-restaurant legend, Brian Welsh, works very part-time at the Wine Room.
The Weekly Dish was not happy to see the wildly creative Wild Tangerine close its doors as the brother-sister team of Judy and Wilson Wu decided to semi-retire. And we still haven’t found out why, after years of beloved Portuguese-Canadian hospitality, Maria and Carla Nobre abruptly shut down Spago in the north end.
Here’s another silly situation, Santa. The very urban Sobey’s at Jasper and 104 Street was a very busy store, with non-stop line-ups at the check-outs. Yet it too closed in what was said to be a lease dispute. Boy, does that part of town with all its condo-dwellers need a decent grocery store.
Santa, could you hasten the end of this trend of roasted, charred cauliflower? Enough already! And what’s the big deal about charcuterie? Anybody can cut up cold cuts, cheese, bread and pickles after a visit to the Italian Centre. Fish tacos are definitely dull too. Do sliders bore you Santa?
Santa, please tell the old-time Italian restaurants in town it’s time to evolve, to cook something - anything - besides Mamma’s pasta, tomato sauce and meat chunks.. They could all learn a thing or two by trying the “nouveau-Italian” at Massimo’s, Corso 32 and its sister Bar Bricco, Café Amore and Cibo.
Not that I’m against trendiness – it’s always fun to talk about the latest, greatest restaurants in town, and so it is that Rostizado and Ampersand 27 are currently all the rage. But too many excellent restaurants slip too quickly out of the public consciousness. Santa, could you create retro-trendiness, so enduring eateries like DaDeO, the Sugarbowl, Red Ox Inn, Tzin and Parkallen could have five minutes of fame all over again?
Maybe you could spread out the good restaurants Santa? They seem to be concentrated around a stretch of 124 Street, downtown (especially on 104 Street), the southwest and the inner South Side. Other than good ethnic, the pickings are slim in the West End, North Side, Capilano, Clareview and Mill Woods.
Could you encourage this trend back to first-class restaurants in good hotels, Santa? We like what’s happening at the Doubletree West Edmonton/Mayfield Dinner Theatre under chef Willie White, the revival of La Ronde at the top of the Chateau Lacombe and the always first-rate Harvest Room in the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald. Tell them they should drop their prices by 20%. There’s too much quality competition just outside their doors.
Santa, how about a first-rate, 100% seafood restaurant? Just one? With chefs who know the lost art of perfectly cooked fish? Right now, only Lino Oliviera at Sabor consistently produces superb fish dishes. Make sure, Santa, that the soon-to-open Black Pearl Seafood on 104 Street lives up to its advance billing!
That’s it Santa — we’ll have vanilla-flavoured chai latte and flourless, gluten-free cookies waiting by the fireplace!