Gini’s Restaurant — Exquisite French Fine Dining
10706 142 Street
Tues.-Fri. 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. (10 p.m. Fridays)
Sat. 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Food: 4 of 5 Suns
Ambience: 4 of 5 Suns
Service: 4 of 5 Suns
Dinner for two excluding drinks and tip: Basic, $60; loaded, $90
There’s not too many of these restaurants left.
The complimentary rolls in the bread basket were warm and sheltered inside a cloth napkin. The real butter had been hand-packed into ceramic butter cups. The water was iced with lemon twists.
In both ambience and menu, Gini’s Restaurant (just past the death-defying 107 Avenue/142 Street traffic circle) is as close to a French country kitchen as you’ll find in Edmonton. Within a most cosy setting, attention is being paid to discreet formalities that have long disappeared in this era of linen-less tables and napkin-wrapped cutlery.
Under its original owners, Gini’s had a good, word-of-mouth reputation for French cooking. But quality had been gently slipping … until Steve Konojacki and Lena Matsak bought the restaurant in July of 2014. Chef Lena has worked across Europe. Steve is an experienced front-of-house manager. They had a simple game plan. Gini’s was to be restored to what it was, and more.
They have admirably succeeded, though I worry that the gentility of a Provence-style country kitchen may be too darned sedate for the clatter-hardened 124 Street bistro foodies.
The mussels in a saffron cream sauce were all that mussels should be — plump, sweet, moist, generous in helping and bathed in that oh-so-delicate saffron sauce.
The smoked salmon slices were freshly cut from a lightly smoked filet and artistically curled. They came with a melange of colour — side greens, capers, tomato slices and olives. With a gentle drizzle of a fine Mediterranean oil, paired with the tang of the olives/capers, each bite was sublime.
A really good Caesar salad is near impossible, thanks to proliferation of pre-processed dressings and — gag me with a spoon — packaged croutons. Gini’s “Salade Caesar” was what Caesar salads used to be — more contemporary than the old table-side preparation, but with equal attention to detail.
A mouth-cleansing champagne sherbet arrived, unannounced, between appetizer and entrees — another customer-centric touch from Gini’s.
My entrée was an adventure, as the chef was offering tender medallions of kangaroo. Like ostrich, kangaroo is a red meat close to beef in taste and texture, extra soft and extra tender. It arrived bathed in a rich, wine-based sauce. The traditional veggies, brown-roasted potatoes and asparagus shoots, paired beautifully with the non-traditional meat.
The halibut matched its reputation — fish ranks high on the “new” Gini’s word-of-mouth — topped, the old-fashioned way, with fresh shrimp or scallops.
Another traditional dish — veal in a rich, brown port demi-glaze sauce with a liberal sprinkle of wild mushrooms — hit the spot. And the lightly-mashed orange squash accompaniment was inspired.
A shared dessert — a lavender-cream brulee — would have been worthy of our mythical French country kitchen to which Gini’s compares so well.
Gini’s offered our party an excellent evening of fine dining in comfortable surroundings. Smaller entrees can be had in the mid-$20 range, the full-sized meats $34 to $37. As oft-repeated in this column, such prices are reasonable when food and dining experience are exceptional.
A tip of the hat to Nello Saporito and his Il Pasticcio Italian Restaurant across from the Marchand Manor: It’s been a few years since Il Pasticcio was (well) reviewed in the Weekly Dish. A return visit proved Il Pasticcio’s high standards, bounteous helpings, exceptional pastas and best-of-breed tomato sauces remain the norm.
Anticipating the downtown “Ice District” transformation — Urbansparq Hospitality (The Pint, Knoxville’s, The Old Strathcona Rack) purchased the run-down but location-perfect Grand Hotel on 103 Street about a year ago. The Grand’s once-seedy bar has fast-evolved into Denizen Hall, a hip working-man’s bar/pub with an arcade for patrons’ amusement and some of the best fried chicken with “smashed” potatoes in town.
Pre-and-post game night, with top-notch pub grub ‘n’ libation, Denizen Hall will be packed once Rogers Place opens next year.