Hicks Weekly Dish: Privada offers intriguing cuisine, and best dessert around BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: TUESDAY, MAY 23, 2017
A television hangs over the bar, but instead of blaring play-off hockey, scenic nature photographs quietly rotate.
In one corner of Privada Wine and Tapas in St. Albert, big jars of kitchen-made preserves jostle for room with the restaurant’s fine wine collection. Bunches of garlic dangle above.
It may sound eccentric, but Privada is anything but. It’s actually a pleasing mixture of the personalities and talents of its hands-on owners – the husband/wife team of Kaylen and Kaylan Como and Chef Tony Krause, plus the community Privada serves.
The menu of $12 to $18 dishes is familiar, comforting, yet different. It changes by the week. Krause is a restless, passionate chef.
There were reasons for visiting Privada. My wife and I had just returned from a walking holiday in Portugal and Spain. Tapas dishes were still dancing in our memories.
Privada has been a St. Albert gem for some five years; it’s been contentedly low-key, at least until Krause was invited to compete in the 2016 Gold Medal Plates culinary contest. It was way overdue for a Weekly Dish review.
Today, the Comos and Krause are taking the biggest leap of their culinary careers, taking over the magnificent dining room and bar in the Alberta Hotel formerly known as the Alberta Hotel + Grill, and, before that, as Tavern 1903.
Given the location (directly across from the Shaw Conference Centre) and the attractive historic room, the dining room/bar ought to be one of the city’s best and most popular gathering spots. But for various reasons, it has yet to become fully established.
So a Privada visit was a scene setter for what’s to come on the ground floor of the Alberta Hotel building once the Comos and Krause open their as-yet-unnamed restaurant by late summer.
Judging from Privada, (which will remain open), the Alberta Hotel will be in good hands.
The Privada menu is intriguing and perceptive – one of the most interesting in the region.
Krause takes his customers well beyond chain-restaurant mundane, yet keeps within our comfort zones. Familiar salads are given a twist – a lamb caprese, or a chicken waldorf. The pan-fried scallops come with an oats-based risotto and house preserves.
Prices are low because portions are small. Restraint is built in. Privada is one of the few restaurants in town that a couple can share four or five dishes and leave without being stuffed to the gills.
On our arrival, oysters were still at happy hour pricing. Delicious they were, fresh, chilled, smelling like ocean spray, accompanied by an unusual sherry vinegar dip.
Our “mains” were equally of interest. A slice of seasoned lamb decorated a simple caprese salad of cherry tomatoes, plenty of basil and fresh-as-a-daisy mozzarella.
The “Devils on Horseback” had nothing to do with devilled eggs, being an original assembly of sweet, tangy, crispy and crunchy. Krause had poached, roasted and dipped two sliced pears in cognac, added tea-soaked slivered dates. The pear/date mix was tightly wrapped in bacon for a final crisping. The ever-so-tasty little devils emerged from the kitchen on a romaine lettuce bed with toasted walnuts and a fragrant yogurt dressing. Wow!
There’s only one Privada dessert. Kaylen says the apple “tarte tatin” (actually a mid-sized whole apple pie) is so popular there’s no point in offering alternatives. The tarte tatin is spectacular, so good that patrons happily wait 20 minutes, as every order is individually fresh-baked. The pie shell is hot with perfect texture, the apple innards loaded with bourbon and caramel, and on top is a scoop of top-quality vanilla ice cream. This dessert is arguably the best to be had in Greater Edmonton.
This team has been perfecting its craft in St. Albert for years. I can’t wait to see what they can do once the re-named Alberta Hotel restaurant is up and running.
* * *
The culinary community was shaken to the core by the unexpected death on May 6 of long-time Homefire Grill executive chef Bruce Wells.
Bruce, with his Newfoundland lilt, was among the most easy-going, affable and well-liked chefs in town, not to mention being a wizard in the kitchens of his long-running Café Orleans and then Homefire Grill.
For years, Bruce and I, with the support of the Homefire Grill and its staff, have been a charity team, cooking and serving gourmet dinners to raise funds for the Sun/ATCO Christmas Charity Auction and others He is achingly missed by so many.
A celebration of Bruce’s life takes place this Friday May 26, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the Gladstone Room of the Wingate Hotel, 18220 100 Ave. across from the Homefire Grill.
Privada Wine and Tapas
Where: 100-21 Perron St., St. Albert
Hours: Wednesday to Friday, 4 p.m. to midnight; Saturdays, noon to midnight; Closed Sunday, Monday, Tuesday
Price Dinner for two, excluding beverages, taxes and tips– Basic $30, loaded $70.
Food: 4 of 5 Suns
Service: 4 of 5 Suns
Ambience: 3.5 of 5 Suns