Weekly dish: Comfort food is in - Woodwork Restaurant - review BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: WEDNESDAY, JUNE 28, 2017
Almost four years old, Woodwork was a leader of Edmonton’s downtown bistro restaurant resurrection, a phenomenon that has truly been the talk of Canada’s culinary community.
Woodwork – with its high ceilings, skinny layout, fancy cocktail bar in the front and open kitchen at the back - morphs into a cocktail bar with food late at night. It has become a design prototype for many new downtown restaurants.
A return visit to review Woodwork – the first in three years - was prompted by well-known executive chef Lindsay Porter taking over the kitchen a few months ago.
Lindsay has not so much revolutionized Woodwork’s offerings as evolved them.
The menu has surprisingly become much more meaty – a most satisfying push against the trendy holier-than-thou, meat-is-bad, plants-are-good attitude.
“Larger plates” are making a come-back, at least on the Woodwork menu. Woodwork currently offers eight mains – all meat but one – four “smaller plates” and bar snacks. Comfort food is back!
This may partly be location-based. Directly across 100 Street from the Westin Hotel, Woodwork is central to the city’s downtown hotels and a short walk from the Shaw Conference Centre. How surprising, people who stay in hotels enjoy meat-based dinners!
The menu is small, but lively. The signature steak tartare was as good as ever, the soft, gently pickled beet cubes are well worked into the coarse-ground beef, each bite lifted to the mouth with house-made potato crisps.
The thick “Bear & the Flower” pork chop – named after the farm from which is the pork is sourced – came from meat heaven, perfectly cooked, infused with bone-and-fat derived flavour and smells, salty but sweet with a light balsamic glaze.
Baked cauliflower and cheese is the new mac ‘n’ cheese. Porter’s kitchen does it exceedingly well.
For dessert … the sticky toffee pudding alone is worth a visit to Woodwork, fully of ginger, beautifully sweet with a lovely whipped cream and a sprinkle of rock salt as a sharpener.
The only disappointment was Woodwork's charcuterie board, small for the $30 price tag and, despite made-in-house salamis, not as creative as I'd expect from Woodwork and chef Porter.
If you find yourself downtown in a meaty mood, plus the need for a delectable dessert, Woodwork is tough to beat
*Canada's 150th birthday celebrations are modest - the main event in Edmonton besides the fireworks being the "150 in 150" event at Rogers Place on Saturday headlined by Sarah McLachlan ... Hamburger emporium The Burger Priest (downtown and South Edmonton Common) is adding a full six-ounce lobster tail, bacon and maple syrup to its one-day-only Confederation Burger - while supplies last and costing $21.95. Look for a mini-Burger Priest outlet to open to Old Strathcona.
*The Next Act in Old Strathcona isn't linking its 25th anniversary to Canada Day, but will celebrate all Sunday, July 2, with prices at 1992 levels. Also in Old Strathcona, Packrat Louie has re-opened after extensive renovations.
*Not tied into Canada’s 150th, but definitely nationalistic: Last week, JOEY Bell Tower celebrated a promotional partnership between Toronto’s Steam Whistle brewery and the Hudson’s Bay department store by introducing new dishes that paired with Steam Whistle’s pilsner. JOEY's new Katsu Salad – a clean panko-breaded chicken cutlet topped with shredded Japanese veggies is tasty, light and a meal unto itself. It paired well with Steam Whistle, of course.
*The Next Act owners - specifically Saylish Haas and chef Nathan McLaughlin – are opening a third restaurant. On one side of The Next Act is its very successful urban barbecue house MEAT, on the other will soon open Pip, a 26-seat gastro-wine bar.
*Taste of Edmonton in Churchill Square will run July 20 to 29. The website tasteofedm.ca offers online advance-sale food ticket discounts as well as listing all vendors and their food items.