Hicks Weekly Dish: La Ronde retro throwback BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2017
La Ronde Restaurant - Retro Thursday menu,
Chateau Lacombe Hotel,
24th floor, 10111 Bellamy Hill
Tuesday to Saturday, 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
(Retro-Thursday menu available Thursdays only.)
Three-course Retro-Thursday dinner for two, excluding tip and beverages: $132
Food: 4 of 5 Suns
Ambience: 4.5 of 5 Suns
Service: 4.5 of 5 Suns
It’s a fun idea and timely too.
For the last few months, Edmonton’s No.1 viewpoint restaurant La Ronde at the top of the Chateau Lacombe Hotel has featured a Retro Thursday three-course menu.
On Wednesday, September 27, 2017, the Chateau Lacombe will celebrate its 50th anniversary. When the hotel’s doors opened in 1967, it was considered the best thing in Edmonton since sliced bread.
If you’d been a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed teenager taken by your family to dine at the swanky revolving La Ronde that first year, you may still be patronizing the famous restaurant today, only as the patriarch or matriarch of successive generations.
La Ronde wears the years well. It has been repeatedly renovated and, as a good, formal dining room, shows no signs of weariness. The outer ring with all the tables and lounge area soundlessly revolves as it has for 50 years, a full revolution taking in the downtown and the river valley every 88 minutes.
The Retro Thursday classic menu — $66 for three courses, with choice throughout — is a winner.
It’s fun to survey the choices: French onion soup, escargots or Caesar salad as an appetizer, Steak Diane, Chicken Cordon Bleu or paupiettes of Dover Sole as entrees, Cherries Jubilee for dessert.
The Steak Diane, cooked table-side and spectacularly brandy-flambéed, was much better than I ever remembered the dish.
This is a beef dish ready for a come-back. It started at La Ronde as two 4-oz. medallions of excellent tenderloin with silky strands of flavourful and oh-so-tender beef. As they sizzled table-side, our formally-dressed, well-trained and personable server Colin Murphy poured in a reduced jus fortified with cream and mustard.
And then the entertainment. The flames from the ignited brandy leapt skyward for a few seconds, fortunately not triggering any alarms.
This was one of the best steak dishes I’ve had in years, the meat and sauce thick and rich, brimming with flavour and extra oomph from the de-alcoholised hint of brandy. The mashed potatoes had been piped and swirled onto the plate, quick-broiled for toasty tops. The baby carrots had been split and left with a tiny bit of stem on top, the asparagus spears topped with a tasty Hollandaise.
The well-orchestrated plate also arrived as hot as those from Ruth’s Chris, meaning the steak stayed deliciously hot for the duration.
Equal kudos for the paupiettes of Dover Sole – paupiette being a style popular in the ‘60s where a meat or fish is cut in strips, rolled and intertwined as to form a nest. Chef Joe Srahulek had cooked the fish to a perfect temperature, then enriched the nest with a delicious butter-lobster sauce poured over top … and buttered baby potatoes on the side with other fresh veggies … again on a hot, hot plate. (Why don’t more restaurants pre-heat their plates to keep the food hotter for longer?)
The Cherries Jubilee were tasty, a cherry compote on top of vanilla ice cream, cherry brandy added and again flambéed table-side. But this is a dish past its time, too heavy, thick and sweet for contemporary palates.
The French onion soup was good, the onions well-caramelized and brewed into the broth. The soup, again, was served piping hot as it should be. The kitchen, however, had inexplicably skimped on the Gruyere cheese topping. It needed doubling to have been properly bubbly and gooey.
The Caesar salad was disappointing. I’d hoped for a table-side preparation full of capers and raw egg, mashed anchovies and mountains of Romaine lettuce, as in the good ol’days at Hy’s Steak Loft. What came to the table was a routine, dull, pre-mixed Caesar salad not worthy of La Ronde.
Retro Thursday at La Ronde has proven popular, and should continue at least through the winter season. I’d like to see the same attention given to the Caesar salad as per the entrees, and some exploration in the dessert department – something lighter but still of an age – lemon meringue pie?
Given normal hotel prices, a $66 charge for three bountiful courses, especially with the quality and amount of the meat and fish and the tableside cooking/entertainment, was quite reasonable.
As we left, Duran Duran’s Hungry Like A Wolf, circa 1982, was quietly playing in the background. Not quite a ’60s classic, but still 35 years old .. and topic appropriate!