Nobody makes a better bagel board in Edmonton than the Rooster Cafe & Kitchen. GRAHAM HICKS/EDMONTON SUN

By GRAHAM HICKS

Rooster Café & Kitchen
10732 – 82 Ave.
780-413-8045
roosterkitchen.ca

Full service:
Mon. to Sat. 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Sun. 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Partial service:
Fri. and Sat. 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Food: 3.5 of 5 Suns
Ambience: 3.5 of 5 Suns
Service (not the servers): 2 of 5 Suns

Breakfast/Lunch for two, excluding beverage and tip: Basic $20, loaded $40

Once the food gets to your table at the Rooster Café & Kitchen, for the most part it’s very good.

It’s getting the food to the table that’s the big problem with this breakfast/lunch deli-restaurant specializing in Jewish-deli style bagels, smoked salmon, cream cheese and blintzes. And its not the servers’ fault.

There are supposed to be at least four bagel varieties. My first solo visit was last Friday at noon: Server: “Sorry, we only have sesame bagels today.”

Second visit, two of us, the following Monday for lunch: Server: “Sorry, we only have poppy bagels today.  And we have no smoked salmon or gravlax.”

How about the blueberry polachintas, a sweet made with dumpling-like blintzes that Tomato Magazine included on its annual Top 100 Best Things to Eat and Drink in Edmonton?  Server: “Sorry, we are out of blintzes. Also, I should let you know it may take a half-hour for your order – we’re short-staffed in the kitchen.”

This with 14 people in the restaurant?

The interior of the Rooster Cafe’s dining room.

Fortunately, our server erred on the side of caution:  Our lunch –  a basic bagel board (without smoked or cured (gravlax) salmon) and an arugula salad – arrived within an acceptable 20 minutes.

Once on the table, there in front of our eyes, actually there, having made it through faulty supply chains, being “slammed” by so many customers over the weekend and a short-staffed kitchen, the food was delicious … other than the “Benny” (eggs Benedict) I had tried on Friday.

The beautifully warmed (not toasted) Gryve’s poppy bagel was to die for –  Gryve’s Bagel Bakery being a famous Toronto bagel company that supplies The Rooster Café with flash-frozen bagels.

The bagel arrived soft, moist, a nice manageable medium size, billowy rather than the usual dense.  Once topped with a delicious scallion-whipped cream cheese, lovely fresh tomato slices, capers and fine-chopped red onion, the bagel transports you across the prairies to the famous Jewish delis of Toronto and Montreal. It also summoned up memories of Paula Weil’s long-gone Hello Deli on, if I remember correctly, 124 Street.

Kudos for the arugula salad: Not much in the way of presentation, but the salad was an original thanks to the unusual and tangy addition of roasted, shredded fennel root to a summer-like mix of arugula leaves, mild onion, sunflower seeds, soft cranberries and an excellent honey-dill vinaigrette.

 

The Rooster’s arugula salad gets an added boost from roasted/shredded fennel root. Friday, my benny did not fare so well.  While the hot, beautifully fried breakfast potatoes were fabulous – among the best ever – the hollandaise sauce over the poached eggs was watery and lacked flavour. The garnish – tired slices of watermelon, orange and strawberry – was truck-stop quality. 

The hollandaise sauce and garnishes of the Rooster’s The Benny were disappointing.

While the Rooster Café was unforgivably out of salmon this time around, back in February I enjoyed a pre-review bagel with the smoked and sliced salmon made by Robert Sgambaro, the Edmonton chef who makes Sgambaro’s fine salmon products. It was deeee-licious.

Owners Charles Rothman and former Member of Parliament Rahim Jaffer are two of the most affable, charming, inventive and connected culinary people in this city.

When their game is on, The Rooster Café is tough to beat.  

But this litany of supplier-to-kitchen and kitchen-to-table delivery problems has to stop. And the Hollandaise sauce needs an upgrade.

The Rooster has to decide if it’s a breakfast-and-lunch shop, or a full-service restaurant with Jewish delicatessen touches. The current hours – 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. with snacks on the weekends until 8 p.m. – are confusing.

Great place when it’s working. But with four months under its belt, this Rooster should have a more consistent crow. 

FOOD NOTES

Filipino food hovers around the edges of the Edmonton culinary scene, but has yet to follow Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese cooking in crossing over to  the general public. This could soon change. The exciting executive chef of Rostizado and Tres Carnales, Edgar Guiterrez, is exploring his Filipino heritage. As a sideline, Edgar and his mom are soon to open the Filipino-street-food-inspired Kanto at 10636-98 St.