The seared basa filet on cous cous was a highlight of Silk's bar dining. Photos by GRAHAM HICKS/EDMONTON SUN

Silk Bar Kitchen
10344 105 Street (beside the Quest condo tower)
780-264-1444
Silkbarkitchen.com

Tues. to Fri. 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Sat. noon to 12 a.m.
Sun. noon to 2 a.m.
Closed Monday

Food: 3.5 of 5 Suns
Ambience: 2.5 of 5 Suns
Service: 3 of 5 Suns

Dinner for two, just food – basic $35, loaded $65

By GRAHAM HICKS

The food experience in Edmonton is being blended into the bar/lounge experience.

It is not a particularly pleasant picture. Full evenings of casual but elegant dining — inspired by RGE RD and Corso 32, in turn inspired by the likes of the Hardware Grill – are being replaced by lounges offering more complex bar food than in the past.

When you walk into Silk Bar Kitchen, you are not walking into a bustling restaurant for a 6:30 p.m. dinner.

You are walking into a near-empty bar, that two hours later is still nearly empty, and likely won’t start filling up until late evening.

Given the food and a chef’s touch, Silk ought to have at least a small dinner crowd.

But why dine in a dark, dim atmosphere when it’s sunny and hot outside, at a few tables surrounded by bar stools and booths?  (A patio is being installed but as of last week was not open.) As we were eating, not three metres away, the DJ began setting up for the night ahead.

Silk is far more bar than kitchen.

Silk is a bar with good food, not a restaurant!

That said, Chef Earl Briones (LUX, Famoso, Union Bank Inn) has created a menu that satisfies the bar crowd with variations on the usual fries, pizzas, fish tacos and sliders. Then he heads to more adventurous territory for those interested in an actual dining experience … as opposed to sweet ‘n’ crunchy deep-fried tidbits to go with beer and/or cocktails.

The seared basa on cous cous looked interesting, as did a Moroccan chicken, braised short ribs with a coconut lime slaw, plus papaya and  Caprese salads.

Among the desserts was an intriguingly named Smashed Tiramisu. Said our pretty, pleasant young server who knew absolutely nothing about food, “if you smash the top, all the gooeyness comes out.”

Calamari is always a litmus test for a kitchen, this one, sigh, breaded and deep-fried, not freshly grilled. Hello? It’s a bar! But the breading was delicate and light, not oil-soaked. The calamari was nicely presented with a sprinkling of greens and chopped onions. The two dipping sauces – sweet chili and tzatziki – were equally refreshing.

The breaded calamari was light and fluffy.

The basa was a highlight – a fresh, firm, moist, flavourful fish filet perfectly seared on a bed of chick-pea sized  but surprisingly soft cous cous, in turn ladled upon a lemongrass-scented butter sauce. This dish would be a stand-out in any “elegant” restaurant: One advantage to eating in a bar/eatery cross-over, the price at $21 was a third lower than what would be charged in a fine-dining establishment.

The Moroccan chicken had good texture and a subtle coconut-tomato sauce. But full-blown Moroccan, packed with tangy spices and heat, this was not.  It was a timid version of the North African bird.

While delicate, the Moroccan chicken lacked spice and character.

As for fish tacos and spring salad – meh, not bad, not great, your usual imitation of the JOEY/Earls versions.

Yes, the sweet gooeyness did run out of the chocolate-covered topping on the tiramisu when smashed – like a chocolate-coated ice cream bar with a melted interior. It was a cute bar-room gimmick livening up a not-bad, in-house-made tiramisu.

Silk’s tiramisu with its smashing topping

It would be fun to fully unshackle this creative chef.  But Silk, despite being advertised as both restaurant and lounge, is after the bar crowd first, maybe hoping a dining crowd will follow. If it’s a fine summer night on the Silk patio, this menu could attract discerning diners.

But in the cool, dark interior, where the staff are focused on the evening ahead rather than one or two parties out for dinner … I don’t think so.

FOOD NOTES

So sorry to hear of the passing of Nello Saporito, the long-time proprietor of Il Pasticcio. Il Pasticcio – south of Jasper Avenue just off 116th Street, has long been a popular Italian dining spot, where the food never stopped coming.

Nello’s memory and cooking will live on. His son Tony Saporito is owner/operator of St. Albert’s Nello Italian Restaurant. Stepson James Burns offers a similar style of bountiful Italian cooking at Pazzo Pazzo, just west of city hall. Il Pasticcio is currently closed – it is hard to imagine the restaurant without Nello greeting customers at the door.

• • •

The much-anticipated Meuwly’s fine meat deli/ casual restaurant will open July 5 on 124 Street with its entrance alongside Northern Chicken – just north of 107 Avenue. Proprietor Will Kotowicz has built a reputation for making the finest craft salamis available in the city.

• • •

Coming in July to South Edmonton Common, in what was Hudson’s Canadian Tap House, is a second Haweli Pub and Eatery. Chef/proprietor Ramesh Devangodi (New Asian Village, Haweli Downtown) is developing a unique pub-style menu comprised of his own North American/South Asian fusion dishes.

• • •

The Keg in Old Strathcona has mysteriously shut its doors – every time I drove by, at least on weekends, it appears to be bustling and full. An unconfirmed rumour suggests a dispute over the terms of a lease renewal.