Imagine Okuda Fundraising Dinner
June 27, 2018
Holy Roller Restaurant
By GRAHAM HICKS
The Weekly Dish usually avoids special-event dinners, given the idea is to review a restaurant in its every-day mode, to review anonymously, and to report on menu offerings that are always available.
But this six-course fund-raiser on June 27, was different.
It was created to raise funds for a six-story mural in Old Strathcona by globally recognized Spanish street painter Okuda San Miguel.
San Miguel’s geometric works are packed with colour and vibrancy. The mural — to be painted on the north-facing side of the Crawford Block in a little-known plaza east of Gateway and south of 83rdAvenue – will offset the unrelenting white (snow) and green (evergreen trees) of an Edmonton winter.
Imagine Okuda was also a chance to support Michael Maxxis, a culinary entrepreneur (Holy Roller, Have Mercy, and El Cortez restaurants) and a filmmaker.
The interiors of his Old Strathcona restaurants are works of art unto themselves. And he’s a genuine community leader, devoting time and resources to public art projects such as Imagine Okuda.
Secondly, six leading chefs – five from Edmonton, one from Airdrie – participated in the dinner, each preparing a course inspired by San Miguel artwork.
Today’s culinary trend of inexpensive small food plates severely limits chefs with restless imaginations and culinary flair.
So for new Holy Roller chef Sam Chalmers, Shane Chartrand (SC at River Cree Resort), Lindsay Porter (London Local), Eric Hanson (Prairie Noodle House), Medi Tabtoub (Buco Windermere) and Jason Barton Browne of Airdrie’s Hayloft, Imagine Okuda was a chance to stretch their chops, to go a little crazy with tastes and presentations being thwarted in this new, mass-appeal, small-plate world.
Chef Hanson keeps winning culinary awards, but at Prairie Noodle House he can’t do much besides play with its famous ramen soups. Hanson’s beef carpaccio was the most creative and controversial dish of the evening – the meat being dried, stretched like a drum over a fried-bread structure, dusted with squid-ink coloured onion powder. While looking like burnt toast, the flavour and texture was quite unique – a love-it or leave-it proposition that I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed.
Chartrand is an inspiration, as a chef taking Canadian indigenous influences in ever-new directions, as a mentor and a participant/organizer of culinary events for charitable causes. The River Cree Resort has such faith in Chartrand that the restaurant he oversees, Sage, is being renamed to SC in his honour.
Chartrand’s creation was of creamed, crushed and pureed seafoods, assembled with sea asparagus as to resemble a tiny crustacean from the deep. It was smooth, crunchy, airy and firm all at the same time.
Porter was more conventional, offering a mini-portion of pastry-enshrouded Beef Wellington in a Shropshire/English Cheddar cheese puree and a home-made HP sauce. It was English pub delicious and helped fill the tummies of the 100-plus guests in attendance.
Holy Roller’s new chef Chalmers had fun with dessert, separating and presenting colourful fruit ingredients from the Filipino sweet bean/shaved ice halo halo sweet delicacy. Delicious!
It was a fun evening, and a joy to see these culinary artists stretching their wings – albeit within an ensemble, under tight time constrictions, and sharing a kitchen with five other chefs.
Some dishes were more successful than others, some were controversial, but that’s what happens when culinary artists venture into unchartered territory in the name of taste and texture.
The good news is the event was a success. The Imagine Okuda project draws ever closer to its goal of raising $40,000 for the monumental mural.
Other dining-out Edmonton news:
- Open Table has released a list of its users’ Top 100 Canadian patios, on which The Glass Monkey topped the four Edmonton patios named, including The Marc, The Manor Bistro and Violino. Not having the Hotel Macdonald patio points to flawed voting. It’s the most beautiful summer spot in Edmonton. The next-door Marriott Courtyard Edmonton Downtown patio boasts an equally beautiful river valley vista, but its food, refreshment and service is nondescript.
- The unheralded Hoang Long (two outlets downtown, one at West Edmonton Mall) has earned a spot in the Uber Eats Canada Day online cookbook for its Vietnamese Curry Chicken.
- Just opened in West Edmonton Mall, overlooking the Santa Maria galleon, is the 32nd Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Restaurant & Market and first in Canada. Review to follow, but it’s lots of fun, very corporate, featuring deep-fried shrimp in every imaginable preparation possible.