The restaurants of the JW Marriott – Edmonton ICE District
10344-102 St. NW
no listed delivery
11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week
Dinner for two (excluding tips, beverages and taxes): Basic, $100; loaded, $200
no listed delivery
6:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. seven days a week
Dinner for two (excluding tips, beverages and taxes): Basic, $40; loaded $100
RATINGS – for both restaurants
Food: 4.5 of 5 Suns
Ambience: 4.5 of 5 Suns
Service: 4.5 of 5 Suns
By GRAHAM HICKS
There’s an enormous attraction to brand new – be it a vehicle, a house, a fancy appliance.
When it’s a restaurant, the experience intensifies. Carpets are as clean as bed sheets, windows glisten, cutlery, glasses, furniture and decor are all brand new.
The experience is at its shiniest when said restaurant – in this case two – is within an equally brand-new, ultra-fancy hotel.
To the left of the JW Marriott Hotel lobby is the all-day, casual Kindred.
To the right, more enclosed, more playfully formal, is Braven – what you might call a contemporary steakhouse.
Both, judging from a media tasting session, are most welcome additions to the city’s dining scene.
Both are MUCH MORE than the standard, large hotel format – where banquets pay the bills and restaurants are a necessary inconvenience to feed the guests.
Braven and Kindred, because of their unique ownership structure and philosophy, should be compared against the best stand-alone restaurants of their kind in Edmonton.
Braven runs in the company of The Hardware Grill, Ruth’s Chris or the Fairmont’s Harvest Room.
Kindred has no direct comparables in town. Think of the former Sidetrack Café, once offering light, traveler, business and family-friendly fare from early morning to late at night.
The owner of Braven and Kindred is Oliver & Bonacini (O&B) – not a restaurant chain but a restaurant group. Oliver & Bonacini owns and operates 27 restaurants across Canada.
Other than a commitment to quality and the occasional recipe swap, you’d never know the O&B restaurants are related. Each chef more-or-less sets her/his own menu. The O&B “brand” is known within the industry, but certainly not to the casual diner.
Oilers’ owner and Ice District developer Daryl Katz was reputedly so impressed with Oliver & Bonacini that he purchased a minority share of the privately held company. One assumes Katz had much to do with the O&B’s selection as the JW Marriott ICE District’s food and beverage operator.
Cautioned Kindred Chef de Cuisine Jason Greene: “With all due respect, remember we operate within a hotel. Our clientele is wide-ranging. Our food must appeal to all.”
As per the gorgeous daylight that streams into the blond-themed, high-vaulted room, Kindred’s dishes are light, fresh and playful.
The simple yet tasty deconstructed Cobb salad lines up its fresh, fresh ingredients like foot soldiers.
The chicken pot pie is a beauty. On arrival, it looks like a family-style dinner for four, the billowy toasted pastry topping is so bountiful. But the crust – like the room itself – proves to be as light as air, sitting on a hot, fragrant, tarragon-accented chicken and peas cream sauce.
The rigatoni pasta, made in-house with a mascarpone-laced rose sauce, is to die for.
Braven will have a fine run.
The room is big but comfortable, lit with dozens of eclectic mini chandeliers. Like Kindred, the crockery is equally eclectic – old-world at one setting, relentlessly contemporary at the next.
The menu contains plenty of classics, but Braven avoids being locked into the aging meat-‘n’-potato, Oilers-season-ticket-forever crowd.
After all, a steak’s a steak is a steak – of course Braven’s can be cut with a fork and melt in your mouth. It’s the sauces, particularly the rich peppercorn/bourbon, that make those endless bites of beef so interesting.
Most impressive was Braven’s fish. The B.C. black cod – elegantly flavoured with Newfoundland screech (!!), sumac, raisins, pine nuts and a hint of maple – was among the finest ever tasted by this reviewer.
Braven “elevates” BBQ to O&B standards. The short ribs are smoked for five hours, braised in a coffee-and-ale sauce, served over the smoothest, creamiest polenta to be had.
Braven’s chicken is brined for 24 hours, loaded with aromatics, and smoked three hours. Each bite has beautiful texture and rich flavour.
Service, as is to be expected, is top-of-the-line. Old-timers will recall Edmonton’s golden age of service – when discreet waiters at Hy’s and the Four Seasons radiated class. After 40 years, service is back.
Braven prices are firmly within what the other top enders in town charge, $20 to $40 for big plates, with the big steaks touching $50.
Kindred’s prices are quite reasonable, especially given the overall experience. One can have a pleasant filling lunch or light dinner for $20 to $25.