I am struggling with how to start this post.
This weekend, the world lost a beautiful woman far too soon, and today friends, family and colleagues grapple with the reality that Adrienne Pan is gone. It doesn’t seem real and it’s certainly not right. I will miss that laugh, those bright eyes, that brilliant mind and that big smile. I will miss sitting across from her in the studio at CBC Radio (Edmonton).
I first met Adrienne when she filled in to host Edmonton A.M. when Mark Connolly was away. It was around 2014 and by this time I’d been the show’s restaurant reviewer for four years. I had sat across from a several hosts—sometimes a new person every two weeks—as management searched for someone to fill the seat vacated by Ron Wilson and then Rick Harp. It was nerve-wracking because every host had a different style. Some stuck to the format while others went more off script. As someone fairly new to radio, it was unsettling because I never knew what I was walking into. After months of doing restaurant reviews where I felt like Wonderwoman deflecting bullets off her wrist cuffs, sitting across from Adrienne was like landing on a soft, fluffy pillow.
The first time I met Adrienne in the studio, she put me at ease within seconds with that incredible smile that reached up to her big brown eyes. But then boom, the on-air sign lit up, her eyes locked mine and she started in on the topic at hand. Adrienne Pan was into it. Most everyone else in that seat did what they needed to do, but Adrienne was passionate about food and committed to really getting in to the meat of the matter, as it were. She wanted to know everything. From then on, I looked forward to sitting across from her. Our six minutes together went way too fast.
We did our first Year in Review segment in 2014 and carried on for the next five years until COVID came knocking and made it unfair to review or rate restaurants.
What I came to know about Adrienne Pan was that she knew of so many little restaurants that I didn’t, and I thought I knew a lot. It was my mission to go everywhere and eat everything and find out the places that flew under the radar, but Adrienne had me beat. I learned so much from her.
I learned she loved soup almost more than I, which is a feat in itself. I appreciated her love of tequila cocktails, and I appreciated how much she loved The Marc. I also came to love how she would sneak more than one “winner” in a category when we (Phil Wilson and I) always tried to stay true to the rules and choose only one. I chalked that up to her having tenure at CBC and figured that Adrienne earned the right to take control of those segments and talk as much as she pleased, whereas Phil and I were simply the supports, but then I realized she just had so much love for the restaurant industry and knew so much, that it was impossible for her to choose just one, sometimes.
Below is a list of Adrienne Pan’s picks from 2014 – 2019. Keep in mind that some are no longer in business, so please check their websites first before heading on over. Considering how much the pandemic has hurt the restaurant industry, now would be a great time to lend your support by ordering takeout or dining in, if possible. If you’re so inclined to do this in memory of Adrienne, that would be beautiful.
My list is taken from the CBC web articles and features Adrienne’s picks only. It’s a nice reference for where to go, but also it gives you an idea of Adrienne Pan, the food aficionado and one of the city’s food scene’s biggest cheerleaders. She will be missed.
2014 – Edmonton’s Best Eats
Best restaurant that opened in 2014 – Adrienne: North 53 – I love the all-Canadian focus on the ingredients, and the cocktails are inventive and delicious. There is a new head chef at the helm, and I am looking forward to trying the re-vamped menu.
Best established restaurant that keeps you coming back – Adrienne: Red Ox Inn – This intimate eatery has modern comfort food, knowledgeable servers and a great wine list. I’m a big fan of the duck dish of the moment.
Best restaurant for romance – Adrienne: The Marc – A good first date restaurant should have great food, but also a great atmosphere. The Marc is casual but upscale at the same time. The favourite is the Entrecote (Steak) Frites, but I also love their fish dishes and beignets for dessert. This is a solid downtown lunch spot as well.
Best restaurant for when you’re celebrating – Adrienne: Narayanni’s – Edmonton’s only Indian/South African restaurant. The numerous vegetable dishes on the buffet really shine here. The family-run restaurant is warm and welcoming, and the perfect place to satisfy the varying tastes of large groups.
Best take-out: Adrienne – Dang Good – This northwest Edmonton Vietnamese restaurant isn’t really a hole-in-the-wall, but it is affordable with big portions. I usually get the Mango Salad to start, then the 3 Beef Pho with beef brisket, beef tendon, and beef ball, and for dessert – the Banana and Jackfruit roll.
The restaurant most worth going out of your way to get to – Adrienne: Wing Chicx Kal Bi Que – Best Korean food in Edmonton and worth the drive to the south edge of the city. I love so many of the dishes here … Jumbo BBQ Kal Bi Beef Rib, Fried Chicken, Stir Fried Sweet Potato Noodle, Original Kimchi Stew, and the Seafood Pan Fried Pizza. Embrace Kimchi!
Best place for sharing a dish – Adrienne: Shanghai Grill – My current favourite bite of food in the city is the Xiao Long Bao, or Shanghai Style Juicy Pork Buns, at Shanghai Grill. Handmade in-house, imagine a perfectly seasoned, delicately wrapped pork dumpling filled with delicious soup. There’s an art to successfully eating these … tweet me for tips!
Best Japanese: Adrienne – Japonais Bistro – The sushi here is always fresh. White tuna is my favourite and the Golden Crunch and Cherry Blossom rolls are perfect. Also give the Tuna Nachos a try – and don’t ignore the hot menu! The Spicy Mango Prawns and Grilled Miso Black Cod are outstanding.
Best Thai: Adrienne – Ban Thai – I love soup … and one of the best in the city is the Coconut Soup at Ban Thai. Get the Toam Gati Kaa Gai if you want chicken, or the Toam Yum Talay Tong if you want seafood.
Best sandwich: Adrienne – DaDeO New Orleans Diner & Bar – The Po’Boys here are all delicious but I have a soft spot for the Fried Oyster. Make sure to get the addicting sweet potato fries and cherry or vanilla coke.
Best Pizza – Adrienne: Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria – I’m going to give a little love to a chain restaurant right now. Famoso’s Margherita pizza is my go-to. Simple perfection. Now, about the service …
2015 – Edmonton’s Best Restaurants
Best New Restaurant 2015 – Adrienne: Cured – I couldn’t be happier this great eatery has opened in the semi-food desert that is the southwestern edge of Edmonton. While their spread of house-made charcuterie is impressive, I am in love with the crispy garlic ginger wings. These babies are brined for 24 hours and really pop with a squeeze of charred lemon. I must also mention the restaurant is super stylish, all the way down to the rose gold cutlery. Location: 2307 Ellwood Drive, Edmonton
Best Breakfast/Brunch Spot – Adrienne: The Manor Bistro – Eggs Benedict are my go-to morning meal, and nowhere else in Edmonton makes them better. The hollandaise is buttery and flavourful, the eggs are always perfectly poached (I like mine medium), and the accompanying potatoes and couscous aren’t throwaways like they are in many other places. Also, love the banana bread with the pecan butter. Location: 10109 125th Street, Edmonton
Best for Date Night – Adrienne: Canteen – I’ve been here a lot, and have never been let down by the food or service. The dishes are inventive, but never tortured — and the space is just big enough to give you the buzz of a busy restaurant while still feeling intimate. Address: 10522 124th Street, Edmonton
Best Cheap Eats – Adrienne: The Soup and Sandwich Shoppe – This tucked-away lunch spot in Sherwood Park is made for soup lovers. They have at least five house-made soups on offer every day from hearty stews and gumbos to creamy concoctions like bacon mac’n’cheese. Sop it up with the plenty of bread and enjoy a full belly for under $10. Address: #4, 140 Athabascan Avenue, Sherwood Park
Best Spot to Splurge – Adrienne: The Marc – It’s hard for me to go to this restaurant and not have a three-course meal with wine. Their fresh take on french bistro fare and daily specials always keeps me interested and coming back. Their fish dishes and beignets continue to be particular highlights. Address: 9940 106th Street, Edmonton
Best Place to Go with a Group – Adrienne: North 53 – This place has undergone a lot of change in the two years it’s been open, and luckily, its latest incarnation is a success. I had my birthday meal here with seven people and enjoyed the shareability of the dishes. Loved the tourtiere and whole roast chicken, both of which were very original takes on classic recipes. By the way, kids are welcome until 10 p.m. Address: 10240 124th Street, Edmonton
Best Spin on a Traditional Dish – Adrienne: Shanghai 456 – We all know Edmonton is home to the green onion cake — here, you get a great variation of it with the Shanghai chive and egg pancake. It comes crispy and stuffed full of chives, and cheap. Address: 14456 118th Avenue, Edmonton
Best Ramen – Adrienne: Kazoku Ramen – I love that this food trend has finally hit Edmonton, so I tackled my research on this category with fervour. However, I haven’t found a perfect bowl of ramen yet. The best overall is Kazoku — it has great broth and comes with sesame seeds to grind into your soup. Prairie Noodle Shop has the best meat, both in quality and quantity. Yuzen‘s noodles have that perfect chew and curl. Address: 16518 100th Avenue, Edmonton
Best Charcuterie – Adrienne: Glasshouse Bistro –Since I’ve already mentioned the excellent charcuterie at Cured, I am going to give some love to this St. Albert eatery in the meat category. I have had seriously tasty meat, fish and pasta dishes here. The Friday Night Fresh three-course set menu features local ingredients and the price can’t be beat at $35. Address: 101 Riel Drive, St. Albert
Best Food Truck – Adrienne: The Pie Eatery – I discovered this food truck at this year’s Taste of Edmonton. Their pork and apple hand pie was my best bite of the festival. To do a pie that good — out of a truck, no less — is truly impressive.
Best Coffee Shop – Adrienne: Remedy – I realize A LOT of new coffee shops have opened up in Edmonton recently, and I honestly haven’t tried many of them. I will say, though, that I frequent Remedy downtown and I enjoy the drinks, food, and atmosphere. Their Chai tea and butter chicken with rice make a rich and satisfying meal. Address: Downtown — 10279 Jasper Avenue, Edmonton; South Side — 8631 109th Street, Edmonton
Best Cocktail – Adrienne: El Cortez – There are fancier cocktails to be had at places like Woodwork, but I am a tequila fan. El Cortez’s coconut margarita is the most perfect tequila cocktail I have ever had. Drink a few of those with a grilled pescado taco and Valentina’s fried cauliflower. You won’t regret it. Address: 8230 Gateway Boulevard, Edmonton
Where We Ate Most – Adrienne Pan, On-duty newshound and off-duty food fanatic – I ate the most at Wing Chicx this year. Not only is it in my neighbourhood, it’s my favourite Korean restaurant in the city.
Best new Restaurant – Adrienne: Chartier. Yes, I know this restaurant is located in Beaumont and not Edmonton, but it’s less than 10 minutes from my house so it counts in my mind! This Kickstarter success story won my heart with its French-Canadian food with an original twist — like Duck with blueberry cobbler. I’m also loving the “Belly, Beets, Battlestar Galactica” currently on the menu. The atmosphere is great too … rustic, stylish, inviting. Take home fresh bread from Chartier’s bread window Friday through Sunday.
Best for Brunch – Adrienne: Café Linnea. This is the kind of place I want to eat at on a Saturday morning before a day of running errands. It’s bright, fresh and zen with its mix of wood, concrete and greenery (both plants and leather seating.) In a menu filled with Scandinavian and French cuisine, I love the complete galette with its house ham and buckwheat crepe. Enjoy with the beautiful Darjeeling tea they serve and you’ll be ready to take on your day! Also – forget the stress of working out a tip, it is a no-tipping establishment.
Best for Date Night – Adrienne: Uccellino: Not all dates are planned weeks in advance, which makes this place a real winner. Half of the restaurant is reserved for walk-ins, so don’t sweat not getting a table at Corso 32. Uccellino is also run by chef Daniel Costa and is just as cool. You have to eat pasta at this place … and while the Cacio e Pepe (an elevated mac and cheese) was creamy and soul-satisfying, I loved the house-made tagliatelli with sage butter and parmesan. Good date or not, you’ll leave happy having eaten that.
Best Bargain – Adrienne: Sushi Shop: I’ll admit that this is not the cheapest eat you can have in Edmonton, but it is technically “fast food.” And for sushi, the prices are very reasonable. I’m obsessed with the tuna sushi tacos – a flavour bomb wrapped in a crispy wonton shell. Two for $6.95. And the $9.95 sushi pizzas are a fun lunch with various ingredients served on a crispy rice and cheese crust.
Best Place to Splurge – Adrienne: RGE RD First off, you have to decide if you want to eat off the menu, or take the $79+ RGE RD Trip – a multi-course “surprise me” dining experience. You can’t go wrong with either choice, but I recommend letting chef Blair Lebsack take you on an adventure. I feel the vegetable treatments are especially strong here, and still crave the blue cheese creme brulé. The cocktails are no slouches either, and worth your hard-earned dollars.
Best Oldie but Goodie – Adrienne: The Harvest Room: I ate alligator for the first time at this restaurant – back in 1993. I remember being impressed by the servers “crumbing” the table. I was on a date, it was romantic. Fast-forward to Valentine’s Day, 2016. I’m back at the restaurant, on a date with my husband. The room is still romantic, the service still outstanding, the set menu was delectable to the last bite. And I left with a long stemmed rose dropped off with the bill. That’s class.
Best Bites and Tapas – Adrienne: Izakaya Tomo: Disclaimer: Several Japanese tapas bars have popped up around Edmonton lately and I have not been able to try them yet. But, here’s why this place is worth a visit. Last time I went, they had a fried chicken-skin dish on special … and yes, it was as good as you’re imagining it was. Also of note, mentaiko (pollock roe) udon, the brussels sprouts, and the tuna tataki. Wash it all down with one or more of the many beers and sakes, and listen for a boisterous “Goodbye and come back soon” as you head out the door.
Best Fried Chicken – Adrienne: Seoul Fried Chicken and Northern Chicken: Unlike my ramen odyssey last year, I was not disappointed with my fried chicken chase of 2016. It turns out there are many places now offering great fried chicken in Edmonton, and what you’ll like will come down to the fine details. My Korean pick is SFC. The chicken is everything you want, plus some really interesting and original flavours like cilantro lime and golden kari (Japanese curry powder). The sesame potato slaw is perfection along with the corn fritters.
Southern-style fried chicken and Korean fried chicken are equally good and need to be judged separately. My traditional pick, Northern Chicken, offers a crispy-skinned, moist bird with just enough heat to make things interesting. Don’t be calorie-conscious and skip the Doritos mac ‘n cheese and bacon cream corn. Honourable mentions: Coco’s Deep Fried Chicken, Have Mercy
Best for Seafood – Adrienne: Sabor: Piri piri prawns, the sablefish and the seafood paella are just a few of the dishes I go back for time after time. This restaurant is comfortingly consistent in its high quality. It’s also suitable for any occasion whether it be a birthday party, Sunday dinner with family, or a work meeting. Don’t be afraid of the wine list.
Best Dessert – Adrienne: The Art of Cake: We all agree, Duchess Bake Shop is good. It’s internationally known. Go there if you haven’t already. However, there are other bakeries making some great sweet treats in our city. Art of Cake’s vanilla cruller is divine, but available only Wednesdays and Fridays. The white chocolate raspberry scone is also delicious. And a shout-out to Passion de France, who makes a wonderful almond croissant.
Best Cocktail – Adrienne: Bar Clementine: Luckily for us, it’s not hard to find a great cocktail in Edmonton, but I’m going to give props to this new kid on the block. The cocktails here are creative and original. Take the Cabana, best described as a smoky piña colada. Also tasty, the Provence is creamy, fresh, and fruity. The menu changes often, but if the Sweet Carrots with Amaranth or the Apple Millefeuille are on the offer, take advantage. It’s also a beautiful room.
What to Watch for in 2017 – Adrienne: Baijiu
I’m excited about Baijiu, opening up in the Mercer Warehouse. Shared plates paired with cocktails and a Shanghai-in-the-’30s vibe? Sign me up. Also, Art of Cake is opening a new bakery/cafe in the Brewery District in February or March. Expect soup, sandwiches and coffee alongside the already wonderful desserts and cakes.
Where I ate the most in 2017 – Adrienne: The Sequel Cafe. I love soup. I could eat it every day. It’s my lunch of choice during working hours and, at least a couple times a week, I get my soup fix at Sequel Cafe. It’s conveniently located across the street from CBC and has excellent homemade offerings from carrot ginger and corn chowder to red lentil. I never miss the beet borscht special on Thursdays.
Best of 2017 – Adrienne: Bündok. This spot in Edmonton’s expanding Ice District was my happy place this year. You can taste real intention and care in the small plates that change with the seasons. The same goes for the service, ambiance, and drinks. I dream of the parmigiano soup. I marvel at the soft, pillowy gnocchi. I crave the roasted cauliflower. And let’s talk about the posset. The little-known (to North Americans) dessert is the best ending to a meal in the city right now. Vegetarians will also appreciate the well-executed and inventive offerings here.
Most Creative Menu – Adrienne: Biera. It would be a disservice to not mention Alder Room in this category – simply for its unique concept and rave national reviews (I have yet to dine there myself) – but I’m giving the nod to the much-less cost prohibitive Biera. This is Blind Enthusiasm’s brewpub, but you will not find typical brewpub grub here. The menu bursts with creativity and risk. I love the crispy skate wing fish. End the night with the berry marshmallow (even marshmallow-haters – like me – like it!).
Best Brunch – Adrienne: Golden Rice Bowl: If you’re in the mood for Chinese brunch, also known as dim sum, this is the place to go. It’s been around forever, and knows what it’s doing. The restaurant is very large and busy, meaning there’s lots of selection. Make sure to order the pork dumpling with the red dot on it and the shrimp dumpling in the translucent-white wrap. Don’t be afraid to try the chicken feet. Go with at least four people as most dishes come in fours. Make it for 10:30 a.m. – by 11:30, you’ll be waiting in line as the food carts torturously roll by.
Best Vegetarian – Adrienne: Padmanadi. More and more people are going meatless. Happily, the choices for plant-based meat are getting really good. Open since 2002, Padmanadi is a veteran in the meatless meat game in Edmonton – and I’ve never had a dish here I didn’t like. I can’t say you won’t be able to tell the difference between textured soy protein and the real thing, but you won’t care. It’s delicious in its own right. I always order the roti canai and the mushroom deluxe. And, as stated 45 ways to Edmonton like a local, be sure to get a hug from owner Kasim before you leave.
Best Old-school Chinese – Adrienne: Chin Kee Restaurant. We’ve all heard in relation to Chinese restaurants: “the worse-looking the restaurant, the better the food.” It’s not a golden rule, but there’s truth to that statement, and my pick in this category reflects that adage. It looks rundown, the hours are erratic, the decor is dated and the service is indifferent (if not occasionally rude), but the food is good. The menu here offers dishes you won’t find anywhere else in the city, and that’s where it excels. Get the deep fried dace fish skin, ginger fried rice, sweet and dark vinegar pork hocks, and chicken and vermicelli in Chinese herb soup. And, if you’re really adventurous, the white rice fish omelette. There is “Canadian” Chinese food here. Don’t order it.
Best oldie but goodie – Adrienne: Phõ Hoàn Pasteur – The key to good pho is the broth. It should be clear, beefy, and rich in spices – star anise, cloves and cinnamon. When it’s done well, it warms the soul. In Edmonton, I find the best broth at Phõ Hoàn Pasteur. Personally, I like meatball, tendon and brisket in my pho. Bean sprouts, thai basil and a squeeze of lime complete the dish. No need to add hoisin or sriracha in my opinion. Pho, you complete me.
Best Place to Spend under $10 – Adrienne: Zwick’s Pretzels. This place embodies beauty in simplicity: pretzels to perfection. The $2 basic butter and salt does the trick, but I love it paired with the dill and onion cream dip (an extra $1). If you like cheese on your pretzel, get the guajillo and feta for $3. All the pretzels come to you hot out of the oven. There’s often a lineup out the door, but it’s worth the wait.
Best Place for Takeout – Adrienne: Tiffin Fresh Kitchen. You can get takeout from virtually any restaurant in Edmonton these days with things like SkipTheDishes, so I’ve decided to choose a place specifically set up for to-go food. Tiffin Fresh Kitchen, open in south Edmonton since September, offers Indian fast casual. You fill up a tiffin with your choice of rice, vegetable and meat dishes. Then, top it off with yummy finishes like roasted garlic and cashews. Make sure to sop up all the rich, and generally spicy, sauces with fresh naan. There’s no table service, but the space is decked out with some cool art if you want to eat-in. A second location is opening downtown in Spring 2018.
Best Coffee Shop – Adrienne: Transcend Coffee and Roastery at Ritchie Market. The ever-increasing number and quality of great independent coffee shops in Edmonton makes me proud, but this is my go-to. Their flat white is my favourite coffee in the city. You’ll also see a $7.50 coffee milkshake on the menu there … get it. You deserve it. For a cool spot to drink your coffee in-house, head to Coffee Bureau. It’s tiny with a cool vibe, and the Jasper Avenue location makes for great people watching. Pastries supplied by the excellent FanFan. Some love as well for Iconoclast Koffiehuis.
Best Doughnuts – Adrienne: Frickin’ Delights Donuts. Is it worth driving 20 minutes south of Edmonton to go to a vegan cafe for cake doughnuts? Yes. You won’t find any dry, flavourless fried dough here, applesauce and coconut milk make sure of that. I also found their soy Nanaimo bar doughnut a tasty delight.
Best Wildcard – Adrienne: Pip. Pip describes itself as “a cute little space in the heart of Old Strathcona.” I like this trend of small, intimate restaurant spaces – this one has just 28 seats. But don’t worry, the menu is big on flavour. It’s bistro fare, inviting, easy, and satisfying. I haven’t heard one negative review of a dish on the menu, and can personally vouch for the trout on bread (spectacular sourdough made specially for Pip) and the chimichurri steak. The pork belly is the most popular dish, and crispy and succulent in all the right places.
What to Watch in 2018 – Adrienne: Looking forward to trying out two new places opening this month: Ohana Donuterie‘s storefront just off Whyte Avenue and a new vegan/vegetarian restaurant in The Quarters by the folks behind Cafe Mosaics: The Moth Cafe.
Where you’re likely to find Adrienne Pan, On-duty newshound and off-duty food fanatic: Woodwork. Five years after it opened and the cocktails remain as excellent as they’ve ever been. What’s new, though, is the head chef. David Leeder took the helm eight months ago, bringing his Italian heritage and passion. The Broek Acres pork ragu is a perfect papardelle dish and more than worth the calories. And the steak tartare is truly notable with its crispy shallots and pops of pickled mustard seed.
Best new Restaurant 2018 – Adrienne: Kanu Cafe. Never would I ever have dreamed that a plant-based cafe would be tasty enough, and satisfying enough, to make it to the top of a best restaurants list — but here we are. Kanu Cafe is an inviting, bright space with equally bright service. First off, the butternut squash nachos. You don’t miss the cheese with the squash, guacamole, and lime crema packing flavour punches, and the dish is perfectly layered so there’s good stuff on every blue corn chip. For mains, the spicy udon noodles are near perfection. You get so much in this dish: spicy, smoky, creamy, chewy, nutty and crunchy. And the cocktails (with and without kombucha) are no slouch here either.
Best Service – Adrienne: The Marc. When I go to The Marc, I’m always greeted like the gang at Cheers, “where everybody knows your name.” I highly doubt they know my name, but I FEEL like they do — and that counts for something. Right off the bat, I feel welcomed and at home. You don’t necessarily feel the same familiarity with the servers, but they are prompt, attentive and knowledgeable. If you ask for a recommendation on food or wine, you get one and are never told “Everything’s good.” And they manage all of this while remaining completely relaxed and casual. This is what restaurant service should be.
2018’s ‘It’ food — Best vegetarian/vegan – Adrienne: An Chay. This is definitely the year of plant-based eating for Edmonton. There are many vegetarian/vegan places to go to now, and the competition is strong. I’ve already given Kanu Cafe one nod, so will go with An Chay for best pick here. The menu is vegetarian Vietnamese and the dish you must eat is the noodle soup (or pho). The five-spice broth is beyond reproach. It is as flavourful, if not more so, than many traditional beef-based pho broths I’ve had. You’ll also enjoy thinly-sliced lotus root, mushroom and black fungus on a healthy portion of rice noodles. This is especially soul-satisfying on a cold, winter’s day.
Best Sandwich – Adrienne: Local Omnivore. If I’m going out to a place to eat a sandwich, I’m going to Local Omnivore. With their house-cured and smoked products, their outstanding offerings are truly hard to beat. Their super smoked bacon put them on the map. My favourite sandwich is the Mr. Pink, a hearty handful of smoked ham and Swiss on toasted Russian rye. And don’t hold the fries, they are pretty darn yum.
Best Value – Adrienne: Green Onion Cake Man. There is now a restaurant dedicated to Edmonton’s official-ish food — the green onion cake. And they are made and served up by the very man who introduced the pan-fried doughy delights to the city in the first place: Siu To. This is as authentic as it gets with green onion cakes, and they are only $3 each. In fact, nothing on the menu is, or will be, over $5, so splurge on the hot-and-sour soup, too.
Best for Take Out – Adrienne: Kanto 98 St. Eatery. Edmonton’s Filipino food presence is something of a force now, and Kanto offers a great gateway. What Chef Edgar Gutierrez is serving up here is street food with his spin. The bao is a popular seller, but I really enjoy the spaghetti & chicken served up with wieners and cheese and two pieces of succulent fried chicken on top. This dish travels surprisingly well, and that’s a good thing because Gutierrez says most of his business is done via food delivery these days. In fact, they deliver up until 1 a.m.
Best Sweet Bite – Adrienne: Tsujiri Japanese Tea House. Tsujiri is a 155-year-old Japanese tea brand that has only recently expanded into Canada. It’s all about matcha (a high-grade green tea powder) at this dessert spot. Known for its grassy taste and ample health benefits, you can sample pastries and lattes — but for me, it’s all about the Sakura parfait. The dish comes with a good helping of matcha soft-serve ice cream, crunchy roasted brown rice, a red bean paste, a chestnut, a shiratama ball (like a mochi with no filling) and a sakura (cherry blossom) cookie. It’s a really nice blend of contrasting flavours and textures.
In my mind, Edmonton has a best “land” dish and a best “sea” dish.
Land: Tzin’s bacon is just plain mouth-watering. Pork and apple are a powerhouse couple and that’s the foundation for this dish. For me, the calvados gastrique makes this bite iconic. I tried to make this at home once, and failed miserably. Save a pan, and just enjoy this at Tzin.
Sea: Three Boars’ smoked tomato mussels. It’s a crime not to slurp up every ounce of the broth in the bowl. Smoky tomato, Italian sausage, onion, garlic, sherry wine and plump P.E.I. mussels. This dish is a home run.
Bar Clementine has been named one of the best bars in Canada — and here’s why: it is dedicated to “thoughtful imbibing.” Cocktails here are complex and unusual, but don’t take themselves too seriously. Take the Amazon, a cachaca drink mixed with passionfruit and coconut cream served up in a parrot tiki mug. Get dressed up and go for drinks with someone you want to impress.
Wilfred’s has a completely different vibe. It’s an “elevated” downtown diner with an elegant whimsical quality. I’d say the cocktails match the atmosphere. Ask for the Lamplighter if you appreciate apricot, and their winter punch.
Local booze to stock your liquor cabinet with: Black Diamond Distillery’s Tart Cherry and Rig Hand Distillery’s Double Double.
Best New Restaurant – Adrienne: Kobachi. At Kobachi, parsnips and carrots come sautéed with sesame oil and chili flakes. (Adrienne Pan/CBC)
For chef and owner Ron Elmaleh, it appears that smaller is better. Kobachi means “small bowl” in Japanese and the restaurant itself is also small, with just 20 seats. Its goals, however, are lofty: to bring sustainable and authentic Japanese food to Sherwood Park. The restaurant is Ocean Wise certified, which means it is sourced by only sustainable seafood.
What to order: Trust the chef and take advantage of the plentiful daily specials like the creative Aji & Fry. It combines two versions of Spanish mackerel: sushi and fried.
On the permanent menu, don’t overlook the unassuming but flavour-packed parsnip kimpira and the hotate butter, which sees tenderly handled scallops bathed in butter and soy sauce.
Best of Downtown – Adrienne: Bodega. Bodega is the perfect place for a date night or an impromptu visit for post-work drinks and eats. The wine menu is carefully curated, the lighting is just low enough to create a good mood and the people-watching is just as satisfying as the food.
What to order: Dishes from the excellent and diverse hot tapas menu can satisfy any craving, but the piri piri prawns are the must-have choice. Very close seconds are the grilled lamb chops and the bacon-wrapped dates.
Best of Oliver and 124 Street – Adrienne: Partake. What to order: I am a soup fanatic. Soup was part of supper every night when I was growing up and I have it nearly every day for lunch, so when I discovered the French onion soup at Partake, I was in bliss. Lesser versions are overpowered by beef broth, with insufficiently caramelized onions and not enough cheese. I dare say this version is perfect. It elevates the experience to sip it in one of the restaurant’s beautiful hunter-green leather booths and have a bowl of bottomless fancy popcorn on the table.
Best of Old Strathcona and Ritchie – Adrienne: Biera. What Adrienne orders: Honey-glazed radicchio kushiyaki. I credit my discovery of radicchio to the 1989 film, When Harry Met Sally. Sally ordered grilled radicchio from a fine New York restaurant, and little-kid me thought, I have to try that! The radicchio at Biera shows off the chicory beautifully. Do not get the pistachio crema on the side!
Best restaurants north of the core – Adrienne: Dang Good. This family-run strip mall restaurant offers everything you want in a Vietnamese restaurant: flavourful pho and bowls of filling and tasty vermicelli.
What to order: Dang Good’s top seller is the spicy peanut saté soup, and for good reason. Beef fillet and roasted peanuts meet cooling cucumber and tomato on a healthy heaping of rice noodles. The menu has changed, but I’m hoping the fried banana dessert is still an option.
Best restaurants south of the Whitemud – Adrienne: 852 Hong Kong Cafe. If Calgary Trail, near South Edmonton Common, is on your commute, you’ve passed by this restaurant countless times. Next time, stop and go in. 852 Hong Kong Cafe has a bright, modern room and a massive menu typical of Chinese restaurants.
What to order: The dish to travel here for is the pipa duck. Imagine the roast duck with lacquered skin you can get at any Chinese grocer, then amp-up the flavour factor by 10. The duck leaves a pleasing taste of anise and Chinese five spice on your tongue. It’s also roasted just long enough to render out the sometimes unappealing fat layer, leaving perfectly succulent meat and a nice crispy skin. Pre-ordering is recommended.
Best restaurants outside of the city – Adrienne: Frickin’ Delights Donuts. There is no shortage of quality doughnuts in Edmonton, so why drive to Devon to get your fix? I’ll tell you: the doughnuts there are as advertised — a frickin’ delight. They are also vegan with no deliciousness sacrificed. What to order: The chocolate chai, blueberry pancake and unique cornbread doughnuts are all good choices.
Don’t have a sweet tooth? Try the dill pickle soup. And if you don’t feel like driving out of town, they recently opened a location on Whyte Avenue.
Best wild Card – Adrienne: Alchemy. Before you can enjoy the excellent drinks and view at Alchemy, you have to find it first. It’s on the fifth floor of the JW Marriott hotel, and throwing back to the days of speakeasies, it’s behind a bookcase. The bookcase swings open, revealing a chic bar lined with tall windows on one side and buttery leather seating on the other. The cocktail menu is stacked and a drawing next to each drink shows what glass it comes in — a nice touch.
What to order: I’m a fan of the Sun/Moon and the El Cholito. They go nicely with the beef chuck sliders. And don’t be shy to get dressed-up for your night out — cocktail attire is preferred here.
Don’t Skip the Dishes here – Adrienne: Dorinku Osaka. This is the second Dorinku to open in Edmonton, but it’s no carbon copy of the first. Dorinku on Whyte Avenue serves Tokyo street food, while this brand new eatery on Jasper Avenue takes diners to Osaka, Japan.
What to order: The robata grilling method, fuelled by charcoal from Japan, turns out perfectly fire-kissed meats and seafood skewers. The pork belly and beef tongue are tender and flavourful on their own, but dipping them into the accompanying Asian peri peri and cilantro chimichurri sauces gives the meats another dimension.
The room is super stylish, mixing traditional and modern elements. The cocktail menu is fun, resembling a pop-up book. The shochu and Japanese whisky is flowing, the hip hop is pumping and there’s a Pachinko machine in the back.
Best restaurant of the decade – Adrienne and Phil: Corso 32. Edmonton’s culinary scene was forever changed with the opening of chef Daniel Costa’s Corso 32.
This restaurant ushered in a new standard for quality and flavour, earning a spot on Air Canada’s enRoute magazine in 2011. Nine years after the restaurant opened, the food remains consistently excellent.
It’s not a place you spontaneously pop into — reservations are too hard to come by — but maybe that’s a good thing. Eating at Corso is an event, and a highly anticipated one at that.
We’re certain the words “it’s good enough” have never been spoken inside these walls.
What to order: The arancini is a great choice, but you can never go wrong with any pasta!
Rest in peace, Adrienne Pan. Thank you for everything.