Last week I attended the VIP Sneak Peek tasting event for Edmonton’s newest restaurant in West Edmonton: Plow & Harvest (170 Street and Stony Plain Road). The restaurant officially opened on August 16, 2013, with two Sneak Peek dinners and one Sneak Peek lunch held in the days leading up to the grand opening.
Plow & Harvest says it redefines the art of comfort food and offers Edmonton’s first ‘fresh-casual’ dining experience. The restaurant takes over the location formerly occupied by Vietnamese restaurant Hoang Long, which has now moved to a downtown spot. If you’ve been to the restaurant when it was Hoang Long, and go now, it’s completely different. You’ll find newly-painted walls, white picket fences, chalkboards, a big red tractor, fake grass, more farm-esque décor. The room is quite big and feels very open, with lots of natural light spilling in.
While we were being served sample sizes of a few dishes off their regular menu for free, a look at the actual menu shows Plow & Harvest is pretty affordable. Their most expensive dish is the Roast Alberta Beef Au Jus at $18 –all other mains range between $12-$16.
There’s also a digital menu/tablet on each table which while cool, I thought was kind of out-of-place given the whole home-y, farm-y vibe the restaurant was trying to give off.
For the sample dishes we got to try the Baked Potato Bacon Soup, Hand-cut Plank Fries, Spicy Pickles, Not-so-Sloppy Joe, Grilled Cheese, Mac-n-Cheese with Bacon Breadcrumbs, and Buttermilk Fried Chicken. We also received a swag bag to take home as well that had some pickled vegetables, chocolate and soda.
I just didn’t think any of the dishes really jumped out at me. I loved the bacon breadcrumbs in the mac-n-cheese and the hearty potato soup was good. The buttermilk fried chicken was probably the best dish of the night, but even that didn’t really wow me. The breads also weren’t fabulous. The fries needed more seasoning (and I also prefer skinny fries). The grilled cheese wasn’t cheesy enough… etc. Some of my group got a chance to try the restaurant’s custard dessert and they all LOVED it. I wasn’t around at the time they were dishing those out so I missed out on that.
Our group also got to chat with Chef James Bailey, who helped come up with the concept and menu. Bailey said the menu will likely change in the future, but a lot of the core ‘comfort’ food will still be available.
I’m impressed that they are trying to source locally and still keep their prices affordable so kudos to Plow & Harvest for trying to support and promote local ingredients.
Bailey says this is the first of what they hope is many Plow & Harvest’s in Edmonton, and they also want to expand to rest of Alberta and then Canada too, all the while keeping the fresh local, casual comfort motif.
Overall I wasn’t wow-ed by the sample dishes I tried at Plow & Harvest’s Sneak Peek event. Like I said, the chicken was probably the best dish of the night, but even that was really just a sliver of chicken, so it’s hard to rave about it. I think the way the night was organized also affected my ability to love the experience. The food came out at a snail’s pace and while I understand the dishes are meant to be sample sizes, you just don’t want to be waiting a half hour in between food you gobble up in a few bites.
I think the overall experience would have been far better had they invited a smaller group of people, and were then able to really show attention to detail and offer bigger, more satisfying food at a quicker pace. Despite poor execution and underwhelming sample dishes, I had a great evening with a bunch of food friends. So I thank Plow & Harvest for being the setting of a memorable night if not for the food, but for the experience with friends. Our server was also really friendly (it wasn’t his fault it was taking awhile to get dishes out of the kitchen!) and the atmosphere was quite nice, though a bit on the loud, echo-y side. I do plan on coming back to Plow & Harvest to order off their regular menu, at full portion sizes so I hope that experience is a bit better.
I love Plow & Harvest’s concept and what I thought they did do an excellent job of was creating buzz around the restaurant ahead of its opening. Contacting food bloggers and letting them give away free tickets to sneak peek tastings did wonders in generating a constant stream of tweets and social media conversation surrounding the restaurant. But while that’s great, you really need to make sure your tasting events and the food itself are fantastic, if you want to keep people interested.
So have you been to Plow & Harvest? What did you think?!
Disclaimer: I was not obligated to write a review about Plow & Harvest. This post is 100% my own opinion! I do thank Plow & Harvest for the free dinner though. ;)