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November 6, 2012

Review: Preview dinner at XIX (Nineteen)

November 6, 2012
Edmonton Sun Linda Hoang
CTV Edmonton
Ahi Tuna Twist: Spicy thai noodles, Asian slaw and cilantro aioli at Nineteen.

Nineteen at 5940 Mullen Way.

On Monday night, I had the honour of attending a preview dinner with other food bloggers at Edmonton’s newest restaurant XIX (Nineteen) located at 5940 Mullen Way in the southwest Terwillegar/Windermere area of the city!! (The official release says they are located in Magrath). The restaurant is a venture of Chef Andrew Fung and Blackhawk Golf Club Founder Al Prokop. Andrew and Al worked together for years at Blackhawk Golf Club before Andrew decided to go in a new direction. The story behind the name Nineteen is actually very cool. Golfers will know that after 18 holes on the course, players will then head to the “19th hole” (lounge/bar) to have a beer, wind down, celebrate the end of the game. The restaurant Nineteen is meant to symbolize that 19th hole but it’s also Andrew and Al’s “19th hole” because this is where their venture continued after their time together at the golf course came to an end. Neat right??

Inside Nineteen.

The space is very nice. The dining area has about 70 seats. There’s high ceilings, beautiful chandeliers, interesting walls including some fabric-y like portions that we were told were designed that way in part to help keep acoustics/volume low. There’s a number of different art works hanging throughout the restaurant as well. And there’s an open-kitchen concept! So you can see the chefs pretty clearly as they’re cooking (no yelling, guys! ;))

High ceilings, nice lights, walls to keep down the volume.

Lisa was my date for the evening. Mike was away at work, if you’re wondering why I didn’t bring him ;) And, wow! We had a great night filled with incredible food, good company, great, attentive service and a warm, nice atmosphere.

We seated ourselves with Lindsay Shapka of Where Edmonton and her guest Carmen and were immediately given Tasting Menus. That’s when we found out our night would feature 10 COURSES! Yikes! So much food!! We were so excited. So let’s get right into it!!

This gets a little long so feel free to just look at the pretty pictures and skip to the bottom of this review if you want to read tidbits & a summary about Nineteen..

Tasting Menu

Ahi Tuna Twist: Spicy thai noodles, Asian slaw and cilantro aioli at Nineteen.

The night started off with an Ahi Tuna Twist with spicy Thai noodles, Asian slaw and cilantro aioli. This was one of our favourite dishes of the night. All the flavours mixed together so well. I am especially partial to raw fish so this got automatic excellence points for that. The slaw instantly reminded me of a slaw dish you’d get at a traditional 10-course Chinese restaurant wedding meal. So But with even more flavour. And the overall presentation was fantastic.

Blueberry Duck Sliders with chipotle aioli at Nineteen.

Next were Blueberry Duck Sliders with chipotle aioli. Normally I am not a fan of the taste of duck. There’s something about it that doesn’t appeal to my tastebuds as much as your other gamey meat. But I really enjoyed this blueberry duck. The meat was tender, the flavour of duck that typically pops out in an unappealing way to me didn’t come through here. And the chipotle aioli was a great sauce that brought everything together. It’s not my favourite meal of the night and there certainly wasn’t anything special about the presentation, but it was good.

Miso Marinated Atlantic Salmon with baby spinach, Thai mussel, onion beignets, crispy onions and wasabi miso dressing at Nineteen.

The third course in the tasting menu was Miso Marinated Atlantic Salmon with baby spinach, Thai mussel, onion beignets, crispy onions and wasabi miso dressing. I LOVED this dish. I typically prefer fish raw – but I couldn’t stop eating this salmon. It was cooked perfectly. It flaked off just the right amount and I couldn’t get enough of the miso marinade. The crispy onions added a nice texture contrast. I loved the beignets and I loved the dressing. There was a lot of Asian-inspired sauces and dishes in the first half of our tasting menu and I loved it.

Ahi Tuna & Scallop Ceviche with ponzu sauce, wasabi pea foam and thyme crackers at Nineteen.

Possibly my favourite dish of the night was the Ahi Tuna & Scallop Ceviche!! It came with a ponzu sauce, wasabi pea foam and fresh thyme crackers. Again this ties into my love for raw fish and Asian-influence but I ate this dish clean and wanted much, much more. The wasabi pea foam almost outshone the fish. What an interesting flavour! It was just the right amount of wasabi to give it an excellent kick, but it wasn’t overpowering as wasabi can be in too large of doses. It was just a great flavour. They advise you kind of compile all the different elements onto a part of the cracker and eat it like that – it works. Delicious. I wanted more foam, I wanted more crackers!! The plating was also absolutely gorgeous.

Japanese Baby Back Ribs (sake soy-glazed) with fresh herb salad.

Next we were treated to Japanese Baby Back Ribs (sake soy glazed) with fresh herb salad. The ribs were excellent. I love the sake soy glaze – it’s a great substitution for your typical barbecue-type sauces. The ribs were rich in flavour and cooked perfectly. The downside to this dish was the sad herb salad. It looked blah. It tasted blah. It did nothing for me. It brought down the dish just a smidge – but even then this was still one of my favourites because the ribs were SO tasty.

Confit Chicken Waffle – pulled chicken, brie cheese, grilled marinated peppers, quinoa-potato waffle & B.C. berry reduction at Nineteen.

Then there was Confit Chicken Waffle – pulled chicken confit with brie cheese, grilled marinated peppers, quinoa-potato waffle and BC berry reduction. This was one of my least favourite dishes of the night. I think it may be because I’m not really a waffle person. So I don’t have much to say about it. Everything individually was fine but altogether I didn’t like as much and I do think this is because I’m not a waffle fan. However, this was the favourite for Carmen who was at our table! She loved all the different tastes and textures that you get in a spoonful (forkful) of everything and she especially loved the waffle. ;)

Prosciutto Wrapped Scallops with apple puree, crispy cauliflower, truffle perogies and grainy mustard cream at Nineteen.

After that we had Prosciutto Wrapped Scallops with an apple puree, crispy cauliflower, truffle perogies and grainy mustard cream. Overall we felt that this dish was a bit disjointed. The perogie didn’t really seem to fit with the prosciutto-wrapped scallops. There also wasn’t enough of the apple puree (those are those 3 tiny dots you see in the picture). I will say I absolutely LOVED the crispy cauliflower, on its own and also dipped in the grainy mustard cream. I am a huge fan of grainy mustard after this preview dinner (there’s one more dish that includes a grainy mustard later on). But since biting into that crispy cauliflower I feel like anytime I eat cauliflower it need sto be crispy now. What a great taste! I will say I’ve had better perogies elsewhere so that was meh to me. You can’t really go wrong with prosciutto-wrapped anything so I did enjoy that morsel quite a bit, but again overall everything just felt very separate on this plate.

Duo of Alberta Pork – Pan seared pork tenderloin, braised pork belly, roasted garlic reduction, sauteed king oyster mushroom & crisp pancetta at Nineteen.

The eighth course was a Duo of Alberta Pork – pan seared pork tenderloin, braised pork belly, roasted garlic reduction, sautéed king oyster mushroom and crisp pancetta. I was really looking forward to this dish when I first read the tasting menu but it kind of fell flat. I’m not sure if this is because at this point, we have eaten SO much, that we were getting extremely full. I also think the meat was all very heavy whereas everything prior to that had a very light feel to it. So it was just a lot. The tenderloin was great, the pork belly was great. I LOVED the pancetta. It was super salty – which I loved. I did NOT like the king oyster mushroom. I do love mushrooms in general – so I was expecting to enjoy this one as well but it was just way too chewy for me. Really, really chewy.

Grainy Dijon Crusted Pacific Halibut with fresh Manila clams, tomato concasse, basil, linguini, tossed in French curry cream at Nineteen.

The last dish before dessert was a Grainy Dijon Crusted Pacific Halibut with fresh Manila clams, tomato concasse, basil, linguini tossed in French curry cream. This is where my newfound love for grainy mustard comes into play. At this point I’m too stuffed to even think about finishing this. The clams were teeeeeny, tiny. I didn’t feel like it added much to the plate. The cream was also way too creamy for me. But I really appreciated the grainy crust on the halibut and the halibut itself tasted great. I just couldn’t finish. The cream was too much and I was already way too full!!

Caramel Eclair at Nineteen.

But apparently not full enough to disregard dessert! To end the night we were given a dessert of Caramel Eclair with chocolate sauce. This was soooooo good. As I’ve repeated in past food reviews, I’m not a dessert or sweets person. And typically desserts at restaurants are way too big and too rich for me to enjoy. But this was perfect. The cream was amazing – so light and so fluffy and with the chocolate smear and pastry, it was just the perfect end to a perfect night!! If you ordered this off the normal menu, it costs $11 and you get three eclairs! Totally great bang for your buck. I’d have this again in an instant.

Overall we were told if you ordered the tasting menu items off the normal menu, the portion sizes are typically a lot bigger. They just slimmed it down for us that night so we could handle 10 courses (and even then – I could barely handle it! S-t-u-f-f-e-d). We were stuffed!!

Prices

Price point is huge for me. Anywhere I go. We were told Nineteen is going for an upscale casual feel. The feel of the space and the quality and presentation of the dishes did scream to me ‘expensive!’ And that’s about right. We’re told the menu will change bi-monthly so some of these dishes we tried tonight may not even be around in a little way – and some of these price point averages I’m about to break down for you may not be 100% accurate based on future dishes but here you go:

From the Garden – the salads. Average price is about $18.50. On the higher end you’ve got a $22 salad (maritime lobster quinoa salad in the menu I was shown) and on the lower end you’ve got a few $17 salads (crispy duck confit salad, sambuca prawns vermicelli slaw, and California san mateo salad).

Starters – Average price is about $15. On the higher end you’ve got an $18 starter (prosciutto wrapped scallops and gorgonzola PEI mussels in the menu that I was shown) and on the lower end you’ve got the $12 ahi tuna twist and confit chicken waffle.

From the Sea – Average price is about $29. The highest price is the grainy dijon crusted pacific halibut that we tried – for $32 and then on the lowest end there’s a blue crab crusted grouper for $27. There’s also a market price daily chef seasonal creation.

Flatbread – Average price is about $16. The highest price point is $18 (langoustine and prawns) and on the lower end there’s a $14 wild mushroom ragout.

Pasta – Average price is $18.7. The highest is $20 (linguini pescadoro) and the lowest is an $18 truffle chicken linguini.

From the Farm – Average price is $31.2. The highest price is $36 for an Alberta AAA beef tenderloin and the lowest price is a $28 malt-glazed chicken au poivre.

So as you can see it is a bit more on the pricier end and because of that, this isn’t a place I would go to often but it’s certainly somewhere I would go to on special occasions – birthdays, anniversaries, girls nights, etc.

Wine

I’m not a wine drinker but Lisa insisted that I include information about Nineteen’s wine options in this post, which I agreed will likely be of interest to most people! There’s a wide variety of wine options and perhaps the most interesting thing about Nineteen in terms of their wine is that they have an ‘Enomatic’ wine selection. The enomatic wine system allows Nineteen to open up bottles of premium wine and serve them by the glass. The preservation system keeps oxygen out of the wine after it’s opened – preserving its taste for up to 27 days. I am told by Lisa, Lindsay and Carmen that this is highly appealing to wine connoisseurs!

Kids Menu

Say what? This upscale (casual) restaurant has a KIDS MENU??? We were very pleasantly surprised when Nicole Mullins, the general manager, told us that Nineteen had a kids menu. She has kids, Andrew has kids, Al has kids – it didn’t make sense for them NOT to have a kids menu, Nicole said.

Kids meals are a flat rate of $14 – and includes your choice of one of five dishes that also come with fries, caesar salad or vegetables, plus juice, a soft drink or milk, and ice cream for dessert. That’s a pretty great deal! I don’t see too many people wanting to bring their kids to Nineteen – just because it does have a more adult feel to it – but the fact that they have a kids’ menu and are actually welcoming kids (they’re even allowed in the lounge!) is really impressive and I think something a lot of people in the neighbourhood will appreciate.

Lounge

The lounge seats about 44 people and there’s even a separate Lounge Menu – however we were assured that people in the dining room can order from the lounge menu and people in the lounge can order from the dining room menu if they wish – as both come out of the same kitchen and it would just be more of a hassle to say no to people who wanted to sit in one room but wanted food from the other room’s menu. Makes sense to me! ;)

Nineteen brought me and food blogger Chris (@shorelinegold/Eating is the Hard Part) together for the first time! Hurray!

In Summary

Nineteen is open Tuesday to Saturday from 3 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. On Tues-Saturdays the lounge opens at 3 and the dining room opens at 5. For now they will just be serving during the dinnertime hours. I see it being a very welcome addition to Edmonton and especially that part of town. Lisa lives in Windermere and said there’s no restaurant in the Currents or anywhere nearby that’s quite like Nineteen – something a bit fancier, a bit more upscale, a bit more adult. She certainly plans on coming back with her husband (maybe her kids too!), for girls nights and with me of course! They’re also going to have a patio – it’s not built yet but when it’s built there’s supposed to be some outdoor coach seating so it all just sounds really great.

They say they offer ‘exceptional cuisine made comfortable’ – I would agree with that statement wholeheartedly.

While the price points make it so that I won’t be visiting often – I will definitely be visiting for special occasions. Overall I loved the vibe at Nineteen. I loved the food at Nineteen and I’m looking forward to having some special dining moments at Nineteen!! I thank them for inviting me to the preview dinner. It was a fabulous evening.

The restaurant opens officially on Wednesday, Nov. 7. Good luck and congratulations to them!

They are a very welcome addition to Edmonton (and as Lisa said, the neighbourhood!)

Speaking of Lisa – here’s a shot of us before our fun night!

My hot date for Nineteen!

Follow Nineteen on Twitter @xixnineteen, on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/dinenineteen and on their website www.dinenineteen.com.

Check out what Sharon (Only here for Food) and Chris (Eating is the Hard Part) thought about the night at their blogs too!

Make sure you let me know what you thought of Nineteen when you go!!!

Linda

XIX Nineteen on Urbanspoon

6 comments

  1. Thanks for the comprehensive review, Linda! I was so excited for this place to open… I booked my birthday dinner with them last week HAHA. Can’t wait!

    ps I love grainy mustards too. Mmmm so good.

  2. Nineteen is REALLY good. Our daughter LOVED the kids menu. It was great. We’ll definately go again.

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