It’s Downtown Dining Week in Edmonton…
Yeah, I’m not thrilled either.
From the website:
“For ten days Downtown will become a foodie paradise as the amazing chefs in Downtown’s finest restaurants serve up sumptuous, multi-course meals at special prices”
Ah yes. I can barely contain myself.
The list of participating restaurants includes revered Edmontonian gastronomical giants such as:
- The Three Amigos Authentic Mexican Restaurant
- Hoang Long Casual Fare
- The Old Spaghetti Factory
Enough about the event, let’s talk about Zinc.
Picked from the list because it seemed to take itself really seriously as a high-class, modern, and ‘foodie friendly’ restaurant, my coworkers and I set our expectations low and prepared to be unimpressed.
Located inside the prestigious Edmonton Art Gallery, Zinc commands an impressive piece of real estate. Two thirds of the restaurant were glass and soaring, 40-ft high ceilings. This made it much easier to watch the homeless and destitute walk around outside.
For a small fee, you could even request the wait staff to viciously beat the homeless with a cudgel while you watch through the bulletproof windows and smear foie gras and truffle oil over your naked bodies in a vile consumerist orgy.
Fun experience. It’s like one of those aquariums where you’re in a dome on the sea floor, but instead of fish and crustaceans, we have prostitutes and the dregs of Edmontonian society.
The decorations were generally tasteful and played well off of the gigantic Zinc slab suspended over one half of the restaurant with not-really-subtle blue overtones.
The menus themselves were even backed with a solid sheet of silvery metal.
I was probably more excited than I should have been about their kick-ass Zinc menus, so the waitress’ explanation that they couldn’t afford Zinc menus (but they could afford a 2 tonne slab of Zinc as a decoration???) was the first disappointment of the evening.
Three of us got the three-course Dining Week “Executive Dinner” while the special snowflake ordered a steak.
The appetizer had an “East Coast Seafood” theme, and was served underneath a brandy snifter. At the time, it just seemed like an interesting way to keep vermin from getting at the food, but upon closer inspection of the menu, the snifter is for serving the fish ‘under smoke’.
Cured Salmon. Salad. Yellow Pepper Aioli.
The fish was good and well seasoned/cured. The salad was light, fresh and tasted mainly like raw onion (I know there was raw onion in the salad, but I doubt that blasting your face with onion was what the chef was going for here). The aioli was unnecessary and did nothing besides balance out the presentation.
The plating was nice too. Everyone loves sauce-art.
The main course had a local pork theme and utilized different cuts from what I am assuming was once an Albertan pig.
The cuts included head, shoulder, loin, belly and hock.
The presentation was quite well done, with great colors, abstract shaped dishes, and little towers of different foods.
Since there’s quite a few different things on the plate, I’ll start from the top.
The head (bottom right) was served as a terrine (pseudo-pâté) on a crostini. Very inoffensive, no overpowering flavors, and generally very nice. The meat was a little bit stringy inside the terrine, but I appreciated the extra texture.
The shoulder (top right) was “braised” with pomegranate molasses and served on top of lentils. Braised is in quotation marks for a reason.
Braising brings up mental images of dark chunks of meat, loosely clinging to the bone and dripping pan juices.
A high-heat, high-flavor cooking method that steeps in moisture and flavor.
I’m assuming that something went horribly wrong when the pork shoulder was braised. The meat came out white, dry and tasteless. A small dab of molasses hung on one corner of the meat, which was the only seasoning for the pork and lentils.
However, my comrades let me know that their morsels of shoulder were both moist and flavorful, so this may be a consistency issue rather than a key misunderstanding of the word ‘braised’.
Loin. Miso-marinated with peppers and daikon.
No doubt, in an effort to appear worldly and multicultural, Zinc tossed some Asian fusion into the menu.
Apparently, Asian fusion is putting miso where it doesn’t belong.
But since you can’t have Asian fusion without just one stereotypical Asian ingredient, daikon was added to the peppers as a faux-oriental afterthought.
And how did it taste?
Well, the loin was cooked well, fairly tender and not too dry, but the flavors just didn’t work together. The peppers were too sweet and clashed with the funk from the miso.
Next up, Belly.
It’s hard to fuck up pork belly, and I’m glad Zinc didn’t disappoint.
The pork was perfectly cooked and seasoned, and was served with a mini potato pancake and a quail egg. Nothing to complain about. Salty, gooey pork belly goodness.
But alas, the other two individuals who ordered the “Executive Dinner” managed to get bits of the belly that turned out dry and bland.
Finally, the hock (or pork ankle for all you philistines).
The hock came in some sort of soup… and I’m using the word ‘soup’ very loosely.
This soup managed to have the consistency and flavor of watery vomit.
They tried to make a pozole, and somewhere between the raw ingredients and end products, something went frighteningly wrong.
For all you aspiring foodies out there, if you ever want to recreate the taste of stomach acid, combine crunchy, uncooked cabbage, large wedges of lime, hard chunks of dried corn and unappetizing bits of pork tendon and boil.
I’d like to dig into this one a bit more, but every time I think of it, I gag a little. C’est la vie.
I generally have high expectations for dessert, as it is fairly hard to mess up something sweet, and I’m glad to say that my expectations were met.
The dessert that was included with the prix fixe menu was a dense pear cake with peach compote, homemade cinnamon ice cream and stewed cherries.
It was uncomplicated, all of the flavors worked well together, and there was a nice contrast between the richness of the cake and the tartness of the cherries.
All in all, a great way to end a meal, and a testament to what you can do with fresh fruit.
- Dessert was wonderful
- Has an upscale feel, without being too overbearing or fussy
- Tastefully decorated, doesn’t feel out of place at the art gallery
- Homeless people stumbling around outside provided a nice contrast to the upper-crust furnishings inside.
- Food seemed to be too ambitious and lost focus on tasting good
- Inconsistency between plates
- Too many technical errors such as overcooked/under-seasoned food
- 60+ dollars a head post-tip
- Soup tasted like vomit.
And the final verdict?
To be honest, the restaurant is aptly named – like its namesake metal, Zinc is shiny and lustrous, but fairly common, uninteresting, and nothing truly special.
BONUS – SPECIAL SNOWFLAKE SECTION
So my coworker, being the sissy little bitch that he is, decided that the prix fixe menu wasn’t good enough for his sophisticated tastes and ordered a steak.
And a crème brûlée.
So I get to bitch about someone else’s food too.
Caramelized onions. Potato mash. Brussels sprouts. Caramelized onions. Gravy. MICROGREEEENS.
Apparently it was pretty mediocre.
The steak was roughly 2.5 inches thick, which makes it really hard to get the centre cooked while maintaining a non-charcoal exterior. No seasoning to speak of (exacerbated by the thickness of the steak) only made a grim situation worse.
Everything else on the plate was fine, but really, if you order a steak, you expect the actual steak to be good…
Dessert was a crème brûlée, which looked nice, and probably tasted pretty good too.
I wouldn’t know.
It takes a brave man to stick his spoon into another mans crème brûlée.