As Edmonton has evolved, the number of fine-dining options has increased exponentially.
But there was a time not all that long ago that a date-night meal meant that you were going out for steak. You’d go to a steak house that was filled with smell of grilled meat, have a Caesar salad made for you right at the table, and suck back highballs and cigarettes till your meal arrived. After it was all over, you’d chat over Irish coffees.
Times have changed, but many steak houses continue to hold their own. In Edmonton, we still love our meat and potatoes. The proof? The Best Steak category is one of the most-searched Best Restaurant categories on avenueedmonton.com. So, this month, we decided to celebrate red meat with all the fixings.
at Solstice Seasonal Cuisine
When it arrived at the table, the first thing I noticed about the beef sirloin at Solstice Seasonal Cuisine was just how artful the presentation was. It’s fair to say that classic cuts of beef aren’t always treated with care, but that isn’t the case at Solstice. It was beautiful. The thick cut sat atop a bed of creamy savoy cabbage. The steak is accompanied by three crispy elephant garlic chips set ornately in three dollops of mashed potatoes.
Surrounding the perfectly creamed and whipped potatoes are a mix of vegetables such as carrots and brussels sprouts, though my server tells me that these veggies could vary with the season. Nonetheless, the roasted vegetables have a healthy crunch and savoury flavor, that opens up the palate for the main event – the steak.
This monster cut is drizzled in what is likely the thickest, darkest and most delicious demi-glace I have encountered in this city and it was a delight to coat the steak’s garnish, a barnaise croquette, in it. But not so delightful as the main event, a juicy beef sirloin, perfectly cooked at medium rare. Once I found out just how well-balanced the seasoning was, and just how melt-in-your-mouth tender the beef was, I tore through that dish with a savagery one might expect at saloon. All that beautiful presentation didn’t stand a chance. –Cory Haller
The stone dining room at this Edmonton institution is warmed by the presence of a large fireplace. It’s cozy and great for a long conversation over dinner.
Von’s has an extensive steak list, from cuts served with Neptune (seafood) sauce, to New York strips to Rib Eyes to steak bites.
Feeling awfully brave, I go with the 14 oz. rib eye, with peppercorn sauce and fingerling potatoes. When the meal arrives, the meat is so tender I could drop the steak knife and use the butter spreader instead. The peppercorn sauce is mild and works better on the potatoes; the steak is so nicely done that it really doesn’t need any help.
But the wonderful extra is the bone marrow. It is served in the bone; you just get in there with a tiny fork and bring out the rich, gelatinous bits. As if a 14 oz. steak wasn’t rich enough, the marrow pushes it over the top.
The bar also makes a heck of a negroni. It’s a deep red, sweet-and-bitter cocktail that really compliments a rich meal. Those grapefruity notes at the end of the drink really help cut the fat of the meat. –Steven Sandor
If you don’t own a time machine, it’s quite hard to take trips down a culinary memory lane. When dishes fall out of fashion, much like the Steak Diane did in the ’80s, restaurants adapt and send outdated dishes to pasture, perhaps never to be seen again.
Luckily for those with a nostalgic stomach, La Ronde’s “Retro Thursdays” are a saving grace for those who miss the days when steaks were made, tableside, with all the pomp and showmanship one expects from this American dish. Because, at La Ronde, the “show” is generally the revolving view of Edmonton’s downtown and river valley. But when the chef arrives at your table, towing a cart set with uncooked thin-cut Alberta beef striploin, your attention will most certainly be set on your food. The steak is flambed in brandy, often setting flames sky-high in the preparation. It’s entertaining, to say the least, but the biggest treat is how much of a difference a tableside cooked steak makes when it comes to the first bite. There’s no travelling from the kitchen to your table, which means there’s not a lot of time for the steak to cool. It’s dripping in the Steak Diane sauce, which holds flavor from the accompanying mushrooms, making for a savoury bite. Add that to the freshly cooked asparagus spears (in hollandaise), soft duchess potatoes and baby carrots, and you have the culinary equivalent of a TV rerun you’ll enjoy again and again. –C.H.
Despite being located in Edmonton, the plates at the Steak Out puzzlingly have “New York Steak House” written on them. I opt to follow the theme and get the Manhattan, a 10 oz. New York cut steak topped with mushrooms, onions and peppers. The steak comes with a retro starter salad, steamed vegetables and your choice of a baked potato, mashed potatoes or fries. When my dining partner asks the waitress for her recommendation, she cocks her head and replies that she doesn’t know what he likes to eat, so how would she know which side to recommend? Note – if you dine at the Steak Out, you’d better know what you want.
The steak itself is tender, and the sauted vegetables atop the steak add a nice burst of flavour. In order to help you make your potato decision, I’ll just say that the baked potato option comes with a retro topping bar delivered to your table with small dishes of sour cream, bacon bits and chopped green onions.
With Rat Pack hits playing on the sound system, dim lighting, and a classic black, white and red interior, Bistecca has the look of an old-school steakhouse, and the menu follows suit.
While you won’t find crazy accoutrements or surprising sauces, the steak selection includes all the classic cuts and, upon the server’s recommendation, I opt to try their signature dish, the 14 oz. “Bistecca” rib-eye.
The side of simply roasted squash, parsnips and green beans is a nice addition to the dish, but the star of the plate is obviously the steak – as it should be. The rib-eye has a wonderful crust on the outside, is seasoned aggressively with salt and pepper, and is melt-in-your-mouth tender.
Bistecca may not be reinventing the wheel, but if what you’re after is impeccable service and a classic steak that truly shows off how flavourful beef can be, this might be the answer.
Although, fair warning – 14 oz. is a lot of steak, so you’d better be hungry. –A.S.