Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Dabbling with Dishcrawl

Walnut and Chickpea Slider and Lentil Loaf
at The Clever Rabbit
The concept of Dishcrawl is to allow diners to visit four restaurants in one night, so they can explore what a neighborhood has to offer without committing an entire evening or meal to just one place. You buy a ticket and are taken on a tour of a particular neighborhood  without knowing in advance what the four restaurants are. Each restaurant prepares a small sampling of items that are meant to highlight the best of what they offer, and diners spend approximately 45 minutes at each location. Since all of the restaurants for the evening are located within walking distance, you should ensure that you dress appropriately for the weather and wear shoes meant for a brisk walk. Note that drinks, both alcoholic and non alcoholic, are not included it the price of the ticket and Dishcrawl advises you to bring cash for drinks, but most restaurants were fairly swift at processing debit and credit card payments for beverages.

Chilean Sea Bass, Saganaki and Octopus
Salad at Koutouki
Although we had heard about Dishcrawl from our friend, @thankfulfoodie, we’d never attended, as we were not sure whether or not the male humans allergy to alcohol could be accommodated. However, Edmonton Dishcrawl Ambassador, Zoe Geddes-Soltess, extended an invitation to us and contacted the restaurants involved to see if there would be any dishes that would be served with alcohol in them, and if so, to ensure that substitutions could be made.

That particular evening we were on a tour of Westmount, which started at the north end of 124 Street and headed south. The first stop of the evening was at The Clever Rabbit, a vegetarian café that I had never had the impetus to visit before. Admittedly, when The Clever Rabbit first opened, I had only seen a glimpse of the sign from a passing bus and originally thought it said “The Cleaver Rabbit”, excitedly thinking a restaurant focusing on serving rabbit had opened, when it was the opposite of such a place!
Octopus Salad at Koutouki

In reality, all of the food at The Clever Rabbit is vegan, however they’ve called themselves a vegetarian café to be more approachable to those that are neither vegetarian nor vegan. Their offering for the evening included a walnut and chickpea slider, topped with avocado and tomato. The patty itself had a prominent chickpea taste, and could have benefited from some additional seasoning or sauce to give it more than a one noted flavor. The lentil loaf by contrast was extremely flavorful and tasty, accompanied by mildly salty cashew gravy. Although we were only able to try two small items, I foresee a return trip back to The Clever Rabbit to see what else they have to offer.

The Clever Rabbit
10724 124 Street
Edmonton, AB  T5M 0H1

The Clever Rabbit Vegetarian Cafe on Urbanspoon

Split Pea Soup, Reuben and
Mac and Cheese at Urban Diner
Our second stop was just a quick run across the street to Koutouki, a family run Greek restaurant who has been operating a long time in Edmonton, and was also the focus of Season 1 and 2 of The Family Restaurant, a TV show on The Food Network. The space looks deceptively small from the outside but is actually quite large inside.

We are served a sampler of Chilean sea bass, mushroom saganaki and marinated octopus salad. The Chilean sea bass was light, flaky and moist, while the accompanying tomatoes were plump and sweet. The octopus salad was approachable even for those that might be leery of eating tentacles. The taste of octopus was understated and enjoyable marinated in red wine vinegar dressing, giving it a hint of acidity. The crispy onions and red peppers contrasted the texture of the octopus and brought the whole dish together. Lastly the mushroom saganaki was lightly dressed with tomato sauce, which didn’t overpower the oozy cheese. I made the mistake of letting it sit while I tasted the other dishes. When I returned, it was a cold and congealed mass of cheese. So eat it while it’s fresh and hot, it tastes much better that way. Service was quick, and the food enjoyable, Koutouki is another restaurant I can foresee revisiting.

10719 124 Street
Edmonton, AB  T5M 0H1
Twitter: @koutouki124

Koutouki Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Dessert at Cafe de Ville
Soon we packed up and went for the longest and coldest walk of the night from 107 Ave all the way to 102 Ave. After a brisk walk we arrived at Urban Diner, where we were greeted with a plate of comfort foods, including a Reuben, their signature split pea soup and mac and cheese.  The split pea soup was surprisingly thick and hearty, and not salty as I thought a split pea soup might be. The Reuben was filled with sauerkraut, which the male human enjoyed, while I found the mac and cheese was solid, but not as good as others I’d tasted. Although their offerings were solid, they didn’t appeal to my tastes.

Urban Diner
12427 102 Ave
Edmonton, AB  T5N 0M2
Twitter: @UrbanDinerYEG 

Urban Diner on Urbanspoon

Salted Caramel Cream Puff at Cafe de Ville
Grainy Lavender and Vanilla Creme Brulee
at Cafe de Ville
Finally, we headed a short distance over to Café de Ville for dessert. They offered us lavender vanilla crème brulee, a salted caramel cream puff, and a white chocolate lychee truffle with toasted coconut and mango sauce. The salted caramel cream puff was perfectly balanced, filled with lots of salted caramel filling. The filling spurted out upon biting into it and was not overly sweet, while the dough itself was light. That however was the highlight for me at Café de Ville. I found the white chocolate truffle had an overpoweringly strong alcohol taste to it, luckily for the male human, he had been given two of the delicious salted caramel cream puffs instead since he could not eat the white chocolate truffle. The lavender in the vanilla crème brulee was excessively strong and overwhelmed any vanilla taste. As well, we found the crème brulee to be grainy looking and tasting, not creamy as it should be, and overly sweet. It was a disappointing way to end the evening.

Café de Ville
10137 124 Street
Edmonton, AB  T5N 1P6
Twitter: @CafedeVille


Cafe de Ville on Urbanspoon

Overall it was an enjoyable evening that allowed us to visit and try out a few restaurants quickly and easily. Although 3 hours might seem like a long night of eating, it passed by quickly since we didn’t spend much time at each location before travelling to another.

However, it could have been more sociable had the group been smaller. Many people attend in couples or large groups of their own, making it virtually impossible to socialize and interact with strangers. Although we sat with different people at two of the restaurants, everyone seemed happy to socialize only with those they came with.

Having taken similar, but significantly smaller tours in Europe, they were much more sociable and allowed us to meet those with similar interests. Dishcrawl could potentially be a good way for those new to the city to meet like-minded individuals while discovering new restaurants, if they hosted some events that were smaller.

Regardless, if you’re looking for a tasty way to spend an evening while experience restaurants in a neighborhood that you might not be familiar with, this is definitely a good way to do it.

Check out their page to find out and buy tickets for upcoming evenings.

Dishcrawl Edmonton
Twitter: @DishcrawlYEG

More Photos at Photobucket!

(Note: There was no financial compensation from Dishcrawl for this blog post, although they did provide two free tickets to their Taste of Westmount Dishcrawl event. Any review provided by me will completely reflect my thoughts and opinions - good or bad, and will not be swayed by having free tickets provided.)

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