Let's hear it for the Grill
By Christopher Thrall
From the outside looking in, the new crown jewel in the L’Azia chain is quiet and unassuming. After a brisk downtown walk, I was quite peckish when I stopped to check out the menu posted at the Wildflower Grill (10009 – 107 Street).
The Grill offers “new Canadian cuisine”: the dinner menu reveals familiar fare, served with flair. Delectable appetizers ranged up to $22. As for entrées, from $26 for the roasted butternut squash ravioli to nearly $50 for refined surf-and-turf, each option was exquisitely described. The result was mouth-watering.
I finally pushed my way into the warm, comfortable space. I noticed cream and sage leather seats and wildflower art on 14-foot whitewashed walls before my server led me to a table against the enormous, street-level window. I settled on the comfortable banquette and watched the passers-by.
I ignored the hefty wine list on my table to request a glass of Pinot Noir, and happily received the 2006 Mark West ($13). I had decided on the lamb ($38), but I knew that I couldn’t manage both appetizer and dessert: I gambled on Wildflower’s sweets. I sipped at my wine and let the bright, bold flavours of the Pinot fill my sinuses as I settled in to wait.
My meal began with a small amuse bouche of cool, cured tuna with crème fraîche. I popped the whole into my mouth and allowed the flavours to mingle on my tongue. Soft and slightly chewy, the combination was lightly flavoured but sufficed to perk up my taste buds in anticipation of what was to come. My server replaced the small plate with a warm brioche and organic butter. I slowly savoured both roll and wine.
The downtown shadows were growing longer when my platter arrived. Between two halves of a puffed Yorkshire pudding and supported by steaming vegetables, my lamb chops stood vertically interlaced and resting against a small, square fondue pot. My server lit the candle beneath and left me to the exquisite aromas of my meal.
Each tender bite of lamb included a sweet pomegranate glaze and crisp panko crust. The flavours combined beautifully with the sautéed asparagus and peppers. A slice of nectarine underneath was an unexpected treat. I dipped the occasional bite into the creamy, garlic-infused herb Fontina fondue.
I finally polished off the meal and, while glad I hadn’t ordered an appetizer, I still had room for dessert. The menu featured several ports, ice wines and specialty coffees, but I went right for the $12 dessert selections. I skimmed past the exotic cheesecake and frangipane tart to settle on a “Canadiana” chocolate tasting.
My choice was a patriotic jackpot. My platter boasted sweet pear ice wine, a pair of tiny ginger snaps and a scoop of pistachio ice cream rolled in crushed pistachios. The elderberry panna cotta was a gelatinous ring with a rich, sweet flavour and the tiny daub of maple parfait was heavenly. I inhaled the whole without putting down my fork and toasted the Wildflower Grill with the last of my wine. Including tax and tip, I was nearly $100 poorer and exceptionally well-fed.
Still suffering growing pains, the Wildflower Grill has earned some negative word of mouth from its first wave of patrons. However, I found it a splendid new jewel in Edmonton’s culinary diamond mine.