Edmonton Restaurant Review: Pip

The interior of Pip.

A little over a year after Pip graced Edmonton with its presence, Kirk and I finally visited this sister restaurant to MEAT and The Next Act. Housed on the corner of the same block as the other eateries, Pip is tiny in comparison; the Old Strathcona business has approximately 30 seats among the standard tables and bar tops.

We made a booking in advance through their website to ensure a spot. Arriving right on time, our table was literally being cleared and cleaned for us. Although the notes on the reservation page indicate that parties of two are only given an hour and a half for their meal, our dinner took about two hours and we never felt rushed.

Hugo Spritz cocktail

I decided to try one of their cocktails. The Hugo Spritz ($10), a 3 ounce concoction, is a mix of elderflower liqueur, soda, prosecco, and fresh mint. Kind of like a mojito, but with more of a floral flavour, it was light and refreshing. It’s also one of the more affordable drinks since approximately half of the cocktail menu is $13.

To eat, we split a few of Pip’s dishes between the two of us. The kitchen, similar to our recent stop at Partake, was careful to space out the plates for us. Therefore, we were able to focus on each item at time.

Starting with the Seared Manchego Cheese ($14), this was a slightly different take on the more typical baked brie that might be found elsewhere. Manchego, a firm yet buttery cheese made of sheep’s milk, doesn’t get that same creamy consistency when heated. It’s much more dense, sort of like halloumi, which has a high melting point, meaning the cheese is easily pan fried for a crispy exterior. It was good though. Kirk liked it so much that I thought he might devour it all. Served with toasted fresh bread, fig jam, and arugula, this dish had a great balance of salty-sweet-bitter to it.

Gnocchi

Next to be presented at our table was the Gnocchi ($18). Tossed with roasted tomatoes and coated in garlic cream and pesto, it was then topped with crispy leaves of basil and grated Parmesan. The potato pasta was actually quite light and fluffy in texture and the sauce was amazing. The only thing that would have made it better was lobster. It reminded me a lot of a couple of other lobster mac and cheeses I’ve eaten before, so I can imagine how fantastic this gnocchi would be with the crustacean added.

As our main entree, we shared the Braised Beef ($28). I loved how lean the meat was while still remaining fall apart tender and succulent. The roasted market carrots were ever so slightly crunchy and sweet. The green peppercorn sauce was a nice accompaniment to the beef. What really elevated the plate, in my opinion, was the Parmesan risotto. The creamed rice was divine and should be more largely portioned as I was having a hard time ensuring there was enough to go with every bite of my meat.

Deep Dish Apple Pie

Being our first outing to Pip, I felt that it was important to get acquainted with all aspects of the menu. As such, I ordered a serving of the Deep Dish Apple Pie ($10) for dessert. I hadn’t looked at the description of the item again before selecting it, so I had forgotten exactly what it came with. As Kirk ate, he insisted there was alcohol used in it. Turns out, he was right. Bourbon caramel was pooled on his side of the bowl. When I finally got a bite of that, it turned a very capable apple pie into something extra decadent. The caramel and the shortbread cookie crust are what really differentiated it from any other apple pie I’ve ever had, giving it a twist from the visually old school presentation of the pie with the single scoop of vanilla ice cream. Delicious!

While I do wish that the portions were a little bit bigger at times, it cost just under $100 for both of us, which isn’t too bad. Would I spend like that regularly? No. This was definitely a treat. Our night at Pip was truly wonderful though. From the intimate ambiance to the attentive service and the excellent food, we certainly enjoyed ourselves. It’s easy to see from our experience why Pip has become a fast favourite in Edmonton.

Edmonton Restaurant Review: The Next Act

My PB & J burger - it was awesome!

My PB & J burger – it was awesome!

The Next Act (@NextActPub) had been on my radar for a while. I had been told by a friend that they make the best mac and cheese in the city, and the restaurant had also made The Tomato‘s list of 100 best eats and drinks in Edmonton in both 2013 (No. 61 & 62) and 2014 (No. 49). Needless to say, it was a must try. However, it kept getting pushed back until I could find the perfect opportunity to go to Old Strathcona (I don’t go there often).

As it happened, my favourite Edmonton festival, The Fringe, rolled around in August. During a full day of shows the first weekend of the festival, we had plenty of time to kill between two of them, so we planned to go to The Next Act for lunch. Issues ensued with our first show of the day and, despite running around all morning, we missed it, so we trudged our way to the restaurant earlier than intended. Since it was hot out and we were sweating bullets, we opted to skip the patio and sit indoors where there was air conditioning.

The interior of The Next Act.

The interior of The Next Act.

Looking very much like a traditional diner with a bar added in, it’s lined with booth tables along the walls and has raised tables and bar stools all situated in the middle. The decor is a little dated, but everything is kept clean and in good condition. We grabbed the last small booth available and our server greeted us with a big smile on her face as she laid out menus on the table. Honestly, I was so beat that I couldn’t even peruse the items right away. Instead, we sat there fanning ourselves with the menus for several minutes, trying our best to cool off.

Eventually, we relaxed and started eyeing all the possibilities. They are touted for their Director and Critic burgers as well as their grilled cheese sandwich, but neither of us went for those. My friend ordered the Cornmeal Crusted Halibut sandwich and I selected the PB & J burger (the only one without a showbiz related name), both accompanied by a side of the House Salad. Water and beer – I was so excited to see that they had Crabbie’s Ginger Beer – were also imbibed.

The House Salad is a great mix of greens, pea shoots, almonds, grapes and strawberries with housemade white balsamic honey vinaigrette. The vegetarian side was a nice balance of bitter, sweet and tart. I did not sample my friend’s halibut sandwich, but crusted with cornmeal and layered with sundried tomato salsa, arugula pesto, mixed greens and mayo, I was told it was delicious. Afterwards, I mentioned to people that I ate the PB & J burger here and I was met with looks that bordered on disgust, but, if you think about it, it’s just the whole idea of a savoury and sweet pairing. A thick, juicy burger patty topped with crunchy peanut butter, bacon jam made in-house and cheddar cheese, it was awesome! I will probably try to replicate as best I can at home because I want to eat it regularly.

On a quick note, we loved the art work on the walls. I can’t really remember the artist’s name, maybe CJ, but I do recall our server saying it was the work of one of the other staff in the restaurant. A mix of modern silver framed photographs and circular painted canvases, the pieces were sort of otherworldly and real, and surprisingly more affordable than I would have thought. The colour helped to liven the decor up, too. My guess is that the artwork is rotated regularly.

It took forever for me to give The Next Act a shot, but I finally did, and I’m certain that whenever I find myself on Whyte Avenue in the future, it will now be one of my go to choices. The stellar food and service with a smile left me beaming by the time we left.

For a more in-depth look at this establishment’s involvement in the local community and its efforts towards sustainability visit The Local Good to read my profile of The Next Act.