Saturday, February 6, 2010

i've been missing an essential mineral in my diet

I went to Zinc today.
Zinc is the name of a highly anticipated new restaurant just off the main atrium of the spanking new Art Gallery of Alberta. The building itself is shockingly breathtaking. For some it is an horrifically modern display of imbalance and ostentation. To me, like so many others, it is a living, breathing reflection of our city at this time. It is a piece of our history, what we think and say and do at this time in our lives, and indeed in the life of our city and province at this place and time.
Within its many folds and galleries of splendour resides a stunning little spot called Zinc. The restaurant is a fundamental element in the design of the building. Part of what makes it so special is the devotion its chefs observe and adhere to local inspiration. Couching its philosophy on harvesting and celebrating the finest ingredients our province and country have to offer, the menu at Zinc also draws inspiration from the art being showcased within the gallery.
My dad and I went for lunch there just yesterday. I must admit that as a volunteer, an art historian, and a devoted foodie, it would be very disappointing for this place to do anything but dazzle me. Though they were only experimenting with a sneak peak menu, my hopes and expectations for this much anticipated dining experience were certainly titillated. I cannot wait to return when the entire menu is up and running and I can linger over a slow dinner.
Once we were seated, the service was prompt, polite, and informed. Our server brought us hot brioches, fresh out of the oven, with homemade fennel and chive butter. After we placed out order and gobbled down the sweet, yeasty bread, our server swiftly returned with more bread and a fresh plate of butter.
My dad ordered the fish and chips. We were told that the catch of the day was a white fish from northern Alberta. He warned me that if the portion was too large and too heavy he would pack up the leftovers and take them home. I ordered the Alberta "Unburger" - made of caribou and elk with Saskatoon berry aioli. When the food arrived, I was first surprised to see that my father's fish was battered in an almost Japonese-panko style, with only a few well chosen pieces piled up high atop a bed of purple cabbage cole slaw. The salad was infused with just a hint of sesame oil. His chips were paper thin and made from yellow, sweet, and some other form of potato or root vegetable. They reminded me of the delicate gauze folds in the tutu of Degas' Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen. She can be found around the corner in the exhibit Figures in Motion, Degas Sculpture.
My burger was surprisingly moist and flavourful. Normally game meat is lacking in these two very important attributes. Topped with the berry mayo, but also roasted peppers, mushrooms, and caramelized onions, the portion was small, but very filling. I made sure to order the soup of the day as my accompaniment - green apple and parsnip puree. Have I mentioned to you how fond I am of sweet and savoury combinations? Anyway, so good. Not too filling, mind you, just carefully prepared, artfully presented, and lovingly consumed.
Everything about the meal was perfectly balanced. For dessert, my dad and I shared the Callebaut flourless chocolate cake with coconut and rum sauce. You may or may not be aware of my perfect chocolate cake recipe, which I discovered some time ago and have most certainly written about. Ever since then, I find chocolate cake to be a tough one for me to get into. I always hope it'll measure up to my recipe, but I remain forever hopeful and yet underwhelmed.
In general, I would say the quality, surroundings, and ethos of this restaurant are entirely delightful. As my dad said, the meal was full of surprises. The surprises are what yield delight. Zinc is a clarion call to all other restaurants in the city hoping to keep up with the new standard set by this place. Either get with the message that Zinc is sending, or get out of the way. Edmontonians are in for a treat. Welcome to the food scene, Zinc. We've been waiting for you.

*photos forthcoming...


  1. hi there, or should I say ciao? why do you say Italy is so special? I live in Italy and I don't see all this, perhaps I don't know what it's like in the Us!!! Golly! Is it that bad? :))))
    ciao for now

  2. Yes..this is one delightful place. Just enjoyed the sneak peak menu as well. Your poignant insight that others restaurants beware is so true. I can't wait for the city's newest brunch venue. I doubt it will disappoint.

  3. sounds wonderful, especially the surprising fish and chips, also the unburger...actually, i could have it all..
    'clarion call' is a sweet phrase