Saturday, March 27, 2010

Creations creates sensation explosion!

Well, that was just wonderful. One of the most delightful nights out I've had in ages, in fact. Creations Dining Room and Lounge is attached to the new Sawridge Inn Edmonton South, where the old Holiday Inn used to be. Boy, have things changed.

The buzz I had heard came mostly from a friend who is deeply connected in Edmonton's food scene. She has her fingers in many culinary pies and invited me to come see first hand what the buzz was about. So, like the busy bees we are, we made an early reservation, dinner for three at 6 o’clock. My sister came along to share (more opportunities to order different things off the menu) and to indulge in some much-needed sister time.

After being seated in our cosy booth, we were delighted to learn that they have a wine promotion to die for. As part of their so-called "Toast to the Frugal Gourmet" all wines listed are priced at $20 above their wholesale value. The wine list is a delight unto itself. With many offerings from Canada - mostly Okanogan but some good Niagara showings too, the list goes through each varietal with a quick and dirty profile of each grape and what diners may consider pairing their choice with from the elaborate menu.

While we sipped on our Creations Caesars, done up with ginger vodka and crushed ice, we perused the vast menu of foods and wines on offer, eventually settling on a bottle of Sumac Ridge Gewürztraminer, 2007, to accompany the many seafood and fish options that swam contentedly across our eyes as we glanced over appetizers, salads, and main dishes. There were also several kinds of wine being sold by the glass ranging from around $6-9, though mostly around $7.

Our server was helpful in selecting our dinner choices since we were torn in so many directions. Everything looked so good. All quite reasonably priced too, which didn't help in the elimination dance that was ordering. One thing he did recommend that I was not particularly fond of was the spinach and crab dip. Strange consistency, stringy bits of spinach, and a disappointing lack of cheesiness made this one choice a bit of a flop for us. Despite this, the dish was still flavourful and presented with lots of different yummy bread-ish things for dipping. The other appetizer we devoured devilishly was the elk sausage and wild mushroom flatbread (squeal). A perfect amount of toppings, very fresh and soft flatbread, this dish was balanced out beautifully with caramelized onions and some nicely selected herbs.

We wanted to try a salad too, and were given the option of either a petite or an entree-sized portion (applies to all salads). We couldn't decide between the seared tuna and avocado salad with fennel dressing or the tempura chicken and pecan salad, settling finally on a petite of the former. This dish was an excellent size for an appetizer portion, and with all the other things coming, we were happy to share it three ways. The fennel seed vinaigrette really brought out the flavour of the seared tuna, which had been marinated first with fennel and orange.

Before our mains arrived we decided to switch to a lighter red to accompany them. The Creations chefs have done a wonderful job on a menu that truly reflects the Canadian culinary tradition without boasting about having done so. Lots of west-coast influences could be found in ingredients like the shrimp, crab, tuna, and salmon, as well as a distinctly Japanese flair. However, the menu is also firmly grounded in rare and quintessential prairie foods like elk, bison, beef, lamb, and pickerel. To match these game meats, we chose a New Zealand wine - Cupid's Arrow Pinot Noir, 2008. It was lovely, with lots of blackberry, raspberry, and earthy tones coming through on the nose right away. The server was kind enough to decant it for us as we finished up the last drops of the Gewürz and turned our attention to the delicate task of dividing up our main dishes so everyone got to try a bit of everything. Our server was also quite attentive as he brought us large sharing plates with the entrees, which he set down in the middle for us all to delve in.

The barbecued duck burger was apparently so popular at lunch that it was moved onto the dinner menu. Knowing this, we simply had to try it. It was sweet, smoky and savoury, served on a fresh bun. It came with a few different options for the side, but taking the cue again from our server we asked for the parsnip crisps. When he saw how much we liked them, he came back later with a whole bowl full of them for the table. Order this and you will be glad you did.

I ordered the tenderloin duo, which, yes, is as magical as it sounds. A pair of steaks - lamb and wild boar wrapped elk, served with, dark chocolate jus, butternut squash, brandied cherry chutney, and a wild mushroom barley that made me think of a prairie risotto. Need I say more?
We thought we'd try a vegetarian dish to really test the menu. We were disappointed. The smoked tomato and spinach pappardelle was lacking in complexity and needed to be richer, somehow. There was too much black pepper and not enough depth to the dish, which just came out like a bunch of vegetables thrown together with green noodles and a plain sauce. Not great. But the menu is new. A menu is a living breathing thing and can always change based on how people respond to it. I think it's a kink that'll get worked out before long.

For dessert we ordered the tempura banana with green tea coconut ice cream, the balsamic blueberries with lavender coconut ice cream (both dairy free), and the chef’s special – a chocolate pate which went beautifully with the final glass of pinot which I lingered over for quite some time. The sweet endings were a perfect finish to a virtually flawless meal. The service was accommodating, informed, but not too pushy or ingratiating. The décor was upscale lodge with intimate booths and a dazzling fireplace. The price, at $66 per person, plus tip, was incomparable. Go to Creations and create a new favourite fine dining experience that you will return to again and again.


  1. wow, great to hear such good things about this place. I would never have thought of going there.

  2. wow. definitely next on my list, the duck burger has me salivating...and the tenderloin duo omg.
    are the headings on their menu in cree? tom is curious.

  3. Mmmm!! You're making me hungry!!

  4. i want a duck burger! I'll have to check this place out when i'm in town next