Despite ambience, quality bar food and neighbourhood popularity, Rebel Food and Drink’s entrees fall flat
Rebel Food and Drink is the latest notch in the belt of Century Hospitality Group, whose other holdings in Edmonton include Parlour, Lux Steakhouse, MKT, and Hart’s Table. Located in the former premises of alleged Oilers’ fave Piccolino, Rebel joins a small but noticeable enclave of restaurant action along Crestwood, with its sister operation Delux Burger Bar—an instalment of the Allegro Italian dynasty—and Café Blackbird (more of a coffee shop, really) all stationed nearby.
I’d be hard-put to describe Rebel’s interior if only because there were people all over it. A certain amount of sloganeering about discarding rules in favour of good times took place amid brick surfaces and furnishing on the order of Century’s usual sleek, modern design. A hockey game took control of my vision on three flat screens within eyeshot. If there was music playing, I couldn’t hear it over the thrum of conversation. Somehow this hubbub managed to be family-friendly, as Rebel welcomes minors until 9 p.m.
And, indeed, it appeared on a Thursday evening, Crestwoodresidents had accepted Rebel into their hearts. Every table was taken and the accumulation of boisterous chatter filled the room. Not that we ever endured the inconvenience of a full house. The proprietor-looking chap who met us at the door could not quite conceal his angst at not being able to seat us instantly and he cordially squired us to the bar, where within a minute or two we had learned the bartender’s name, and had a menu and drinks. She effortlessly up-sold us from six to nine ounces of vino. Very few minutes after that, we were led to our own table and had a new server’s name to learn.
Rebel’s menu casts a wide net—sort of a greatest hits of Century Hospitality food styles from more affordable gussied-up pub fare (burgers, wings, etc.), to pizza to higher end entrees in the $23 – $44 range. My co-diner and I decided to try a little of each by starting with Rebel wings ($15), then proceeding to fancier mains—in her case the linguine and clams ($24), and avocado risotto ($23) for me.
Co-diner and I didn’t agree about the kinds of wings to order, but I consented to honey truffle wings with a side of the house hot sauce. I actually tend to think of truffle oil as the aftershave of seasonings in that it’s pretty easy to use too much and spoil everything, but the Rebel kitchen totally nailed the flavour, infusing sweet-saltiness with just the right touch of fungal funk. The server laughed aloud as I splattered my glasses and dining partner as I dismantled a recalcitrant crisp, juicy wing—fair enough.
It was much more difficult to appreciate the charms of our entrées, which seemed few to us. Co-diner’s linguine with clams looked competently assembled, comprising fresh al dente pasta, a dozen or so Manila clams, parsley, grilled lemon, and traces of an oil-based sauce, but the overall effect was blandly less than the sum of its parts.
The avocado risotto was a bit out of character for me order-wise, but the fact is I do love risotto when it’s done well (witness, for example, Sabor/Bodega’s lobster risotto). It can be rich and savoury and creamy and complex, even with simple ingredients. Rebel’s was not. Rather than smotheringly dense, it was loose like hot cereal, with a few grilled peach slices, exactly four slices of radish, and a long streamer of ribboned green apple on top. Whatever seasonings had been mustered to bolster the avocado mashed into the Arborio rice weren’t enough to obscure the chicken stock it was all cooked in. It occurred to me that my last visit to Parlour, another CH property, left me feeling like the words on the menu did not translate to a satisfying meal, and that I paid for a better meal than I received. For the first time in her life, co-diner uttered the words, “Let’s not have dessert.”
It’s safe to say this opinion is in the minority, as Rebel is probably rockin’ most nights of the week and during its weekend brunch, so taken is the local community with this new outpost of conviviality in the Valleyview strip mall. Our table was filled as soon as we stood up to leave and every person who seated or served us bade us a great night as we departed. Food aside, we did have a lovely time.
Rebel Food and Drink
9112 – 142 St.