Dish

La Ronde: That restaurant that spins

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A gimmick might get you in, but La Ronde’s food is what will keep you coming back

I’m not sure when, exactly, the revolving restaurant became such a
must-have feature for cities, but certainly across North America you won’t
find too many major centres without one. It’s very much a genre of eating:
besides the panoramic views, nearly all offer upscale cuisine (have to keep
that rotator powered somehow) and almost all seem to be special occasion
destinations. The truly weird thing about them, though, is that they manage
to be odd, gauche clichés and unique, enjoyable experiences all at
once: “that restaurant that spins” has sort of a provincial quality to it,
but, seriously, where else are you going to get this kind of view of the
city, with a fine meal to boot?

I’m certainly no connoisseur of dining while spinning, but La Ronde has
always been a restaurant that leans heavier towards the latter half of that
equation to my eyes. Though it’s essentially a steak-and-fish restaurant with
some rich, French undertones, La Ronde was on the local-provider kick well
before it was fashionable, and semi-recently added an extensive—for a
steak joint—vegetarian menu, a very welcome addition, since most fine
dining tends to leave vegetarians with severely limited options past the
appetizers. So it was with fairly high expectations that my dinner date and I
rode the elevator up to the 24th floor of the Chateau Lacombe.

First impressions were, of course, strong. We were seated quickly by the
friendly and efficient hostess, and the view of Edmonton really is quite
stunning. La Ronde is, as you’d expect, minimally designed, with the focus on
the windows and a generally upscale, modern touch, dining areas separated
with frosted glass or piles of corks.

We were fairly quickly greeted by our gregarious waiter, who said he’d give
us some time to get comfortable before taking our orders. We must have looked
particularly uptight, because it took him a good 10 minutes to come back for
drink orders, and half an hour passed—we went from staring down 100 Ave
to a very Edmonton-appropriate view of the distant oil
refineries—before we placed our dinner order. I’m sure La Ronde wants
you to take in the view, but the fact he also forgot our bread order and had
to be asked twice for the vegetarian menu speaks to his inattentiveness, and
I’d have happily traded some of his affability for efficiency.

This became entirely irrelevant once the food showed up, though. I made the
very wise choice of starting with the roast sweet potato soup ($9), which was
garnished with a quail’s egg that only added to its richness and depth. I
usually find pureed soups pretty pedestrian, but this was just incredible,
pleasantly thick and savoury with a very subdued sweetness. My partner went
with the equally tempting cider-roasted beet and spinach salad ($11), and
though I wouldn’t have traded orders, it was also superb. The roasting gave
the beets an incredible texture, something like a mashed potato that holds
its shape, and canola vinaigrette, feta and pecans balanced the sweetness of
the beets perfectly.

Wanting to make the most of our dinner, we both partook of the
palate-cleansing sorbets, both of which—Saskatoon and basil or apple
and sage ($3.50 each)—were probably good enough to eat as meals in
themselves. The fresh herbs really rejuvenated my taste buds, and the sorbet
was light but creamy enough to wash everything down.

By the time dinner came, we had both finished our drinks; bespeaking the
special event side of its patrons, La Ronde has an extensive “martini” list
that’s really just mixology in a wide-rimmed glass, and we passed over wine
in favour of a few. I went with the Manhattan ($11.50 for the double),
something I order frequently solely because of that one Simpsons episode, and
here it was done up right, the liquor at the forefront with just a dollop of
sweetness from the maraschino cherry, the kind of thing you’d have in place
of lunch if you were on Mad Men. My date had a Red Lotus, which I avoided as
it was pure girl drink, though she had a second where she normally demurs, so
it did something right.

The meals themselves were slightly mixed. My date’s five-spice maple-glazed
Arctic char ($31) was seared perfectly, but the sauce was slightly drowned in
cream, and neither the maple nor the spices came through as strong as you’d
like for a fish as basic as char. I had no qualms about my summer squash
risotto ($22), though: artfully arranged, with portobello mushroom caps
acting as the bread to a club sandwich of grilled asparagus and a rich
squash/risotto mixture, it’s one of the best looking and tasting vegetarian
meals I’ve ever had, accented perfectly by a chili jelly around the plate’s
edges that added a nice little kick when things were in danger of getting too
rich.

We finished our evening off with a shared pear and pistachio tart ($12) and a
cappuccino ($3.50) for myself, though truthfully I’d have been happier with
more sorbet: the tart was fine, a creative blend of fruit and nut, but didn’t
stick out, save an overly elaborate spun-sugar topping.
Two hours and a little more than two revolutions since we began, we left
supremely satisfied, if a little late for our other plans for the evening.
I’m certain the novelty will keep La Ronde as a special destination for most
diners, but if I had the wallet, I’d happily make this a regular stop, and
the view doesn’t really have much to do with it. V

Mon – Sat (5:30 pm – 10:30 pm); Sun (10:30 am – 2 pm)
& (5:30 pm – 10:30 pm)

La Ronde
10111 Bellamy Hill (in Chateau Lacombe)
780.420.8366
chateaulacombe.com/laronde

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