Dish

Modern lovers

Flavours Modern Bistro is a class act on a street that sorely needs one

Like many people, I was more than a bit skeptical when I first heard about
the upscale store complex that was to be built on the ashes of Albert’s
Pancake House on the corner of Whyte Ave and 104 Street. But as I passed it
by on my way from the Strat to the Dog last Saturday, I have to admit that it
looks pretty damn nice. Oh, sure, it’s totally regrettable that we lost a
little bit of Edmonton history when all those pancakes and kittens went to
pancake and kitten heavens, respectively, but in the end, the new building
brings a touch of class to a strip that desperately needs a touch of anything
that drunken fratboys might hate.

And speaking of a touch of class, just a couple doors east of the new
building we happened to notice the awning for Flavours Modern
Bistro,
a swanky-looking restaurant-slash-nice-place-for-cocktails
kind of establishment that none of us had noticed before. Intrigued, my
girlfriend and I resolved to check it out sometime when we weren’t quite so,
uh, drinky, and so the next day we wandered back down see what it was all
about.

Being around fiveish on a Sunday, we had our choice of seating in the long,
elegant and inviting dining space, so we settled into a two-seater equipped
with a couple of plush blue armchairs off to the side against the
exposed-brick wall opposite the bar. Our server, an extremely helpful fellow,
was with us immediately, and, having indulged a bit too much the night before
and it being a rather chilly day out there, we both ordered tea ($3), but
only vaguely knowing what kind we actually wanted. (My girlfriend asked for
something fruity and was surprised with a deliciously sweet and dark
strawberry tea; I asked for something lemony and was served an outstandingly
florid but snappy mandarin flower oolong tea-both, we were told, are supplied
by Steeps.)

Tea at the ready, we began to look through Flavours’ varied and interesting
but somewhat small menu, which offers a hit parade of the expected
contemporary fusion themes: a little Thai here, a little Indian there, a
little homey comfort food thrown in to offset it all. Although the homemade
red curry with chicken over coconut rice for all intents and purposes seemed
right up my alley, I found myself intrigued (and still chilled) enough to go
with the slow-simmered bison stew ($17) instead. My girlfriend, meanwhile,
being the sucker for goat cheese that she is, had little trouble choosing the
goat cheese and olive roulade with a sundried tomato béchamel sauce,
which boasted a chicken breast rolled with olives, goat cheese and basil,
pan-seared and oven-baked with gnocchi and spinach ($20). For an appetizer, I
managed to sneak in my Thai fix by ordering the lemongrass chili garlic
prawns with wasabi mayo and hot peanut paste ($10).

The prawns arrived quickly; served on a diamond-shaped plate, six pan-seared
prawns rested on a bed of greens with dabs of wasabi mayo and peanut paste
off in the corners. The prawns were juicy and sweet, and the delicate
tanginess of the lemongrass and chili served as an excellently light dressing
for the greens underneath. It was an ample appetizer for two to share, but
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t still really, hungrily, looking forward to
that stew.

Ah, the stew. A surprisingly hearty serving of big, tender chunks of buffalo
and sautéed mushrooms swimming in a thick, beefy sauce, the stew was
flanked on either side of the large rectangular plate with colourful
arrangements of julienne carrots, string beans and yellow squash, as well as
what I at first thought was gnocchi but, after trying the actual gnocchi on
my girlfriend’s plate, I would say were probably pan-fried dumplings instead.
Either way, awesome. Simmered for an entire day, the buffalo meat was
unbelievably flavourful and practically falling apart on the plate, and the
veggies and dumplings were a nice unannounced accompaniment that all made for
a elegant yet filling meal. My girlfriend’s chicken, meanwhile, was
comparably awesome. The chicken was tender, stuffed with creamy goat cheese
that sang with that almost metallic zest, and the gnocchi (little doughy
pasta balls, in case you’ve never had them) with the same veggie assortment
in the tomato béchamel sauce (which I would guessingly say is somewhat
similar to a béarnaise sauce) providing a smooth flavour that played
off the goat cheese nicely. As usual, I was happy to knock of the remaining
chicken that my girlfriend just couldn’t finish, and needless to say, dessert
was never seriously considered.

The total for two came to just north of $56 before tip, and would have
probably approached $70 if real drinks had been had, but it’s a small price
to pay for the quality of the food, the pleasant atmosphere and flawless
service. In the end, Flavours Modern Bistro serves up a touch of class that
is a welcome reprieve from the strip outside its windows. V

Flavours Modern Bistro
10354 Whyte Ave •
439-9604

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