I think The Harvest Room at Fairmont Hotel MacDonald is one of the most underrated restaurants in Edmonton.
I often get asked what my favourite restaurant in the city is, and while I prefer to answer I have chefs I favour, over the restaurant itself, there is a special place in my heart (and my belly) for the Harvest Room. Also, Chef Serge Jost is a passionate Frenchman who brings an instant smile to my face every time I see him – he makes me want to dine at the Fairmont Hotel MacDonald.
My first visit was just a year ago when I took The Spaniard there for his birthday. The meal was so memorable that I wanted to make it a tradition.
The Harvest Room is not on the top ten hipster list in Edmonton; there is no bearded bartender mixing herbs with bitters at the bar and there is no app to tell you when your table is available. Instead, it is a place where I am escorted to my table where my chair is pulled out and a linen napkin is placed on my lap. The attention to detail in your dining experience is obvious, and yet, the room and the staff are not pretentious. And of course, I just love sitting down and taking a view of Edmonton’s river valley.
Our server for the evening was Santana, a lovely man from Mexico who very patiently allowed me to practice my spanish with him all evening. He brought us bread which made The Spaniard love him immediately.
The Spaniard had his fill of the house-made fig bread, while I used the complimentary gluten free bread (a rare treat for celiacs at a restaurant) as a vessel for their sun-dried tomato butter.
To stimulate our appetite, we received the evening’s amuse bouche – a bison salami with truffle aioli and arugula.
For the starters, The Spaniard ordered the duck two ways consisting of orange pekoe smoked duck breast, foie gras torchon, summer fruit brûlée & deconstructed red currant french toast.
I enjoyed the morel crusted scallop & asparagus with green pea nage, truffle crème fraiche, crispy pancetta. After one bite I looked at The Spaniard and said ‘I wish I could cook scallops like this.’
The Spaniard was leaning towards a seafood dish for his main, but I told him that the last time I dined here the beef tenderloin looked amazing. He took my advice, and savoured every bite of the 8oz Alberta Beef tenderloin with caramelized onion & bacon mash potato, asparagus, sautéed California, USA greens, dungeness crab hollandaise, horseradish jus.
I had the lavender & honey crusted lamb sirloin on soft blue cheese polenta, baby squash, fava bean succotash, stone Barossa Valley, Australia fruit & raisin chutney, watercress & mint pesto. When I go out for dinner I want to order something I can’t make at home – and there is no way I could or would make this as home. It was lovely.
I was keen to order the creme brûlée, but unfortunately the flavour of the day was coffee inspired and I had to pass. Originally I opted out of dessert so The Spaniard ordered the strawberry cheesecake, but then Santana learned it was his birthday and brought out a treat I could enjoy as well.
Santana brought out a plate with ‘Happy Birthday’ on it, a lit candle, and a dense piece of gluten free chocolate cake.
We killed that piece of cake.
Chef Jost was busy with another event in the hotel but had stopped by during our meal to say hello and wish The Spaniard a happy birthday. We were just on our way out when we saw him speed walking through the lobby telling us we had to come back. We received a lemon, made from modelling chocolate, filled with lemon sorbet, and on a bed of marscarpone cream. After three desserts, I thought I was going to have to roll the birthday boy home. When I recommend The Harvest Room I often hear a response that people think it is expensive; however, I think the price is comparable with fine-dining restaurants around the city. Also, the restaurant has a build-your-own three course menu available every night of the week for $65 which I think is great value. We enjoyed another memorable birthday dinner at The Harvest Room last week; I can’t wait to go back.