Optimistically Cautious

Friday, March 09, 2007

Exceptional Service: Pradera Cafe and Lounge

As I had mentioned last week, Friday marked the start of Edmonton's Downtown Dining Week. After mulling over the options, May and I decided on Pradera Cafe and Lounge, situated in the Westin Hotel (10135-100 Street). Although I've been to other hotel restaurants in the area, the Westin's attention to detail and personable service blew me away.

Upon entering the hotel, I noticed the partitioned off groupings of tables and chairs to the left, and figured this was the restaurant. But after approaching the host, he brought me to a secluded dining room in the back. With neutral-toned walls and classic furniture, it wasn't remarkable by any means, though the fireplace was a nice touch. Whomever designed the layout of the room really should have rethought the placement of columns however, as though their intention may have been to create private spaces, really ended up disrupting the flow and prevented an initial feeling of welcome.

Aesthetics aside, starting from remembering my dining companion's name (May was taken aback that they called her by name when she asked about our reservation), to having our coats checked, chairs pulled out and napkins laid on our laps, it was a level of service that was nice albeit a bit disconcerting ("We can do it ourselves!").

As per the Dining Week menu, we were each able to select three courses. We both chose the more uncommon cream of roasted pumpkin soup with a cinnamon cream swirl to start (as opposed to salad). For the main course, I opted for the pan-fried chicken breast accompanied with portobello mushroom herb cream sauce served with chefs' seasonal vegetables and potatoes, while May went with the poached filet of atlantic salmon with a lemon scented hollandaise sauce accompanied with chefs' vegetable medley and potatoes.

The pumpkin soup was delicious - smooth, with a nutty, squash-like flavor, it made a great fall/winter appetizer. Before moving on to the entree, we were given a small scoop of blood orange sorbet. I must say I'm not used to the idea of a palette cleanser, but this was definitely better than the tart coconut concoction I had at the Harvest Room a few years ago.

The main course was fabulous - the pan-fried chicken was the best I have had since an apple wood smoked chicken breast at Flavours on Whyte. The portobello mushroom sauce was delightfully creamy, and if they bottled it I'm sure could be marketed as the new HP sauce - good with everything.

On to the dessert - and because I couldn't pass up the Belgian chocolate mousse in a raspberry shell accompanied with a raspberry sauce, May was left with the banana fritters complimented with vanilla ice cream and maple syrup. The mousse was light and airy, but a tad too rich for my taste, particularly with the overdose in solid chocolate already. I much preferred May's dish of cinnamon and sugar-coated fried banana pieces, something I should learn to duplicate.

At the end of the night, we were both well-fed and tickled with the service. The host, waiter, and busboy all made us feel special. And though it isn't something I want to get used to, on occasion, it's nice to be pampered.

Restaurant interior

Cream of roasted pumpkin soup

Blood orange sorbet

Poached filet of atlantic salmon

Pan-fried chicken breast

Belgian chocolate mousse

Banana fritters

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