Optimistically Cautious

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Strip Mall Elegance: Jack's Grill

After New York, I thought it'd be best to avoid "fancy" restaurants for a while - not because I don't enjoy being catered to necessarily, but because I feel I've enjoyed my share of fine dining for several months. When May suggested we try out Jack's Grill (primarily because she had a gift certificate that would cover about half our meal costs), I agreed, but knew that if their hospitality matched their menu prices, my verdict of the restaurant would be influenced by my desire for anything but formal dining.

Located in a Lendrum strip mall (5842 111 Street), a rather unusual spot for a high-end eatery, it is easily missed due to an exterior that blends in with neighbouring merchants. Upon entry, I was greeted by a friendly hostess who immediately took my coat (I can't seem to get away from mandatory coat checks) and seated me at a table alongside a wall of windows. Whoever designed the restaurant should be commended for not only the placement of glass, but also for the inclusion of a garden of sorts outside the window. With a parallel bank of trees decorated with twinkle lights, if led in blindfolded, diners would never guess that Jack's Grill was situated in a strip mall to begin with.

May arrived soon after, and we took our time with the one page menu. We skipped over the appetizers directly to the entrees. May decided to try the Slow Braised Lamb Shank ($32), while the Chinook Salmon ($36) as described by the waiter sounded too good to pass up.

While we waited for our plates, May and I were both surprised at how busy the restaurant was over the course of the evening. Though never completely full, I didn't think those with expensive tastes would wander out of the downtown core to feed their hunger for gourmet cuisine.

May's lamb was perfectly prepared - tender off the bone. She didn't like the accompanying braised cabbage or gremolata much, but finished it all the same. My salmon was good, but the butter sauce it came in was better (it's pretty difficult to mess up pan fried fish, I find).

Service was decent throughout (including the server who refolded our napkins while we were away from the table), and our water glasses were never less than half full. Still, without a gift certificate in hand, I would be hard pressed to return to Jack's Grill. There are better fine dining options in Edmonton (Hardware Grill, for example) that I would turn to first on occasions requiring a high standard of excellence.


Dining room

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