Optimistically Cautious

Saturday, March 01, 2008

"A Good Place to Meet": hulbert's

Annie and I had originally intended on meeting at The Silk Hat on Friday, but thankfully, I caught a bit piece in the Edmonton Journal about the diner's temporary closure due to staff shortages.

Having to come up with an alternative venue, I chose hulbert's (7601 115 Street). I first read about the neighbourhood eatery in Where Magazine, and then a positive review in See Magazine at the end of last year.

I didn't really know what to expect, besides remembering that green was in the exterior color scheme somehow, but walking in, I appreciated how cozy the dining area was. All of the prime tables by the window were either taken or reserved, and we could see that an empty space near the front of the cafe was left open for a musician to set up shop later on that evening. What struck me, besides the beautiful custom-made mosaic tabletops, was how the space was able to transition between daytime and evening, simply by lowering the blinds, lighting a few candles, and putting on some smoky jazz.

We sat down around 5:30, and were surprised by the lunch menus we were handed by the waitress. When asked when dinner would be served, she indicated 6pm, so Annie and I decided to start with dessert and wait out the half hour to have heartier options beyond wraps and sandwiches.

hulbert's offered pretty standard refrigerated dessert case choices: a few cheesecakes, an apple tart, a mousse. Annie decided upon the mango-berry cheesecake, while I simply couldn't turn down the chocolate torte ($6). A few minutes later, our individual slices were presented to us, garnished with dollops of whipped cream and drizzles of colored syrup. Annie was glad her cake wasn't as sweet as she was expecting, while I could have done with a tad more sugar in mine.

With our dessert plates cleared, and dinner menus in hand, we surveyed our options. As indicated on their website, hulbert's doesn't claim to offer an extensive food menu. Still, I didn't expect just three entrees! On this day, their ever-changing selections included pork chops, baked salmon, and a pasta option, in addition to a number of appetizers. Based upon the food being delivered around us, it seemed most of the patrons that evening opted for the shared dips. Perhaps we should have deferred to the majority, but Annie and I were both in the mood for pasta (three color rotini in a homemade pesto with sauteed vegetables, $12), served with our choice of soup or salad.

Our vegetable soups were delivered in coffee cups, making for easy drinking. Except the chunks of too-hard vegetables (carrots in particular that probably could have used another hour on the stove) made the use of a spoon necessary. It did tide us over until our pastas were ready a short while later, served to us in lovely square bowls. Unfortunately, the pasta itself didn't match the presentation - between the thin pesto and a paucity of vegetables, Annie was spot on in her description of our main being a "warm pasta salad".

I would still give hulbert's another opportunity to wow me in the future, mainly because the venue itself fosters an ambiance perfect for catching up with friends, or being treated to an evening of cool music.

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