Optimistically Cautious

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Disappointingly Anti-climactic: NAIT's Student Showcase Buffet

It must have been my Mum's enthusiastic reception of NAIT's Student Showcase Buffet at it's School of Hospitality on a segment of "What's Eating Theo" on CityTV that drove me to make a reservation for us last year. When I called in October to inquire about the next available date, I was told that a table on April 11, a wait of a good six months, was the best we could do. Despite the fact that the buffet is only a once-a-week occurrence during the September-to-April school year, I thought such a lengthy wait list was telling of the quality of the food served. As well, the dishes shown in the CityTV segment included kangaroo chops, something rarely seen in the Edmonton market, leading me to believe that the menu was skewered towards the difficult-to-prepare and the exotic. Turns out I was wrong on both counts.

Mack picked me up from work, but we left a little bit later than we should have. By the time we reached the vicinity of NAIT, it was already past our scheduled 11:15am sitting time. We circled around the various lots and parkades for a good fifteen minutes, and finally found some empty spaces near the HP Centre. Note to anyone heading to the buffet, especially those with later seating times - plan to arrive at least 20 minutes before, as available spaces are incredibly hard to come by.

We entered Ernest's, the School of Hospitality's restaurant, at nearly 20 to noon. We were told that we had to vacate our table promptly at 12:15, which left us with about half an hour to make the most of the buffet, something we weren't told when I initially made the reservation. Thankfully, they had seated my parents already, and both my Mum and Dad had filled up one plate each by that point.

We were offered coffee or tea immediately, though later we saw that other patrons were given an additional option of Coke in glass bottles. Sparing no time, Mack and I picked up plates and headed to the salad bar to start our rounds.

We worked out way through platters of cheese, canapes, grilled vegetables, and even a student carving prosciutto from a slab. Most of the meat, seafood and pasta stations were concentrated in the centre, though two were lone tables on the periphery.

Had I been smarter, I would have picked up more to try on the first go-around, but from what I did get to sample, I liked the Moroccan chicken the best. My Mum and Mack preferred the lamb kabobs, while my Dad enjoyed the prime rib roast. I was disappointed that there was nothing "exotic" or even remotely unique on the menu.

In my opinion, the dessert spread was better than the appetizers and mains. An assortment of chocolates, cakes, and tarts greeted us. The warmed cinnamon buns were my favorite, while Mack quite enjoyed his New York-style cheesecake.

I want to place a caveat on this review, as to be fair, a combination of our late-start, parking challenge, time pressure, and the overwhelming expectations created after a six month wait negatively colored our experience of the buffet overall. For those who arrive early and have the opportunity of a more leisurely meal and are well aware of the hour-long time limit, I'm sure a good time can be had. But because of all of the factors above, I can't honestly say I enjoyed myself that day.

The full set of photos are on Mack's Flickr site.

Mack and I @ "Nest's"

My parents

Dining area

Appetizers (with a fat sculpture)

Appetizers (the duck made out of a green apple is too cute!)

Prosciutto station (the student was having a difficult time carving the tough slab of meat)

Mack's plate

My plate

Part of the dessert section

Beautifully decorated tart

Poached pears

Warm cinammon buns

Mack's dessert plate

My dessert plate

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Blogger Andrea said...

How much does it cost? Is it reasonable?

April 14, 2008 at 8:34 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

I realized after I posted that I neglected to include the price: at the time of booking in October, the price per person was $18.95 plus tax. When we went, it had gone up to $19.90 per person plus tax.

April 14, 2008 at 9:35 PM  

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