When Chef Larry Stewart of Hardware Grill fame here in Edmonton asked me to come in and have dinner at the new Tavern 1903 restaurant, I jumped right on board. Not only that, I invited a few people in the Edmonton food scene along, making it one grand ol' food party at the Old (but new!) Tavern 1903.
Tavern 1903 is Chef Stewart's latest restaurant adventure and true to his Edmonton loving spirit, he has taken over yet another historic building in downtown Edmonton and kept as much of it as original as possible. The Hardware Grill itself is situated in a Jasper Avenue landmark building and Tavern 1903 is literally a hop, skip and a jump down the block. (Great planning for a chef that almost needs to be in two places at once!)
Tavern 1903 is located in the Alberta hotel, which has been painstakingly rebuilt as true to old form as possible. This is apparent as soon as you walk through the doors of the tavern and gaze upon the hotel's original restored bar coupled with the most beautiful antique cash register I have come across yet.
The other side is sleek and modern, yet comfortable enough to settle in for a long haul of drinks and socializing. Bucking the latest trend of modern restaurant design- AKA “my butt is numb and I can't hear” – I was impressed to see not only comfortable, welcoming chairs but also sound baffles in the ceiling! Yes! Finally a restaurant that gets how to embrace this new trend properly.
Chef Stewart hitting the mark as more and more places are trying to get the “pub” or “bar” feel to lure in the younger crowd that still enjoy a lively atmosphere but are looking for food that is beyond compare.
The menu was explained as “what Chef Stewart would eat at home” which would explain it's very eclectic nature. While the Hardware Grill is very prairie terroir and Canadian based, Tavern 1903's menu is wide, varied and has something for everyone. From Thai (best I've had in years) to tacos, to Alberta Rib Eye, they have it covered.
Perhaps the menu could be explained as the best food from Canada's diverse multiculturalism? It seems that Chef Larry has taken all his favorites from around the world of food and combined it on one menu.
The large table at the back of the modern side seats 8 and is perfectly tucked away for a large party to enjoy themselves at. I highly suggest sitting here for your next outing with a group of friends.
We had a motley crew that night. All I am going to say is..
What happens at Tavern 1903…stays at Tavern 1903.
There might just have been too many cocktails and wild stories flying around that evening.
Myself and Mike. Note how I love to have my picture taken.
Jenny (community manager from YELP! Edmonton) and her boyfriend Jeff.
Let's start with cheese, shall we?
Tavern 1903 is the only place in Edmonton that you are going to find a quality Mozzarella bar like the one Chef Stewart has created. If you are a lover of cheese and cocktails, this is the place for you! Every single type of mozzarella – including the holy grail of mozza, buratta – is available and in so many different platings your head will simply spin.
Buratta is a creamy, soft mozzarella that is encased in an outer shell of firmer cheese. Like a Cadbury creme egg, but all cheese. It's pictured in the back of the photo below.
I just started drooling a little.
We desperately tried to teach Ryan how to be a food blogger, but I think in the end he's going to stay with his day job.
One of my favorite parts of the evening was talking to Chef Stewart. I love when a chef's passion for what they are doing shines through and he was no exception.
Chef Larry was the mozzarella equivalent of Santa Claus, piling creation after creation upon us, having the time of his life explaining the plates to us. The excited twinkle in his eyes belied his professional manner, letting you know that this is truly a passion of his -and on a side note, the mozza bar is actually something he has dreamed of doing for a long time.
My favorite buratta plate was the plate with stone fruit, peas, mint, burnt honey vinaigrette and mesquite walnuts. The sweetness of the fruit was a perfect foil for that creamy cheese with the walnuts adding a fabulous crunch.
The cheese home run was the in-house made Ricotta.This is literally some of the best ricotta in Edmonton folks, no word of a lie. Ryan commented that it was par with the ricotta at Corso 32 and I must say he's right. Maybe he could food blog after all!
Smooth, creamy and topped with a grapefruit oil, we literally licked the plate clean.
Well, Phil did.
But only because he beat me to it.
I have many, many other photos of cheese, but I want you to go in and see for yourself. The menu is extensive and worth a trip JUST to have cheese and cocktails. In fact, I can see planning another evening at that big table again, concentrating on the cheese and trying more cocktails out!
Let's move on to a few main dishes and again, I am only going to feature my favorites. I think we tried – I kid you not- a good third of the menu that evening!
The next star on the list is the KFC.
Korean Fried Cauliflower. Do I ever love the play on words!
This is amazing. People, I simple cannot communicate through a computer screen how this is the dish that you MUST TRY at Tavern 1903. Salty, sweet with a hint of heat, you fall instantly in love as soon as you take a bite of this crunchy bliss.
I have never, ever tasted cauliflower like this. This makes eating your veggies easy.
Go. Now. Order it for lunch. And dinner. Or just a snack. Please send some to me.
Now folks, I love me a good devilled egg. I was so very darn excited to see these beauties show up at the table because you simply cannot get them anywhere nowadays. Fear not, these are not your Mama's 1970's devilled eggs (though truth be told I love a good retro devilled egg!) . These are a gorgeous, smokey, pancetta topped egg delight.
The crispy pork belly with fennel confit and a homemade salted pretzel was fabulous. Again, I love the pub food kicked up about ten notches. Food like this, the deviled eggs and the KFC make you want to go in, have a few craft beer ( or in my case, some fabulous cocktails) and just share plates with friends while catching up.
My very favorite of the evening was the Thai Seafood bowl. Loaded with Shiitake, Carrots, Cilantro, Lime, Red Onion, Noodles, Coconut-Curry Broth, Mussels, Baby Lobster & Prawns, I just about died and went to heaven tasting this.
Chef Larry has had customers come in and tell him they haven't tasted Thai this good since actually being in Thailand and I believe it.
I might have swooned a little over this dish.
I am still so sad that this was at the end of the parade of food and I only managed a few bites. I want to go sit down and get nice and personal with a whole bowl of this all to my greedy self and it needs to happen soon.
For the first time in a long time I am going to have to cut a review in half folks!
There was simply far too much to cover in one post and so I will leave you here for now. I will be writing up a post about the cocktails and desserts, which I found amazing that I had to make a separate post for those all by themselves!
So stay tuned for my next write-up on Tavern 1903!
P.S. Even though this was a comped meal, all opinions are my own, as always!