Is there a restaurant in Edmonton that you have been wanting to visit for a long time, but have just never made it there? Maybe it never seems like the right occasion. Or maybe it is a little out of the way. Or maybe it is just really hard to get a reservation.
For me, that place was Ernest’s. I’ve tried to eat at Ernest’s a couple of times over the past few years, yet it never seemed to work out. I first heard about Ernest’s from my parents, as it was somewhere they have always enjoyed going with friends for a leisurely weekend dinner. And after having a wonderful time at Eat Alberta last year and seeing the wonderful facilities used by the students at Ernest’s, it renewed my desire to visit. All of the dishes at Ernest’s are actually prepared and served by Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management students at NAIT. This means the service can sometimes take a little longer than at a “regular” restaurant, but the food is still top-notch and the price is actually quite reasonable.
I finally made my way to Ernest’s a few weeks ago with a group of fellow food lovers. I knew some of the group going into the dinner, while others were new friends, but I can tell you, we had a wonderful time at Ernest’s. By the end of the leisurely 3+ hour dinner, my cheeks hurt from smiling and my abs hurt from laughing (or maybe it was the 7 course meal). Ernest’s was a great place to enjoy some really good food, while partaking in some great conversation.
While there were all sorts of delicious looking appetizers and entrees on the dinner menu, instead I decided to try that evening’s Table D’hôte menu, a set 5 course meal for only $40. While I waited for my first course to come out, I enjoyed a glass a Peter Lehmann “Layers” Red, a wonderfully, fruity, full-bodied red wine.
The first item to come to the table was a basket of assorted different breads, baked that day at the NAIT bakery. Each different type of bread was delicious, but I especially enjoyed the focaccia. Now, just for the fun of it, let’s call this my first course.
Next, an Amuse-bouche, created specially by the students, was sent out for us to enjoy. That day’s offering was made with pear, panchetta and goat cheese. A simple, yet quite tasty creation. Amuse-bouche is a French term that translates to ” to please the mouth”. An amuse-bouche is a single, bite-sized hors d’oeuvre that is meant to tantalize the tastebuds and prepare the palate for the rest of the meal. And if you are counting, that would be course 2.
My first “official” course was a Seafood Chowder, garnished with a Terragon Gel and Crispy Fish Cracker. The portion was quite large and the Seafood Chowder was pretty good. Not the best I have ever had, but good enough to eat the whole bowl. I found the chowder to be a little thicker than I would have preferred and the piece of bread (what I assumed to be the fish cracker) just didn’t work for me. That puts us at course 3.
Next out was my appetizer, Kangaroo Sausage served with Pickled Pear, Beet Greens salad, and Fennel Mustard. This was my first time eating Kangaroo, and while I couldn’t help but picture Kanga and Roo, I actually quite enjoyed it. The sausage was mildly gamey and quite lean. My only complaint was that I thought the students had perhaps been a little too generous with the mustard, however I suppose better too much than too little. Oh and that was my 4th course.
The Beef Carpaccio was ordered off the À La Carte menu by a couple of the other people dining with me that evening. They both really seemed to enjoy their appetizer and I would have to agree based on the small bite I was able to snag. But then again, I am almost always a sucker for a good beef carpaccio.
Next out, some Tomato Sorbet to cleanse our palates. I have to say I wasn’t expecting to like this sorbet… and I was right. It was a really good effort on the student’s part to try something innovative, however I really thought it was a miss. The sorbet was zesty, sweet and savoury all at the same time. Unfortunately, a total bust. And although I only ate about a spoonful of the sorbet, for kicks, let’s call this course 5.
My entree was a Duo of Brome Lake Duck; Duck Breast Wrapped in Bacon and Duck Confit, with Glazed Beets, Carrots Cooked in Duck Fat and Duck Bordelaise Sauce. So essentially, duck on duck on duck on duck. I enjoyed my entree, however I wasn’t as in love with it as I wanted to be. I found the Duck Confit to be very salty and although everything is usually better when it is wrapped in bacon, I found myself missing the crispy duck skin. And that brings us to course 6.
Last out, my seventh and final course, dessert. They had actually run out of some of the components of the dessert on the Table D’hôte menu, so they ended up substituting in a gorgeous Chocolate Mousse and Raspberry Sorbet. The chocolate mousse was light and airy and had the most decadent dark chocolate filling, reminiscent of my mom’s homemade fudge sauce. The Raspberry Sorbet was tart and sweet and paired beautifully with the mousse. It was a great way to end a fantastic meal.
I had such a wonderful time at Ernest’s. The food was good; some items were hits, some misses and some were knocked out of the park, but it was just so much fun to enjoy a gourmet dining experience (7 “courses” !) for really quite a reasonable price. The service was top-notch, you could really tell that everyone was trying their best, and the company was fantastic.
When I return to Ernest’s, as I am sure I will eventually, I think I would order off the À La Carte menu. Although it was fun to try a lot of different dishes, I think next time I would be a little more discerning and just stick to a couple of dishes, making sure they were the ones that I really wanted to try.
If you are looking for a really lovely dining experience, for a very good price, then I truly recommend you consider Ernest’s. Just remember to make your reservation early and keep in mind the restaurant is closed for Christmas and Summer Break… they are students after all!