It is difficult to avoid bias, with regard to dining and writing. Ideally, one would visit a new restaurant with a fresh, eternal-sunshine-of-the-spotless-mind outlook and meander through the menu without a priori expectations. Even when one intentionally avoids reading other reviews prior to a first visit, however, it is impossible not to absorb even a little bit of bias. I kept this in mind during my inaugural visit to Bistro La Persaud (keeping company with the inimitable and meritorious Marlow Moo and Andrea Lauder).
Bistro La Persaud is a sleek, quirky dining room at the bottom of a hill in Edmonton's French Quarter. We tuck into two Gallic standards: mussels (pictured above) and steak tartare (pictured below). The former is brilliantly tender and bathing in white wine butter. Indeed, their broth is so luscious that one could drink it out of a bowl. The tartare is flecked with morsels of sweet pickle and is topped with an elfin quail's egg. The tender beef caresses crisp, salty chips and whets our appetites for subsequent victuals.
We progress to salmon with quinoa risotto, oxtail tortellini, and English pea and quinoa risotto with butternut squash confit. Fork-tender, impossibly moist salmon sits atop a hillock of snowy quinoa risotto and a startlingly yellow puddle squash puree. The citrus butter adds a hint of gentle, sunny acidity.
The English pea and quinoa risotto is a riot of textures that range from slightly mealy to crunchy-smooth. Earthy mushrooms and shreds of cheese luxuriate in their buttery surroundings. Toothsome and immensely satisfying, it is a dish I will dream of for weeks to come.
Oxtail tortellini, while intriguing in description, fails to deliver. We find the pasta tough and the rich oxtail flavour is lost in salt. I liked the theory, but not the execution. The vibrant pea broth underneath is the best part.
Dessert is a duality of savoury cheeses and sweet lemon tart. The trio of cheeses include ubriaco prosecco, gently sweet and hinting of prosecco grapes, chevre noir, which possesses a distinctive and muted tang, and valdeon which, regrettably, tastes of ash and salt. The lemon tart, conversely, is an alluring combination of sweet, flaky pastry and tart lemon curd. A dollop - how I wish there was more - of creme fraiche is an ideal counterpoint.
I heard much about Bistro La Persaud prior to our visit and desperately wanted to avoid preconceived notions about what to expect, both in terms of service and food. We approached each dish with sunshine-fresh minds and left with Francais-fueled dreams of quinoa risotto and lemon tarts.