Restaurants in old houses have a particular cache of "cool." There are a number of them in Edmonton, and I was rather surprised to discover that the venerable Viphalay is one of them. I frequented Viphalay's Norwood location, which held its own in a somewhat forlorn stripmall on the corner of 95 St and 107 Ave. I wouldn't have described this spot as "cool" - at least, not cool in the sense that character homes are steeped in intrigue and history - but the stellar food defied any mere physical location. How happy I am to discover Viphalay's second, downtown digs which, joy of joys, occupies a old house just south of Jasper Ave.
High ceilings and grand windows add a touch of grandeur to Viphalay's proudly unpretentious food. Shrimp and Pineapple Triangles are a happy duet of sweet crustaceans and vividly acidic pineapple enrobed in crisp batter. Cream Cheese and Crab Crispy Wontons contain a gentle seafood surprise beneath their crunchy exterior. Sweet chili sauce is a welcome condiment.
The unmistakable aroma of Ginger Lemon Chicken arrives at the table before the dish itself, which presents succulent portions of chicken caressed with sunny citrus and pleasantly pungent strips of ginger root. It's a deadly good combination. Mushrooms, scallions and onions are along for the ride, but I wish the chunks of onion were smaller.
Vegetable Stir-fry with Beef is a hearty jumble of peppers, broccoli, mushrooms, onions and tender beef. The veggies are properly tender-crisp, but the entire dish seems a bit underseasoned. Nonetheless, Viphalay is a welcome addition to downtown, and its statuesque home is fortunate to house such marvelous tastes and scents. Definitely cool.