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Saturday, 29 June 2013

Dishcrawl Southgate: Dining Where Few Dare to Tread

Dishcrawls are the gastronomical analogue to pub crawls. Instead of being shuttled in a school bus from one speakeasy to the next where one might swill cheap beer and snarf down questionable wings, a group of diners migrates on foot en masse from one restaurant to another and enjoys miniature versions of signature dishes. This concept originated in the US and, fortunately for Edmonton, is an active and growing phenomenon north of the 49th parallel.

(Clockwise from top left) Rueben, Shrimp Slider, Lamb Shank, and Shortrib-stuffed Yorkshire pudding.

Previous Dishcrawl expeditions have meandered through Oliver and Chinatown, among others. This time, an eager - and hungry - herd of diners will walk to and from Southgate-area restaurants. This part of town is decidedly pedestrian-unfriendly, but a few gems make the traffic-dodging worthwhile. Supper commences at Fionn MacCool's. Here, a quartet of miniaturized pub fare includes a tiny rueben with house-cured corned beef, a shrimp slider, lamb shank and mash, and a shortrib-stuffed Yorkshire pudding. The rueben is generous with the beef and mercifully stingy with the sauerkraut. The delicate shrimp is lost inside a heaving crumb coating; this dish would have worked better with full-sized prawns. The lamb is juicy and playfully gamey. Yorkshire pudding is this stop's winner: a crave-worthy interplay of crisp pudding, melted cheese, and tender beef.

Fionn MacCool's Irish Pub on Urbanspoon

(Clockwise from top left) Hummus and tzaziki, Beef Keftedes, Spanakopita, and Dolmades.

A quick jaunt across the road leads to Koutouki. This venerable Greek eatery is a jungle of house plants and upbeat bouzouki music. Homemade hummus sings with chickpeas and eschews garlic in favour of tahini. Beef Keftedes are mild and fragrant with cinnamon. A rectangle of spanakopita is missing most of its spinach component; alas, quadrupling the mass of leafy greens would provided a toothy counterpoint to the perfectly crisp phyllo. Dolmades are dense and ricey, but don't approach the balance embodied by the hummus.

Koutouki Taverna on Urbanspoon

(Clockwise from top left) Dry ribs, Bacon-wrapped Shirmp, and Chicken Quesedilla.

Another mass migration across the street finds the group at Creations, the capacious and all-things-Canadiana-inspired dining room in the Sawridge Inn. Presentation is artistic as the dining room itself: a wafer-thin circle of watermelon radish, a lightning bolt-shaped carrot stick, and a cross-section of starfruit are but a few of the plate's dressings. A Chicken Quesedilla is pleasantly cheesy and surprisingly spicy, if not particularly memorable. Bacon-wrapped shrimp works better in theory than in practice; the shrimp underneath is choked by thick batter. Dry ribs are rather delightful in that they are juicy and meaty, rather than the ultra-dry and flavourless nubs so commonly flogged on menus.

Creations Dining Room and Lounge on Urbanspoon

All the flavours of Hawaii jam-packed into a pie.

The Century Grill is our final destination. This rock-n-roll-meets-classy room is swinging and the night is still young. Century's dessert - Hawaii 5-0 - is brilliant and memorable. Sinfully flaky pastry lovingly enrobes chucks of  fresh pineapple, toasted cashew struesel, all of which is ravished by a slowly melting orb of coconut gelato. Not even a crumb remains when all is said and done.

Century Grill on Urbanspoon

Thank you, Gemma, for the opportunity to attend. I must profess that walking around Southgate wouldn't be my primary mode of transportation, given the plethora of roads and paucity of crosswalks. Bravery is rewarded, though, for those who dine where few dare to tread.


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