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Monday, 8 December 2014

Winds of Change at Enzo's on 76

The joyous discovery of Enzo's on 76 restored faith that the neighbourhood eatery was alive and well, feet firmly planted, head helt high, with strong arms stirring a cauldron of bubbling marinara. Enzo's had no need for a trendy street to call home, and that was part of its appeal; good food requires no fixed address. The restaurant's namesake rotated constantly from kitchen to front of house. Enzo and his warmly-lit space were meant for each other. Change blew through the doors - in my eyes - inexplicably. Word on the street is that Enzo is focusing on his take-out place in Sherwood Park. Front of house and kitchen staff are all different now, and though this unto and of itself is not bad or wrong, memories tied to this specific location still search for each other like a favourite hat waiting to be hung on a well-crafted coat hook.

Little has changed in the restaurant, esthetically speaking. Photographs of food have been replaced with vaguely Van Gogh-ish oil paintings, and a top-forty soundtrack in the background neither offends nor pleases. A plate of freshly sliced bread arrives with a small bowl of rosemary-infused olive oil. Not the garlic-infused oil and balsamic that Enzo used to serve, but it is headily fragrant and undeniably delicious.

Two mains - one the evening's special and the other a la carte - are a study in contrasts. Lobster Mac and Cheese (left) proffers ample lobster in a deceptively deep bowl of rigatoni. Promises of truffle oil don't quite shine through the rich cheese sauce, but the summation is still one of decadence and comfort. Pan-seared Arctic Char (right) is a treat and begs the question of why overexposed salmon gets more air time. Crunchy, sesam seed-encrusted skin protects moist myomeres that, in turn, shelter a vibrant and grassy green pea puree. Agreeable mixed vegetables are along for the ride, but this dish belongs unequivocally to the char.

Dessert, as the evening winds to a close, includes a Cappuccino Semifreddo (left) and Flourless Chocolate Cake (right). Each is decked out with miniature gingerbread men for the holidays, and the semifreddo is gifted a crunchy gingerbread tree. The semifreddo is nutty, chilly, and creamy without being too rich, but the chocolate cake is a contradiction of very heavy cake paired with vexingly sticky caramel popcorn, without much (apart from a valiant scoop of gelato) to marry the two.

The winds of change have indeed blown through Enzo's doors, and it is difficult to think of the restaurants in terms other than "before" and "after." Even though the food remains delicious, I cannot help but wonder the whereabouts of the eatery's eponymous, original chef, and hope that his spark, zest, and ability to restore faith in the very existence of neighbourhood restaurants is well-received in Sherwood Park.

Enzo's on 76 on Urbanspoon


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