A waiter reaches over, flicks on a lighter and the crème brûlée on a nearby plate becomes illuminated in blue light. The light dances for a minute or two before extinguishing, creating a caramelized layer of burnt liqueur and a smell like that of sweet pastry, which fills a half of Murrieta’s Bar and Grill and lingers until the last bite.
The plate belongs to Craig Simpson, former Edmonton Oiler, current lead NHL analyst on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada and Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Simmer Fine Wine & Spirits, a company that is working with Murrieta’s to provide wines that pair well with a brand new menu created by chef Shane Chartrand.
It’s the first time a chef has had complete control over the menu at Murrieta’s. But with Chartrand’s experience, having worked as Red Seal chef at places like West Edmonton Mall's L2 Grill, he’s more than up for the challenge.
The crème brûlée changes daily and is probably the showiest item on the menu. But it marks the end of a meal that was full of creative dishes with local items.
“Sustainability is a must,” says 37-year-old Chartrand who uses locally sourced ingredients as much as possible, “but it’s also about doing things a little differently than you’d expect.”
Case in point, the tempura prawns, which make for a solid beginning. With a really light batter, the prawns are drizzled with a masago aioli, making for a creamy texture and a slight kick finished with sesame seeds.
Tempura prawns with a masago aioli have the perfect texture, with a kick of flavour.
My dinner companion, Avenue art director Susan Meingast, goes for the calamari, saying she judges a menu based on the classic dish — it has to have the right texture, the right crispiness, the right amount of spice. Her dish came sans lemon, but with chopped gremolata instead, a combination of lemon peel, garlic and parsley. The squid is soft, and contrasts the slight crunch of the batter which is the perfect match with the gremolata.
For my main, I opt for the Chicken Supreme, an applewood smoked piece of meat that comes paired with couscous, garlic, shallots and bits of bacon. The meat is tender and flavourful, while the couscous has a rich finish from a wine sauce.
The Chicken Supreme in a wine reduction paired with couscous.
The meal pairs well with both The Whip and The Spur, two showcase wines from the winery, Murrieta’s Wall. Both the restaurant and the vineyard are named for a legendary Mexican Robin Hood-like character, who robbed from the rich and gave to the poor so having wines named Whip and Spur seemed about right, says Brian Koshman, President of Simmer Fine Wine & Spirits.
It all comes full circle when we end the meal with the chocolate lava cake. The butterscotch gelato’s melting fast, but it doesn’t matter, the chocolate’s disappearing into our mouths equally quickly.
It's not over until the chocolate lava cake appears, paired with raspberry coulis and butterscotch gelato.