Passion for Pork Week: Cafe De Ville & Niche
It had been a couple years since Robyn and I last visited Cafe DeVille, so we were anxious to see if it was as good as we remembered.
If I can base it on the 2 dishes we tried, it is.
On arrival, we were greeted with a warm basket of croissants. Super buttery with a hint of cinnamon, and just as mouthwatering as I remembered.
Since we were visiting during Passion for Pork week, where local restaurants create specials using delicious Alberta Pork, I decided to partake in those specials.
I ordered the Irvings Farm Bourbon maple pan seared pork tenderloin, sauteed apple, acorn squash puree, herbed green beans, and spaetzle. Wow, that’s a mouthful. Thankfully, the portion was even more than a mouthful.
I am a huge fan of Irvings Farm pork, so not surprisingly I enjoyed this dish. The pork was just a touch pink, and beautifully moist. The apple was slightly caramelized and so delicious. The most surprising thing about the dish though, was that the bourbon maple sauce actually tasted like…. gasp…. bourbon and maple! So often these type of sauces turn into one big indecipherable flavour, but the flavours were easy to identify here.
Sticking with the whole “Passion for Pork” theme, Robyn went for the pizza topped with boar bacon and mushrooms. I have to say, we were both quite surprised just how good this was. I like both thick and thin crust pizzas, and Robyn mostly sticks to thin crust, but this was somewhere in the middle. We both loved it. Not to mention the dough was laced with delicious herbs, and topped with a roma and garlic basil paste, fontina, asiago, provolone, and grana padano cheeses. Seriously, this is now one of my favourite pizzas in Edmonton.
For dessert, we decided to share the Chocolate Bacon Cayenne Creme Brule. Garnished with a huge piece of chocolate covered bacon, it was a delight to crack that crusty sugar crust. The creme under all that sugar was chocolatey, creamy and rich, with just a touch of smokey bacon flavour and a nice kick from the cayenne. Maybe the best I’ve had. Unfortunately there were also chunks of chewy bacon mixed into the creme, which we found very unappealing and destroyed that luxurious creamy texture that you look forward to when you order a creme brule. Since we already had a bit of bacon flavour in the creme, plus the big bacon garnish, I think this dessert would have benefitted greatly from stopping at that.
The next night, we wandered down to the other end of the Oliver neighbourhood to check out dinner at Niche.
Again, I decided on Passion for Pork week specials, starting with the Proscuitto Pea soup with bacon popcorn garnish. The soup was garnished with a Vanilla Cinnamon foam. Neither Robyn or I could detect the vanilla or cinnamon flavours in the foam, nor could we taste any trace of the aforementioned proscuitto in the soup. The bacon flavoured popcorn was also decidedly absent of the pork factor, and while there were a couple popped kernels, it was mostly just the half popped hard dregs you usually throw out at the bottom of your popcorn bag. I’m a little confused why you would bother serving those, as they were basically inedible.
The soup itself had a delicious, summery fresh pea flavour. If it was billed as such, I’d say it hit the mark perfectly. However, promoting it as a dish hi-lighting Alberta Pork just doesn’t make sense to me.
Robyn was craving pasta for her main, and since we had some great pasta at Niche a year or 2 ago we were both anxious for another taste. When her Truffle Mushroom Ravioli with pine nut puree and pecorino cream sauce hit the table the aroma had us both salivating. The taste didn’t disappoint either. The filling had a great texture that paired perfectly with the saltiness of the cheesy cream sauce. I did find the portion size smaller that I would expect for a $22 main dish, but that’s a bit more forgivable given how tasty it was. Without a doubt the best dish we had that night.
Unfortunately the theme of big price/ small portion continued with my entree. I order the pork week special, which was a Smoked Pork Belly, with Whiskey Demi, Pomme Annas, Golden Beets, and Thyme Tea Cloud. Being September, the in-season vegetables should have been bright and vibrant, but instead were dull and lifeless. The Pomme Annas however were spectacular. The melt-in-your-mouth potatoes were deliciously buttery, and easily the tastiest part of the dish. The pork belly itself was cooked well, but could have used a bigger punch of flavour, as I found it a little bit bland. Considering it’s hefty $32 price tag I was expecting a more memorable, not to mention more filling dish.
We ended the night with a strange service quirk, whereby our server upon noticing we were using a gift certificate for a portion of our bill felt it necessary to stress to us that we are to tip her based on the entire amount of the bill, and not just the remaining balance after the gift certificate is used. I can’t say I ever remember being verbally reminded to make sure I tip enough.
If you had asked me before hand which of the 2 restaurants I expected to be wow’d by, and which I thought may be a let down I would have picked Niche to impress. I was surprised to find just the opposite.
The Passion for Pork week runs through the 16th, so I urge you to check out one of the 14 participating restaurants and enjoy some Alberta’s delicious pork.