First Visit to RED OX INN

Even before I moved to Edmonton, I had heard nothing but positive reviews about Red Ox Inn’s food and service. People I knew, food-lovers or not all seemed to rave about Red Ox being THE best fine-dining restaurant in Edmonton. So when D and I made dinner reservations we were really excited to finally be able to try this restaurant.
Red Ox Inn is nestled in the neighbourhood of Strathearn in a quaint stripmall. I had actually stumbled across Red Ox by accident the week before, attempting to show my family around Edmonton and ending up driving around aimlessly (feeling lost most of the time is just one of the joys of moving to a new city). It seemed to me like a strange location for such a popular restaurant as the neighbourhood looked quite residential, and I made a mental note so as not to get lost for our upcoming dinner.
Walking in at 6:15 the restaurant was only about half full, but as we were there for Fork Fest the place filled up quite quickly. Right away the atmosphere in the restaurant reminded me of a revived Victorian men’s reading room with its black leathery booths, the mahogany-coloured wood tables and chair frames, and the black iron-looking clock.  There is one booth tucked away in the corner and I made a mental note to request that table if I ever needed to book a slightly more private spot for a meal.
The Fork Fest offer was $45 for 3 courses which is a great deal and we thought it would be a good time to give Red Ox Inn a try. As if the price wasn’t a big enough draw, instead of a set menu diners could choose from the regular menu for Fork Fest. Benefits were obvious for us – try the regular items and get a truer reflection of Red Ox’s food but for a lower price.

Crab Cake

We started off with the Grilled Prawns and the Crab Cake. The crab cake itself was good – there was a lot of crab, it was meaty, seasoned well, with very little filler. If it was just the crab cake & pistachio aioli, I would have been happy – I didn’t think the beet sauce and cucumbers added anything to the dish and felt the crab cakes were in fact drowned by the amount of beet sauce on the plate.

Onto the Grilled Prawns. The prawn itself was cooked very well and the wonton was AMAZING! It was extremely flavourful and crispy. In fact a big bowl of these with the spicy chipotle sauce and I’d be in deep fried heaven. The one thing that stopped this dish from being a knock-out for me was the seasoning of the prawns – the spice used was quite strong and masked the sweet prawn flavour. I like dishes that are put together to showcase and enhance the natural flavours of the main ingredient.

Grilled Prawns with Crispy Corn Wonton

Peppered Irvings Farm Berkshire Pork

For our mains, I had ordered the Duck and D had ordered the Pork as we both love Irvings Farm berkshire pork. Both dishes looked quite impressive when they arrived and we were very excited to dig in. With the first bite both dishes were quite good. The house made gnocchi accompanying the pork was great with a good fluffy texture. On the second bite of the pork, I thought the meat was a bit overcooked and we both felt the seasoning was quite heavy, we couldn’t pin-point exactly what the spices were but it wasn’t just pepper. D thought the flavours were pleasant enough to keep on eating but as he ate more and more of the pork, the seasoning started to overpower his sense of taste to a point where we really couldn’t taste anything else on that plate. Although with so much sauce on the plate, I will say it prevented the overcooked pork from being too dry.

Grilled Duck Breast

The duck was cooked perfectly at a medium rare. Although not as overpowering as the pork seasoning, I did find as I ate more of the duck the balsamic cherry sauce started to become too sweet and I didn’t think the duck really needed so much of the sauce. The risotto that accompanied the dish was ok, I ate most of it but wasn’t compelled to finish the plate. The vegetables were cooked well for my taste – cooked through but still a bit firm.

Coconut & Vanilla Panna Cotta

For dessert we had the Coconut & Vanilla Panna Cotta and the Warm Chocolate Cake. The Panna Cotta was yummy with lots of vanilla beans & coconut flavour. It reminded me of the Chinese jelly coconut cubes, the kind that you can get at dim sum only elevated and with a silkier texture.

Warm Chocolate Cake

You can’t really go wrong with the standard dessert of warm chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream. Well I take that comment back, I have had warm chocolate cake done really wrong. The one at Red Ox was made it well.

THE VERDICT: Every dish we ate had good potential and was for the most part done well and looked beautiful (my iPhone pics don’t do it justice), but several dishes lacked the restraint to take it to the next level as a stand-out or even memorable dish.

Our service throughout the night was pleasant – the server was cordial, answered questions when we asked (ex. recommendations for dishes to order). He checked in with us between most courses and topped up our water appropriately. But as with the food, there wasn’t anything extraordinary or memorable about the service.

So overall our experience at Red Ox Inn could be summed up as, “uneventful” – it was good but not memorable or great. When we relay this feedback to our friends and acquaintances, we’ve been met mostly with shock and I have to say that I’m personally knocked flat on my butt with shock that we didn’t have the spectacular experience we’ve been hearing about. We did hear from a few sources after our visit that we should have had the goat cheese salad and the bread pudding. Also that Red Ox is currently in the process of transitioning a new Chef. Our first visit to Red Ox Inn may not have wow’ed me but it was good enough that we would give them another try… perhaps a few months from now, when the new chef has fully transitioned and we’ll be sure to have the goat cheese salad.

Red Ox Inn on Urbanspoon

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3 Comments on “First Visit to RED OX INN”

  1. August 11, 2011 at 5:28 pm #

    Hi Carmen,
    Your first post just appeared on Urbanspoon! Check it out:
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  2. sajida
    March 11, 2012 at 10:52 am #

    I also have to agree with your experience. I was expecting a lot for the Red ox Inn, mostly because everyone told me how fantastic it was . It was good but not as good as I thought it would be. Perhaps because I had such high expectations. I also was not blown away by the atmosphere. although quaint it wasnt as cozy and romantic as I had expected.

    • March 11, 2012 at 1:24 pm #

      I agree – felt like the menu was a template from all other fine dining restaurants in the Pacific Northwest – 1 steak dish, 1 pork belly dish, 1 game dish, 1 seafood dish with familiar yet un-original accompaniments. The meal we had was good but we had phenomenal expectations. Will go back again sometime since it gets such rave reviews but not hurrying back.

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