Ampersand 27

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People: 3

Type: A La Carte

Price: $136.45 CAD (Tip Included)

Verdict: Skip

                 We found ourselves on a tuesday night trying to figure out where to go for dinner. Turns out, none of us had been to Ampersand 27 and next thing I knew, everybody was in my car driving down to Whyte Avenue to give this local restaurant a chance. I really wish we had instead stayed at home and just ordered in. I had made reservations ahead of time and we were seated immediately but even at 6:30 in the evening, the place was surprisingly empty. I wasn’t there when we got seated at a table but apparently the guy doing the seating didn’t greet anybody or really acknowledge them in any way. The inside of the restaurant looked sophisticated and the area was well lit. We also were able to sit close to the front windows and were able to look out onto Whyte and observe the mayhem that it usually is. That look out into the world, added into the ambiance of the restaurant and helped elevate it as this living, breathing thing. This, unfortunately, would be one of the few highlights of our night.

Charcuterie Board Options

Service

                 As stated earlier, walking in the door the service was subpar. The reason was obvious soon enough as it seemed like there was only one waitress for the entire restaurant. They had one of the line cooks or the dishwasher helping (the person who seated us) and eventually another guy that was running orders from the kitchen to the tables, but ultimately she was the one taking orders and checking in on everybody. They were very obviously short-staffed and as a result, the service suffered immensely. I will lay zero blame on the one waitress and the two guys helping her as this is 100% the owner’s shortcoming. I know everybody likes to think that waiters and waitresses are unskilled but it was very obvious when we weren’t being served by one. It’s the restaurant’s responsibility to ensure that customers aren’t affected by employee shortages and when we are, it’s their responsibility to rectify it better than they did. I understand having an off night or being hit by multiple call-outs in a day. But quite frankly as a consumer, none of this is my problem and reading through past customers’ experiences it seems to be the norm at Ampersand 27.

Appetizers

Charcuterie Board ($43.00)

Bresaola, Chorizo, Brie Cendre Des Pres, Kaltbach Gruyere, Goat Gouda, Dill Pickles, Large House-Baked Sourdough

                 The best part of our night came in the form of something the kitchen didn’t need to cook, which should tell you of how everything else went. The board is a DIY with its own menu and everything we put was great. The cheese tasted fresh and distinct from each other and really highlighted the varieties they come in. Sourdough was well-baked, if a little expensive. Best thing on the board was the dijon mustard, putting that along with ANY combination on the sourdough went well. It wasn’t so bitter that it stuck in the back of my throat like regular dijon does (I’m not a fan of dijon mustard usually) so we ended up smothering it on everything. The cup of marinara sauce was pretty much untouched as the dijon served as a better accompaniment.

Black Garlic Gnocchi ($16.00)

Caramelized Onion, Mushrooms, Fire Roasted Leek, Heirloom Tomato, Béchamel Sauce

                 The presentation of the dish was average, I was really expecting the black garlic to be MORE noticable. However, if it wasn’t on the menu I wouldn’t have even known there was any black garlic in it. I assume it was used in the making of the gnocchi but because it has such a muted flavour to begin with, the black garlic gets completely lost with the other stronger flavours. The gnocchi could have looked more appetizing and I’m guessing the garlic was a contributing factor to the pieces looking like they had been fried too long. I guess because my expectation of what the dish should have looked like was so vastly different to what showed up, it completely ruined my perception of what I received. The gnocchi itself seemed unseasoned, it was like I was basically just eating mashed potatoes with no real indication that this was fresh-made pasta. The béchamel sauce was smooth and creamy which was a really good thing and the tomatoes and mushrooms tasted fantastic but when the centerpiece of the dish just doesn’t work, it ruins everything else on the plate.

Cast Iron Baked Mozza ($13.00)

Gull Valley Tomato Bruschetta, Mozzarella, Marinara, Sourdough

                 A well presented appetizer that delivered exactly what it promised. Extremely cheesy, with a cooling bruschetta that nicely contrasts the cheese by giving it some form. I thought there were only a couple minor issues here, one of them being (again) the lack of bread. The four pieces they provide aren’t nearly enough to get through the entire pan. The second issue is that it cools down much too fast and then starts sticking to the pan itself. Maybe leaving it on some type of open flame at the table would help with this situation but that might end up burning the cheese or the bruschetta so I’m not sure that’s a viable option. Although a little irritating, it didn’t affect the taste at all.

Mains

Smoked Salmon ($28.00)

Black Rice, Asparagus, Pickled Onion, Dill

                 Salmon was moist, well smoked, and had a really nice color to it. It’s extremely easy to dry out salmon, especially when smoked, but the kitchen did a great job in avoiding that. The rice provided a great juxtaposition to the red of the salmon. Unfortunately, the rice was under seasoned a tiny bit. Besides the wow factor, it didn’t really add much to the dish, but this is where the pickled onions came into play. They provided a nice sour-ness to the smokey taste of the salmon and definitely helped in consuming the meal. Lastly, the asparagus looked absolutely horrendous. They were overcooked, limp, and completely detracted from the salmon. WHY is the beautiful salmon being covered by the ugly asparagus? This could have been the best looking dish they had and instead it’s ruined by the terrible choice in plating. There were elements that I appreciated but in the end, the asking price is too much for me to consider ordering again. At this price, everything has to hit perfectly for the dish to be worth ordering.

Meatball & Pasta ($19.00)

Pork & Beef Sicilian Meatball, Pine Nuts, Spaghetti Pasta, Béchamel Sauce, Basil, Parmigiano Reggiano

                 The biggest disappointment of the night and the one to be sent back to the kitchen, barely touched. Two people had ordered this and both of them ended up not eating any. When the plates were brought to us both of my guests commented that they were expecting a red sauce (not knowing what béchamel is) and one of the guys explained that it was a bland type of sauce which is why they added the cheese to give it some flavour. I visibly recoiled at this as I wasn’t expecting someone giving us their food to describe anything on it as bland (bland being perceived as a negative description of a taste). As you can guess, this completely destroyed the other two diners’ expectations and as a result the entire dish tasted off from that point. The meatballs were under seasoned whereas everything else was over seasoned. The smell, and taste, of peppercorn was abundant and throws the balance of the pasta off completely. To their credit, both of the ones we ordered were taken off our bill so kudos to them for taking the feedback in stride and attempting to rectify it.

Final Thoughts

                 Ampersand 27 is a fun attempt at crossing casual with fine dining that unfortunately falls short of the mark. I appreciated the focus of the small menu and their attempt at trying new things but sometimes that all just doesn’t come together. I’m going to attribute this to being an off-night, even though other people’s past experiences say otherwise. While the charcuterie is a fantastic part of their menu, there are other better restaurants at similar or cheaper price points you can visit where you will be able to enjoy more of the menu, along with a charcuterie board. The price point is a little high for the experience and I feel I would have been more accepting of it’s shortcomings if it had not been as expensive as it was. If I’m paying a lot, I’m expecting a lot.

                 In fact, our experience was so not up to par that I didn’t even bother looking at the dessert menu. Anyone that has gone with me anywhere, I ALWAYS look at a dessert menu. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth but desserts tend to make great instagram pictures — in this situation though, I just wanted out. As always, I will give the restaurant a second shot before completely writing it off — however, if you’re looking for a place to celebrate a special occasion, I would suggest avoiding Ampersand 27 and instead going to one of the many other options we have available in Edmonton.

For pictures of food that I’m eating or sneak peeks into reviews I will be doing in the future, check out my instagram and don’t forget to follow for all future updates!

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