In the sea of greige banality that is South Edmonton, the Mosaic Centre stands out like a beacon in the deep suburban night. The building, designed by the award-winning firm of Manasc Isaac, is the first net-zero commercial building in the country. The second floor sports working areas for business and conferences including a kitchen boardroom complete with patio and games area while the main floor is home to a daycare and the Workshop Eatery—a restaurant owned by Chef Paul Shufelt.
The former front man of the Century Hospitality Group did a fine job with what must have been an intimidating space. The restaurant fills with light thanks to massive windows facing south and ceilings nearing 20 feet high. With those windows and wood and wrought iron shelves, it does feel like a type of workshop, so if that’s where the name comes from, then there you have it.
Fans of Shufelt will have no problem following him to this new, gorgeous space and, perhaps now that he’s not anchored to the CHG mothership, he might attract new customers, especially those living nearby.
“Our focus at Workshop is to create seasonal fare, highlighting what’s fresh using ingredients from our region and our nation. While not all of our ingredients will be found in our backyard, when it’s the best choice we will choose to support local. While refined, our cuisine is handcrafted, approachable and unpretentious.” — Workshop website.
The fare is hearty and predictably prairie-ish for the most part: pork belly, burger, beets and barley, but then there are also nice surprises like an intriguing take on perogies—made with whole wheat and stuffed with ricotta and potato—and a sinful chicken liver parfait (have those word ever been uttered before?). I’m pleased to see him work with Alberta pickerel as well, probably one of the most under-used and underrated food coming from this province.
Edmonton certainly has room for another hip, hot cocktail spot and for people living in Summerside, this will be a suitable watering hole but the concoctions will have to be fine-tuned before they lure people away from popular downtown venues.
The Aperol-based My Oh My, despite its fresh squeezed juices and rooftop honey, was lacklustre. The Smoky Caesar, certainly lived up to its billing, but be forewarned: you have to be a fan Ardbegh Scotch, because with that heavily-peated whisky, you’ll be blowing smoke out of your nostrils with every sip. It was a strangely appealing Caesar.
Being that the restaurant is part of the Mosaic centre where environmental impact and carbon footprint are considered first and foremost, Shufelt has to be mindful of how he runs his business right from consideration of where the product comes from to how the product is disposed of. He makes good use of local producers and suppliers, all of which are listed on the menu.
We started with the Kimchi BBQ Pork Lettuce Wraps. Spiced pork loin is presented in a bowl topped with rice noodles, vegetables and peanuts. The lettuce leaves are used to hold the ingredients and you have two sauces to use as condiments: a spicy chili sauce to kick up the dish even more, or a cooling watercress yogurt to temper the heat. Overall, this dish was good, but messy; you’ll need extra napkins and not advisable for ‘first date food’.
The port/Saskatoon berry-topped chicken liver parfait surprised us all. Everything about this dish worked: ridiculously silky texture and salty-meets-sweet flavour; this is the dish that would make me return.
We can all thank Daniel Costa for introducing these deep-fried risotto balls to Edmonton and though I’ve tried them at a number of places in the capital city, only one restaurant gives Corso 32 a run for their money: Cibo Bistro in Oliver. The arancini at Workshop, like other arancini in Edmonton, were heavy, dry and unremarkable in flavour.
The Rueben sandwich, though, was the complete opposite.
Bon Ton Bakery rye bread holds a stack of thinly sliced, juicy beef that hits the slicer after a 10-day process of brining, rubbing, and smoking. House-made condiments and Sylvan Star Gruyere make this one very satisfying Rueben.
A good perogy in this city is hard to find (just ask fellow food snoop, Baconhound). I like what Shufelt does here with the not-so-standard filling of potato and ricotta cheese plus topping the dumplings with leeks and mushrooms. The stiffer whole wheat dough is the only thing stopping these perogies from bumping my baba’s recipe off the trophy shelf.
The prize for ‘pretty’ goes to the organic (perfectly cooked) Chinook salmon dish, and even better, the dish tasted as good as it looked.
Don’t be put off by beet risotto; the miso beurre blanc tempered the typical earthiness of the beets resulting in a beautifully balanced entree.
Four desserts are offered and all feature components of that ‘mom’s pantry-meets big city chic’ vibe going on. Faced with Workshop Honey & Yoghurt Panna Cotta, Chocolate Fondant, Warm Apple Crisp, and Croissant Bread Pudding as our choices, it was the bread pudding that made the cut. Creamy, rich, tart, warm, sweet: it was everything right and holy in one dish.
My experience, overall, was pleasing enough to keep Workshop in mind should I find myself in the area or when needing food before or after a flight; it takes 10 minutes to drive to the airport.
Listen to my CBC Edmonton AM review here.
Workshop Eatery is located at 2003 – 91 Street SW, Edmonton. (Note: the SW is the important part – make sure you select SW and not NW when using your GPS.)