February 27, 2012

Holts Cafe

Holts Café
Second level, Manulife Place
10180 101 Street NW
Edmonton, AB T5J
(780) 425-5300

Situated on the second level of Manulife Place in Holt Renfrew, Edmonton's Holts Café is one of four locations across Canada. The interior is cozy & modern with light streaming in through a large window adjacent to the mall atrium (be sure to request a seat next to it in your reservation!) During the week, soup & sandwich specials change daily, and the menu varies seasonally. I wandered in (without a reservation) just before the noon-hour on a Friday and was seated promptly in the near-empty restaurant, but business picked up shortly thereafter.

Rutabaga & oka cheese soup
I started off with the rutabaga & oka cheese soup. Rutabaga and other root vegetables were pureed to create a perfect, slightly thickened consistency for the soup. A few large pieces of the oka cheese (a semi-soft and fairly pungent Canadian cheese) sat at the bottom and melted slightly. I would have preferred the cheese without the rind, and in smaller chunks that could blend a bit more with the soup.

Bison short ribs
Though I'd heard rumors of the slow service at Holts Cafe, my braised bison short ribs arrived within 15 minutes of ordering. The care and attention to detail was readily apparent in the beautiful presentation of the ribs, atop a mound of polenta and creamed spinach. The portion was generous and the ribs delicious, savory, tender & falling off the bone. While the spinach was a bit salty for my liking, the texture and flavor of the polenta complemented the ribs and toasted pine nut garnish very nicely.

Honey marascapone panna cotta
Garnished with a pomegranate reduction, whipped cream, and a gooseberry I truly ate with my eyes  as I took in the gorgeous presentation of the panna cotta. When I dug in, I found the panna cotta delightfully bright with orange zest, balancing the richness of the marascopone. The pomegranate reduction was not overly sweet, and offered nice contrast to the orange flavor. No trouble finishing this one.

The prices on the regular menu items can be steep, so to save some dough, keep an eye on the special board and pounce when the feature sounds especially appealing; however, if you're prepared to splurge or your boss is picking up the bill, the menu items I tried arrived promptly, were presented beautifully, and were quite tasty. Among the many options available to those searching for place for lunch downtown, Holts Cafe is classy, yet accessible, and succeeds in their efforts to focus on seasonal & local ingredients without neglecting flavor or presentation.

Restaurant website
Holt Renfrew Cafe on Urbanspoon

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