Stay for the appetizers but skip the entrées. Packrat Louie is suffering an identity crisis on price point and wow factor when it comes to towing the line as a fine dining establishment for dinner.
Each appetizer was an absolute hit for our table of four. The jumbo Prawns Louie wrapped in proscuitto ($17), the Duck Carpaccio ($14), the Pan Seared Calamari ($13), and the panko-crusted Crab Cake ($13) – each artfully presented with a delightful balance of flavour and texture. My crab cake was a stocky little fellow with a crispy crust and rich blue crab filling, all adorned with crunchy pea shoots. Delicious and just enough to satisfy.
This is where we should have all stopped, had dessert and called it a night. Instead, we went on to our entrees which were disappointing after the tease of those dandy appetizers. We chose the Scallops & Prawns ($32), Rack of Venison ($40), Alberta Whitefish ($26) and the Arctic Char ($28). The food was simple and seasoned properly, but it lacked zing, zip, surprise, and “oh my God, you have to taste this!” For the price tag, I wanted to experience a total wow factor.
Packrat has a standard dessert menu of toffee, lemon, chocolate, carrot and a daily special crème brulée for $8 a piece. All nicely executed, with one stand alone worth mentioning: the Toblerone Chocolate Marquis topped by house-made sponge toffee. The dense mousse slab will melt the heart of chocolate lovers and is nicely chased by the lemon tart (but don’t bother with the shortbread crust on that one).
A step away from trendy Whyte Ave, Packrat wins with their fashionable brick walls and mandatory open kitchen concept. I thought the use of wine corks in décor had come and gone, but that’s easily forgivable. The hostesses are charming, the servers, satisfactory. The place is a bit drafty, especially if you’re seated alongside a window, and the weather happens to dip to -25 C. The kraft paper covering the more formal table cloths is a twist, and serves as receptacle for the dessert menu “stamp” the server brings at the end of the night.
Side note I: The zippy olive tapenade that came with my whitefish would have been a welcome offer with the bread basket over the typical garlic butter.
Side note II: Packrat’s pull away from fine dining includes the pizza section of their dinner menu. Granted, the pizzas are wood-fired and read absolutely scrumptiously on the menu, but if you arrived for “fine dining” for say, a dinner with your boss and clients – would you choose pizza? Perhaps this is their tagline claim of fine dining – redefined?
Side note III: Packrat’s servers and chefs are incredibly accommodating to substitutions and dietary requests. If you know their menu well you can switch up your side dishes for all of your favourites at the blink of an eye and with no extra costs.
Celebrity sighting: Jennifer Crosby from the morning news on Global Edmonton.
Curious as to the fine dining conundrum (it just doesn’t fit) I checked out their lunch menu online. There’s a menu that makes sense, and should be transferred – prices included – to dinner time. Wish I would’ve come for lunch instead. End message, Packrat, don’t take yourself too seriously with your redefinition of fine.
10335 83 Ave NW, Edmonton, AB T6E 5C3