I’ve lived in the same neighborhood since moving to Halifax, and Edna has been there just down the block for about the same amount of time.
For the 3 years and some months that this cheerful spot has been on the corner of Gottingen and Portland streets it has made it’s mark. In 2014 it made the En Route magazine’s prestigious Best New Restaurants in Canada lists, and locally it makes most any food lover’s word-of-mouth list.
After roughly 30 meals at Edna, I’m still going, and bringing in friends and family to eat, because Edna is a safe choice.
And safe doesn’t mean boring.
Edna’s menu is made up of local food, and is easy to read. You don’t have to guess which plates will be small, or big, or if you’ll leave starving; they lay it our for you, with equal amounts of appetizers and main courses.
The menu reads in a way that appeals to both the adventurous eater, and the not so adventurous. If I was to go in with my lovely mother, the lobster escabeche with house-made potato chip might be a bit intimidating, but being from the Maritimes she would easy imagine the taste of a spring vegetable hodgepodge. The balance of familiar to potentially unfamiliar is comforting.
The main courses are often that family dinner mix of meat, vegetable and starch, which now seems like a formula that is hard to find with restaurants increasingly offer small-plates. A pork chop with baby red potato and baby carrots is comfort food, but add the corn reduction, kohlrabi slaw and chives and suddenly it’s much more interesting than what mom used to make, but gives you that same good feeling.
When you walk in to bright white dining room, with beautiful floral arrangements, soft lighting and reclaimed wood, the clientele is a broad range of ages, and I’d even say there are more baby boomers and seniors in this restaurant than anywhere else in town. But, there are also stylish early-twenty-somethings, and professionals. This restaurant has mass appeal because of the balanced menu, and because it has been consistent in their delivery. Plates are always well seasoned and portioned.
All things are reasonably priced, especially the appetizers and features. Sometimes I find the mains a bit steep for the portion sizes, but only slightly.
Then there are the servers. It’s nice to walk into a restaurant, and see that the same group of people have been working there for years. They are familiar, courteous, quick and smiling. There’s no pretentious attitude with this team; they wear branded Edna t-shirts, they explain items when you don’t understand them and they all have that wholesome glow, like they all live in the country and weed their vegetable gardens on their days off.
Last week I ate at Edna with two friends, and we shared several dishes.
Market Salad: This is always on the menu and changes seasonally. At the moment it is greens with hazelnuts, grilled pear, shaved asiago, pickled ramp and charred lemon vinaigrette. I think this is my favourite salad I’ve had at Edna. I loved the caesar from older menus, but this incorporates fresh, pickled and rich elements. The charred lemon vinaigrette is tart and bright, but you can still taste the applied heat.
Mozzarella on Toast: Tangy, gooey fresh buffalo mozzarella from Quebec is placed on top of some oiled and grilled baguette, with chimichurri (herbs, garlic, spice and oil, made into a paste-like sauce.) Some of Edna’s best dishes are the most simple; they know when to not take it too far, and a cheese like that doesn’t need much fussing with. I eat more appetizers at Edna than anything else, and sometimes my meal is just a few apps.
Lobster Escabeche: This dish is served cool, with cooked pieces of lobster sitting in a marinade of citrus or acid and oil, along with spices. They serve it with crunchy, salty potato chips. A nice dish if you want something rich, but don’t want hot food in the summer. The dish temperature and acid keep it balanced.
Beef Carpaccio: This PEI Blue Dot beef is served raw, in thin slices and garnished with garlic scape pesto, pickled haskap berries and preserved egg yolk. This is also served cold and is so simple and refreshing. When raw beef is served so fresh it eats almost like sushi; it is fairly neutral and more about the meaty texture. The scape pesto is green and pungent, and the sweet but vinegary haskaps bring it all into balance.
Parisienne Gnocchi: These soft doughy bite-sized pillows are topped with green things galore; fresh shucked peas, sugar snap peas and snow peas. This is all tossed in brown butter and finished with asiago. The gnocchi and the peas are light and fresh, the salty butter and cheese round it out. As far as eating dumplings in the summer goes, these are the right choice. I still felt light, but full, and satisfied.