Atlas Steak + Fish brings the classic steakhouse back to Edmonton, a city whose residents still hold fresh the memories of Hy's Steakhouse on Rice Howard Way. Nostalgia is always a good hook when it comes to food.
The room is huge and masculine. Situated on the upper floor of the Grand Villa Casino attached to Rogers Place, it is a combination of old boys' club and Vegas glitz.
Crystal chandeliers, velvet drapes and deep-seated, curved booths provide a setting where one almost expects the Rat Pack to make an appearance. A pianist sits at the grand piano for a while until the DJ takes over at 9 p.m. with pulsing techno beats.
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There are two menus available: dinner and lunch, with some items making appearances on each. Executive chef Shelley Robinson oversees both but is allowed more creative licence on the lunch roster. She is an accomplished chef and winner of Chopped Canada Season 1, 2014, as well as a top-six finisher on Top Chef Canada.
Chef Robinson's spaghetti carbonara is as beautiful a thing to eat as it is on which to feast one's eyes. The pasta is cooked al dente and infused with garlic and olive oil. Seasoned expertly with salt and pepper, it comes twirled and topped with a soft poached egg and shavings of parmesan.
Lacklustre lobster, delectable dessert
The $25 lobster roll does not fare as well. The bun is wrong — plain and simple — and gets in the way of the lobster chunks which, on their own, hold a hint of the coconut lime marinade.
They are overshadowed by the dense bread and everything disappears including what should be some welcomed tang from pickles and bahn mi vegetables. A couple of dollops of lumpfish caviar are wasted on this already pricey dish.
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The buttermilk-fried cauliflower florets hit the mark: hot, crunchy, and coated in a jalapeno honey, a plate of these can be devoured on their own. It's a good side dish to note, and one that should appear on the dinner menu to replace the bland, brie-whipped mashed potatoes.
The saucy blue cheese gnocchi can stay; these hefty little pillows are filling though, and should be shared amongst two to four people.
Steaks are a safe bet here. The 16-ounce cowboy rib steak ($65) is big enough to share, but it comes so perfectly cooked and tasty that it's hard to give up even one bite to your dinner mates. There is a $120, 48-ounce tomahawk steak that, if your wallet allows, would be a better shareable option.
Classic desserts complete the steak house menu: bread pudding, and a crème brûlée ramped up with salted caramel and Bailey's Irish cream — a modification that works well.
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The dinner menu stays close to those of bygone steakhouses: prawn cocktail, caesar salad made tableside, oysters, lobster bisque, steaks of various sizes and cuts. But it's the more creative lunch menu that may suit Edmonton diners more.
Perhaps there is room for both concepts: nostalgia, and food that pushes the envelope. If so, I hope Robinson is encouraged to grab that envelope and rip it wide open with her very capable hands.
You can hear Campbell's reviews on Edmonton AM every second Friday. You can also see more of her reviews on her blog, Weird Wild and Wonderful, and can follow her on Twitter at @wanderwoman10.