The interior of Rebel Food and Drink is shiny and new, the location is one of the most desirable in Edmonton, and the owner, Chris Lachance of the Century Hospitality Group, is no stranger to the culinary landscape.
He’s been at this for almost two decades and has six other restaurants in the CHG fold.
So, how could a dining experience at his newest restaurant go so terribly wrong?
Rebel opened in the location where Piccolino Bistro, a neighbourhood favourite, operated for more than 15 years, until it closed in July 2017 because of a roach infestation.
The Century Hospitality Group took over and did a complete renovation of the space to open Rebel six month later.
‘A plate of greyish beige meat’
Rebel’s offerings, save for four salads, are carb and calorie-laden, which seems to be the way of new restaurants on the Edmonton food scene this year.
Deep-fried cheese balls, wings, lasagna, chicken and waffles, burger, grilled cheese, ice cream sundaes and a four-layer white cake covered in frosting and fruit loops are some of the heavyweight options.
The service on my first official visit this month was exceptional. Our server, Jordan, was bright-eyed, energetic and pleasant. Any lack of knowledge was quickly remedied by her making a trip to the kitchen to speak to the chef.
Unfortunately, the chef and the entire kitchen staff let her down in every way possible.
Despite its grotesque appearance I managed a bite, although I struggled to swallow it. – Twyla Campbell
It started with the wagyu carpaccio, which should be an enticing arrangement of raw rich beef drizzled with lemon juice or vinegar and oil and shavings of Parmesan or pecorino cheese.
What was delivered was a plate of greyish beige meat topped with an overcooked egg and flanked by outrageously salty, over-oiled arugula.
The colour of the meat, we were told, was because it was wagyu, and that’s how wagyu looks because of all that marbling and how its raised, explained the chef.
Wagyu, which translates to Japanese cow in English, or any beef, really does not in fact look—or more importantly should not look — grey when presented as carpaccio (or in any style).
‘Dish was a disaster’
When asked where the wagyu comes from, the chef informed the server it came from GFS, which is technically correct, I suppose. But I was hoping for the name of the farm and not the grocery distributor that delivers the meat along with other supplies for the kitchen.
The dish was a disaster, plain and simple, and despite its grotesque appearance I managed a bite, although I struggled to swallow it.
It was difficult to decipher what exactly was in the seafood mixture. The overworked red-hued mush tasted of salt and chilies, and not much else. At $19 for three mini sourdough rolls, that’s a hefty price for an appetizer, especially an unsatisfying one.
We lost any faith after that for our mains to save the experience, and we were right.
Against my own better judgment, I went with the gnocchi that came in a large bowl with sautéed wild mushrooms, tomatoes, more arugula, and herbs.
I managed to spear and eventually chew through two of the eraser-like dumplings before giving up and sending it, like the carpaccio, back to the kitchen.
In defeat, I settled on a piece of my dining companion’s Margherita pizza that she was gladly willing to give up. I could hardly blame her; the dough was of uniform circumference, colour, and thickness, which made it look more store-bought than made in house.
It lacked flavour and was topped with a boring sauce, bland cheese but a generous amount of fresh basil which, with nothing to balance or contrast, resulted in a primarily overly sharp flavour of peppery anise.
It is the type of pizza (minus the fresh basil) you would feed to a fussy child in a food court.
Small reprieve in burger bites
The description of two ground chuck patties, topped with classic American cheese, “all the groceries,” plus caramelized onions and mayo on a brioche bun made the CHZ BRGR sound too enticing to resist.
Even as I was struggling to swallow grey meat and rubber gnocchi, I convinced myself to return the next day to give Rebel one more chance.
I was surprised as anyone, then, that it turned out to be a seriously good burger.
The meat wasn’t over-ground or over-salted and even though it was cooked to well past medium, still retained a respectable amount of juice and flavour.
Two thick patties and all the toppings made for a hefty burger, and it, along with a bowl of rich and velvety chicken chowder, had me walking out of there thinking there might be hope, after all, for this restaurant.
If you go, I suggest dining on a Wednesday night when wine by the glass or bottle is half price to help make the experience (if you choose to eat) a bit easier to swallow.
Rebel Food and Drink is located at 9112 142th St.
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.