For the second year running, Brad Lazarenko has turned the seasonally shuttered Victoria Golf Clubhouse into the intimately charming Dogwood Café.
The front man of Edmonton's Culina restaurants is in his element here in this 1970s contemporary structure that exudes a Ron Burgundy/ski chalet vibe.
Lazarenko has always been an ardent supporter of good, fair food producers, and he continues to list his suppliers on this menu: Bonjour Bakery, Fuge Fine Meats, St. Basil's Church, Winding Road Artisan Cheese, Sparrow's Nest Organic Farm.
The special feature on the night I dined was free-range pork from Bear and the Flower near Balzac.
This chef has nothing to prove. He offers no nouveau cuisine and no peacockery to impress a sect or make a list.
Return to the classics
What he offers at the Dogwood Café on River Valley Road is a 'Return to Classics' dinner menu featuring time-honoured dishes like shrimp cocktail, French onion soup, beef brisket, cheese fondue, and crème brulee and apple crisp for dessert.
The Nordic brunch on Saturdays and Sundays has no-muss, no-fuss favourites like eggs Benedict, French toast, omelettes, soups and sandwiches. The offerings may be considered simple but the quality, as always, is a notch above the competition.
On a moonlit Friday night, our group sat window-side affording a lovely view of the snow-covered golf course.
Ella Fitzgerald and Sara Vaughan crooned overhead while we washed down sizzling hot pomme frites with way-too-approachable rum-laced cocktails called Casablancas.
The rum eased the difficulty in choosing a main dish. When every item screams "comfort food," you take help where you can get it.
The Yorkshire pudding was the deciding factor in opting for the roast beef brisket; the feature dish of pork chop and bean cassoulet secured choice number two, and two of us had to share the cheese fondue because when you're sitting in a Ron Burgundy-esque ski chalet, that choice should be obvious.
The fondue did not disappoint. A vintage pot arrived with a blend of two bubbling hot Winding Road cheeses: the nutty Josef (named after the cheesemaker's grandfather) and the creamy German butter cheese. The melted mix was a match made in heaven for the chewy chunks of baguette. Alternating sweet grapes and berries with each salty bite made it even better.
Pork chop stole the show
As ardent a fan I am of a nicely roasted brisket — and this brisket was divine — the pork chop stole the protein show.
Not sure if credit should be given to the farmers who raise this unique cross of pig, or to the chef for perfectly seasoning and cooking it … probably to both; that pork chop was tops. And, despite being thicker than any pork chop I've ever seen, it remained juicy and tender throughout.
A small but intelligent wine list was made even better by pricing every bottle at $29. A gorgeous crème brûlée, a warm apple crisp and flawless service made the dining experience almost perfect. The only thing missing? A fireplace. Mind you, if there was one, I may never leave.
The Dogwood Café is located at 12130 River Valley Road. Reservations can be made at https://www.culinafamily.com