FOOD REVIEW

Uncomplicated, classic comfort food at Pip

There’s no big secret: the people at Pip understand that when it comes to food, simplicity, skilled execution, and quality ingredients go a long way in making people want to return for more.

Welcome to the elegant little sister to Meat and Next Act

The eggs Benedict at Pip benefits from a "magnificent" hollandaise, says CBC Edmonton's food reviewer. (Twyla Campbell)

While the rest of Edmonton slept in on Family Day, a few of us headed to Pip in hopes of securing a spot in line for when the doors opened at 10 a.m.

Unbeknownst to us, the owners decided to fire up the kitchen an hour earlier than scheduled. By the time we arrived, the 28-seat room was half full.

The restaurant is the youngest sibling to Meat and The Next Act — same-block neighbours in Old Strathcona.

The doors opened in November and it's taken three months for the hype to ease up enough for me to see what all the fuss is about.

What could be so special about grilled cheese and roast chicken? I mean, big deal, right? 

There's no big secret: the people at Pip understand that when it comes to food, simplicity, skilled execution, and quality ingredients go a long way in making people want to return for more. 

For brunch, there's hardly a more quintessential offering than eggs Benedict, and yet this dish so rarely impresses.

The dill and lemon infused hollandaise sauce that covers the orange yolk eggs is magnificent. Also appreciated are the toasted rounds of baguette—a pleasant change from the (often) droll English muffins.
Pip is cute and uncomplicated, Twyla Campbell says. But watch out for a blast of cold air when someone opens the door. (Instagram/pip_yeg)

Those familiar with the Italian dish, eggs in purgatory, or the Middle Eastern/North African dish, shakshuka, will be happy to see eggs and bocconcini on Pip's menu.

The eggs and mozzarella cheese rounds are baked in a tangy house-made tomato sauce spiked with basil, and served with two slabs of grilled bread. 

More saucy tomato business is available in soup form topped with grilled cheese croutons as a stand-alone dish or side for the grilled ham and cheese.

Pip doesn't skimp on fillings. That sandwich is a hefty handful of shaved ham and aged cheddar piled between fresh baked, golden grilled bread.

You'll find lighter fare as well: avocado topped toast; a quinoa bowl; a trout salad sandwich, but on a nippy winter day, it's hard to see past things grilled, baked, or smothered in hollandaise.
Eggs and bocconcini are baked in a tangy tomato sauce spiked with basil. (Twyla Campbell)

The dinner menu kicks in around 4 p.m.

Some items like the ricotta on sourdough, a couple of salads, and that gorgeous tomato soup do carry over, but to match the understated elegance of the softly lit room, little bites like olives, cheese, and larger plates of roasted meats, pastas, and a seared trout are featured. 

Wine and fried cheese

Wine and fried cheese is a very civilized way to start and we dig into a golden slab of Spanish Manchego—salty, rich and hot, made even better with a dollop of sweet fig jam and lightly dressed arugula.
The grilled ham and cheese sandwich at Pip is "a hefty handful." (Twyla Campbell)

I hope we'll never see an end to pork belly — if it's roasted and served with apple, fennel and pickled red cabbage like it is at Pip.

Not that the method and presentation here is ground breaking, but maybe that's the point. Pip isn't re-inventing the wheel, or the pork belly because classic cooking will always appeal to the masses, and for good reason.

'Addicting if swallowed'

The roast chicken is a great example. Take a quality piece of bird, don't overcook it, accent the crispy skin with a hit of flaky sea salt. End result? Tender and delicious.

What takes the dish to the next level are the mashed potatoes and gravy, two items that should come with a warning label that states, "Addicting if swallowed." 

That label could apply to most of the menu, though — both brunch and dinner.

It could even apply to the room save for most noticeable flaw, the door. Even though a long curtain valiantly attempts to keep out the cold air, one can't help but get a blast every time that door swings open.

But despite how we feel right now as February's harshness hangs on with unwavering temerity, winter can't last forever, right? For now, try and sit as far away from that door as possible.

Maybe a bowl of that tomato soup will help keep you warm. The night I went for supper, a young couple next to me was sharing it over glasses of red wine. 

How cute, I thought, and uncomplicated. Like Pip.

Address: 10403 83rd Ave. Dinner reservations accepted; brunch is first come, first serve.

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.