Edmonton·FOOD REVIEW

Eats at Writer's Room are oddly satisfying

Last week, I ate Spam, Kraft Dinner, and a deep-fried pickle in one sitting. Not sure if I should be boasting or repenting.

From Dorito-crusted pickles to lobster KD, menu doesn't shy away from the strange

The Writer's Room serves up a groaning board of guilty favourites and cheap cocktails. (Twyla Campbell)

Last week, I ate Spam, Kraft Dinner and a deep-fried pickle in one sitting.

Not sure if I should be boasting or repenting.

These were not shock-food offerings at a midway or festival. They are part of the regular menu offerings at The Writer's Room, a new place in the University area whose tagline reads, "A bar with surprisingly good food."

The chef behind the menu is culinary veteran, actor and comedian David Husereau.

He's the former owner of Jasper restaurants Tekarra and Evil Dave's, and creator of the YouTube series, I Can Teach You How to Make That.

Some might remember him from season 1 of Chopped Canada as the guy who whooped his way to the final round and then used a not-for-TV word when he lost.

Husereau does not hold back — in food or flare, even when he fails. This is a two-barrels-blazing kind of chef. You don't have to dig long or hard to find his larger-than-life personality busting out of video clips and articles.

It's no surprise, then, to find The Writer's Room menu is a direct expression of the man who built it — unique and creative, if not a little odd. 

The Dorito-crusted deep-fried pickle, quasi-spiralized and topped with "white trash ranch" is a good example. It's large enough for three people to get a taste — and really, a bite or two suffices. It's spicy, tangy and salty, as you might expect. 

If you haven't had Spam in a while, you might be pleasantly surprised how palatable it is when placed on sticky rice and wrapped in nori. This presentation, called musubi, is a popular Hawaiian snack and makes an appearance thanks to Husereau having lived in the Aloha State for five years. 

Those island influences also show themselves in the ahi poke (taco and bowl) and the loco moco— traditionally, a mound of rice topped with beef patty, fried egg and gravy. This is pure comfort food, spoiled somewhat by the overriding presence of nori that's added for extra oomph.

My preference would be to say no to the nori and risk the wrath of the chef, who adds his hashtag signature to a statement in the menu: "If you feel the need to alter your dishes' ingredients or preparation, please feel free to order a different dish. #Huse."
 
The addition of seafood to Kraft Dinner, on the other hand, is genius. 

A university student might not want to shell out $17 for Kraft Dinner, but I'm OK with that price because my order was loaded with chunks of lobster meat.

Pieces of sour pickle add texture and tang and a wafer of crispy prosciutto takes this mac n' cheese to a whole new level, one I'm sure the people at Kraft could never have imagined. Even hours later, when the leftover portion is reheated with a bit of water, the cheese sauce stays silky smooth and the lobster remains sweet and tender. 

This address has seen several restaurants and pubs put up shop between its walls over the years. Husereau and his business partner Stephen Sachse have given the space new life with light-coloured wood floors and marine blue walls with grey accents.

In the light-filled main area, or downstairs in the library, The Writer's Room is the kind of place where you can sit with a pint of beer while finishing a term paper.

Inspiration might appear after imbibing in a couple of Hemingway daiquiris or Kerouac pineapple margaritas, or maybe just basking in the presence of Angelou and Atwood, whose faces beam from oversized portraits. It might be all you need to write the next Canadian classic. 

At $8, cocktails are affordable but the taste reflects the price. Two of the three ordered tasted almost identical even though one was gin-based and the other was made with tequila.

The $11 martinis got my attention until I saw that the three on offer were made with either raspberry or orange-flavoured vodka. Call me a purist, but my martinis will never have fruit-flavoured anything in the mix. Alberta craft beer might be the safest choice for those of us with a bit more history under our belts.

In an area populated largely by post-millennials — to whom The Writer's Room will cater — there are still enough items on both drink and food menus to attract all age groups. 

If deep-fried pickles and hand-held Spam snacks don't turn your head, perhaps the beef carpaccio or the macadamia-crusted brie will. 

Find The Writer's Room at 11113 87th Ave.

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.

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