Elegant and genuine: Bar Clementine

Quinquina, Génépy and Becherovka may not be household names yet, but if the folks at Clementine keep serving as many drinks as they have in their first nine days of business, it won’t be long before Edmontonians incorporate these names into their culinary lexicon.

Jasper Avenue bar is unpretentious with exquisite food

Bar Clementine's glazed Alberta lamb shank with white beans and roasted tomatoes are a great combination of flavours. (Twyla Campbell/CBC)

You may need your smartphone at the ready when it comes to researching ingredients used at Bar Clementine, a new cocktail-focused eatery at the base of the Pearl Condominium tower on Jasper Avenue.

Quinquina, Génépy and Becherovka may not be household names yet, but if the folks at Clementine keep serving as many drinks as they have in their first nine days of business, it won't be long before Edmontonians incorporate these names into their culinary lexicon.

Since the doors opened on Sept. 15, Andrew Borley, Jordan Clemens and Evan Watson haven't stopped stirring, shaking and serving spirited concoctions like the Assam, a cognac-based cocktail laced with masala chai, Bénédictine, vermouth and amaro, or the Provence, a heady mixture of gin, rosemary, lemon and frothy egg whites.

You can find a well-made gin and tonic or a martini here, but it's the proprietary cocktails that you want to sample. The intended result is to have the patron experience with a sense of place: an alpine meadow, a café in Paris or a Caribbean island.

Menu is thoughtful, delicious

There is thoughtfulness in everything at Clementine: William Morris wallpaper, audio tracks of literary classics looping in elegantly appointed washrooms and nattily-dressed bartenders sporting horn-rimmed glasses and bowties.

The food is as commendable as the drink and the design. The creative genius of Roger Letourneau is front and centre here but he has a strong team at his side with Chris Szelagiewicz and Ashley Brandin.

The trio has culinary depth to spare, having returned to Edmonton after traveling through Europe working in high-end restaurants and learning about food culture at its very roots — from farmers in the field.  

Letourneau's concise menu features bar snacks, seven small plates and two entrees.

The deep-fried marrowfat peas are much improved since my first visit. This time around, they have perfect measurements of salt, horseradish and chili pepper, and offer the right amount of chewy resistance with enough slow-building heat and saltiness to have the desired effect — to make me want more.

The cheese dish looks more like a salad than a cheese plate. Layers of preserved lemon-dressed black kale are topped with a nutty raw milk cheese called Alpindon, sliced so thin, it's almost transparent. A crushed, mixed seed biscuit is scattered on top. It's a dish packed with flavour, interest and texture.

The Alpindon cheese, black kale, preserved lemons and biscuit dish is packed with flavour. (Phil Wilson)

The sourdough rye pancakes are served with a roasted, sweet and salty ham known as jambon de Paris in France and prepared by Jeff Senger of Sangudo Meats.

The spicy sambal condiment, made in-house, enlivens the mix and a nest of finely-shredded cabbage lends a cool crunch to a surprisingly hefty dish. The chef admits that a change of flour is in the works as the pancakes at present are denser than they should be.

The smoked Four Whistle duck breast arrives perfectly cooked and tender beyond belief. The cherry notes derive from the marinade made of crushed cherry pits macerated in a neutral spirit. The accompanying squash takes second place to the leeks cooked in duck fat. If these leeks appeared as a stand-alone menu item, I'd return just for that.

The luscious lamb shank is glazed with a sorghum malted syrup resulting in a sweet hoisin flavour with every bite. The white beans could benefit from a longer cooking time but the amalgamated flavour of meat, bean and roasted tomatoes in fermented tomato water is a wonderful union.

Expect the menu to change depending on availability of ingredients, the season, and the moods of the chefs. Bar Clementine seats 36, no reservations, no pretentiousness.

Location: 11957 Jasper Avenue. Hours: 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., Tuesday to Saturday.

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.