Dinner With Friends at The Common




The Common turns into a dance party on weekend nights but before people express themselves vertically they come to express it orally. The vintage chic resto-lounge has the kind of room that induces conversations with dim lighting, close-set tables and dishes — such as lamb hot dog and the beer-steamed mussels — that are conversation pieces in themselves.

With each drink (perhaps a lavender cocktail that’s as rich as dessert), you can hear the discussions and laughter increasing another couple of decibels. And that’s exactly what head chef Jesse Morrison-Gauthier wanted for his downtown lunch and dinner spot.

He told me restaurants in other cities that integrate nightlife culture into their operations inspired him. And, like the dance floor on the south wing of The Common (it’s split in three rooms), he wanted his plates to be accessible to all. You can see the influence on the spring menu: All desserts are celiac-friendly and some dishes reward kosher eaters an extra dollar if they order it sans pork.

Packrat Louie’s former sous chef told me that he enjoyed the “prestige” that came with cooking $50 entrees, “but I wanted to cook for my friends.” Which is why everything at the under-40 hotbed is also under $20, and why last night he invited his friends from Edmonton’s other kitchens to “Occupy Common.”

Jack's Grill chef Nathan Saurette's braised bulgogi beef cheeks. 

Both seats, at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., sold out to patrons who came for a five-course meal of food they likely never tried before from such chefs as Andrew Cowan of Hundred Bar + Kitchen and Nathan Saurette of Jack’s Grill.

The chefs were daring, even those who like Stu Chell went for simplicity. Chell — who technically comes from a brewery, Ambers Brewing, not a kitchen — made breaded chicken hearts in a bowl of kale and cheddar grits that was stunning for something using three cheap ingredients, plus his secret brisket rub on the hearts.

Edgar Guiterrez of Tres Carnales Taqueria made a stuffed poblano pepper.

Edgar Guiterrez of Tres Carnales Taqueria also worked hearts, human ones, with a hot poblano pepper stuffed with Swiss cheese and another meat you hardly see, pig tail. Smeared through a bath of cinnamon tomato sauce before it hits your mouth, it left a nice tingle before dessert, which Morrison-Gauthier took care of.

A pastry chef by trade, he perfected a mini dark chocolate and pistachio cannoli, and with it came a shot of sweet tea, a patty of dragonfruit and a dollop of grapefruit sorbet with candied fennel. Scooping, nibbling and sipping through it amounted to one “wow” after another.

The Common, which moved from 124 Street in late March and already has line-ups 20-people deep on some nights, is preparing to unveil its summer menu. I, for one, can’t wait to see what Morrison-Gauthier has planned.