Red Ox Inn has the feel of a diner, but don’t expect jukeboxes and ’50s decor. Instead, dim lighting washes over the tables and fine linens, leaving a high-end glow. It’s a small space where fine dining meets casual sophistication.
The menu leans more towards the high-end spectrum with caviar dressing up the smoked salmon. The salmon is fresh and pairs perfectly with the salty fish eggs and the sprigs of dill. It’s a fancy dish, but a single cracker, sprinkled with sesame and flax seeds, leans against the meat, ensuring it remains down-to-earth, just like the restaurant.
Meanwhile, the beet salad sees hazelnuts, apple and a generous portion of sheep’s milk cheese mixed with miner’s lettuce. It’s a mix of very different flavours and textures — the creaminess of the cheese contrasts with the slightly smoky beets.
With chunks of orange butternut squash, and pieces of chanterelle, the tortellini looks as good as it tastes. The pasta is expertly wrapped around creamy fontina and, while the smooth filling is rich, the large portion of vegetables helps balance the plate.
But the dish that best exudes the casually classy vibe is the duck breast — the lightly smoked meat comes alongside a sweet potato sauce, marrying sweet with savoury. It rivals any diner food, but would be at home next to caviar. (9420 91 St., 780-465-5727, theredoxinn.com)