NongBu Korean Eatery
When NongBu Korean Eatery opened its doors, it did so much to the delight of local diners, as it offered food unlike anything in Edmonton’s food scene. Simply put, it is modern Korean food. The room seems to convey that idea as well. Though sparsely decorated, the restaurant feels modern, and ensures that a diner’s focus can be put where it belongs – on the dishes before you.
Some wild and delicious creations come from the NongBu kitchen. Case in point: the ddukbokki (rice sticks). The small cylinders of rice cakes are tender (though the fried variety features a crisp exterior), playful single bites and the perfect receptacle for a hot chili sauce.
But to dine at NongBu without trying the Gochujang Pork Ribs would be a travesty. While all the proteins, from the pork to the duck, are mouthwatering, these ribs are downright addictive. The tender, juicy meat practically falls from the bone, while the chili sauce puts some of our finest barbecue sauces to shame. –Cory Haller
8115 104 St., 780-989-0997, facebook.com/NongBuKorean
Buco Pizzeria + Vino
Buco Pizzeria + Vino, located in St. Albert’s Shops at Boudreau complex, is a bit of a drive for many Edmontonians. However, those looking for Italian cuisine with a twist will find the trek worth their time.
As the name suggests, Buco’s menu consists largely of thin-crust Neapolitan pizzas, but the cozy pale brick interior with industrial accents is the perfect atmosphere for sharing some small plates – and the assaggini bar more than delivers. Each assaggini order provides a few bites of flavourful items such as prosciutto-wrapped figs and beef short rib croquettes. Bruschetta fans have five unique options to choose from, and with toppings like caramelized cantaloupe, onion marmalade and crispy pancetta, they’re delicious takes on a classic dish.
Finish your meal with one of Buco’s Italian-inspired cocktails incorporating prosecco or limoncello as you linger over the last few bites. –Adrianna Szenthe
#105, 130 Bellerose Dr., St. Albert, 780-569-2826, bucopizzeria.com
The enthusiastic greetings that erupt from the staff as you enter Ikki Izakaya are a pretty good indication that you’re in for a good time. The staff at the small eatery, located on Jasper Avenue at 119th Street, provides an energetic welcome that sets the tone for your entire evening. Because, make no mistake, this isn’t the place to go for candlelit dinner; it’s a sake bar that just happens to serve some of the best deep-fried, rolled and inventive pub-style dishes to help you blow off some after-work steam. Sure, you can stick to tradition and order some sushi rolls, but why not get adventurous and order the Okonomi Dog? It’s a pork sausage hot dog with a Japanese twist, dressed in cabbage, bonito, nori (seaweed), green onions and slathered in okonomi sauce, mayonnaise and Japanese mustard. –Cory Haller
11931 Jasper Ave., 780-454-4230, ikki.ca
Huma Mexican Comfort
Of all the new restaurants that opened in 2015, Huma – located on the corner of Argyll Road and 99th Street – is the one I have returned to the most. As comforting as it is to know the quality of the food is extraordinary, I revel in the fact that, at Huma, there is always some new dish to try.
I’m not talking about the lunch menu – which, on its own, has some of the best tacos and beef enchiladas in town – but rather the ever-changing dinner menu, which offers a daily themed dish.
This calls for a bit of homework on the diner’s part. If you’re not one for surprises, a quick check of the humble Mexican eatery’s Facebook page will give you the rundown on the theme of the evening’s meal (Is it a night for seafood entrees? Or is there a masterful taco soup in the works?), but I like to go in blind. After all, it’s like trying a great new restaurant with each meal. –C.H.
9880 63 Ave., 780-433-9229, humamexicanrestaurant.ca
El Cortez Mexican Kitchen & Tequila Bar
El Cortez, just off Whyte Avenue, has become a go-to late-night party spot, with DJs and bands often playing on weekends. The rest of the week, though, the food and Day of the Dead-themed decor are cranked up to 11, just like the live music.
El Cortez opened just too late for the 2015 Best New category but, since then, chef Lindsay Porter’s menu has evolved into a fusion of traditional Latin favourites and modern street food. This includes a variety of tacos, from ancho-braised beef to a queso-and-mushroom vegetarian option. For a bigger punch of heat, try the grilled pescado tacos, in which habanero peppers and coconut harmonize with grilled mahi mahi and a tropical salsa. The guacamole trio features avocado dips topped with bacon and with shrimp, but it’s the one topped with a spicy berry sauce that’s the most intriguing. –Glenn Cook
8230 Gateway Blvd., 780-760-0200, elcortezcantina.com