I've never seen Normand Campbell with a tie. The demonstrative owner of the unassailable Normand's just isn't a tie guy.
You might expect the proprietor of a restaurant specializing in country French cuisine to fancy the odd cravate, but that's just not Normand's style. He's a roll-up-the-sleeves-and -get-elbow-deep-in-the-goose-liver-pate kind of guy.
That is to say he labours. He'll serve tables; run the kitchen; greet the guests. The end tails of his shirt are often on the verge of untucking. If I was a restauranteur, I'd want to be Normand.
If it's November (and of course it is), it's game month at Mr. Campbell's thriving Jasper Avenue venture. The kitchen moves a little less chicken and beef this time of year, as customers new and old drop by to sample the like of wild boar rack with a grainy mustard glaze, or braised rabbit with a dijon cream sauce, or musk ox shanks with a red wine sauce. The latter is braised with whiskey. It adds shall we say, a Jim Bowie element to the wild game experience.
It is apparently customary in France to populate the menu with game each November. The move by Normand to celebrate wild game this month is one of numerous wrinkles this creative businessman brings to the table throughout the year.
Mondays, for instance, is mussel night. All the mussel you can eat, served with four sauces, for something like $16.95 a head. Apparently one fellow more than got his money's worth when he managed to drain the pots of almost 200 of the little critters.
Normand has also hot the web in a big way. His internet site (www.normands.com) is loaded with menus, reviews and specials. He'll claim it's the only place in town for reserving a table online.
But mussel and webheads aside, this review is about game month. And a fine month it is.
These days, what he moves the most is caribou. Order it medium rare. It is an enormous filet that will land on your table covered in a sweet/tart saskatoon and raspberry sauce. A splashy medley of cooked-to-a-crunch vegetables on the side.
Not quite as spectacular, nor as popular, is the venison medalions marinated with sauteed wild mushrooms. The heavy game flavor here has almost a liver-like pungency. Still, quite unique and gamely priced at $19.75.
If the goose liver pate is not to your liking as a starter, consider the wild game goulash soup- thick as a stew and rich in a variety of meats.
Also on the menu to consider: pheasant breasts in a mango chutney glaze.
If you can't make up your mind and you plan only one visit this month, there is the mixed grill for $26.75. In it there is the tender mercies of caribou, venison, wild boar and double-smoked bacon in a red wine shallot demi glaze.
Normand's has been around almost forever. The place continues month after month to do big business. Service is always superb.
If you go, ties not required.
~Friday November 5, 1999~Edmonton Journal~Wayne Moriarty
"...Normand's is the best thing to happen to Jasper ave in years..." Sauces are taken seriously here, from the refreshing pureed honeydew with a dab of peppered raspberry puree... to a pleasant unassuming saffron cream sauce with tomato comtasse that covers the mussels on fusilli.
"If you're game, visit Normand's"
Whether you're after regular favorites, or musk ox, it's cash well spent
Normand's is a staple in the fine dining scene. Year after year, it satisfies a blend of well-heeled clientele while converting a new generation of diners to a menu that is well thought out, prepared and delivered to the table.
Gushing aside, Mrs. Meal Ticket and I have always enjoyed the food at this centrally located eatery, although I have often remarked that the place could use a bit of a facelift.
The room is still warm and friendly, but decor in older buildings such as this one would benefit from a little tweaking.
One of the redoubtable qualities of Normand's is that it has managed to maintaion consistancy.
Whether it be one of the city's finest home-made mushrrom soups or tender venison in a rich sauce or satisfying desserts, the kitchen crew at Normand's rarely get it wrong.
We have enjoyed birthday parties there for seniors, intimate dinners for two and the odd sumptuous lunch over the years. Always we've walked away impressed with what counts, the menu, the food, and the service.
On our most recent visit I was glad to see that venison was again featured on the daily specials (Normand's was one of the first restaurants to do this in our town) and Mrs. meal Ticket was similarly pleased to spot a pork offering. In our view, pork is the most underrated quality dining meats in central Alberta.
Done exquisitely, like it is here, it arrives at the table tender and juicy and enriched by a variety of sauce possibilities. In this case, the sauce was fortified with Calvados, a nice switch from Madeira and port. On this night I would say it actually out did my venison, which was none too shabby, especially considering my preference for wild flavor in my meat. This often leads me to lamb and venison just as a seasoned scotch drinker seeks out a quality single malt to challenge their experienced palate.
We opened the meal with a wonderful seafood combo of scallops and prawns. And we followed that by sharing a refreshing salad that featured a superiour mesclun mix and a few tiny shrimp in a light creamy dressing.
A pair of glasses of red wine and two decent desserts, including a creamy and not eggy creme caramel, and we were on our way.*Four and a half spoons out of five.*
~Tom Elsworthy- Edmonton Sun
Campbell, 45, began his career in the restaurant undustry by working as a bus boy in the former Pickwick Inn in Chancery Hall. "I was intrigued by the flambe-style of dining and went on to work in some of the better-known places back then, such as Tita's and The Embers, where you could hear Kenny Rogers play and enjoy a prime rib dinner for $10," he says.
He later worked at other well-known spots and was working in management for Tony Roma's when he met his wife Lezlie.
"I knew she would be a good wife because of her work-ethic," he says. "At the same time, shw was working at Barry T's, The Gas Pump and Albert's Deli."
"My dream came true when I opened my own restaurant 12 years ago. On the horizon I see a restaurant attached to a bed and breakfast, but my dream is to own a vineyard in the Okanagan. The business has been as enjoyable as I thought it would be. I just thought I'd be alot wealthier."
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