10236 103 Street NW, Edmonton
Last week, I was invited to come to XO Bistro+Bar. It’s a Modern Vietnamese restaurant that opened up a bit later in 2016 in Edmonton’s Ice District. They serve some more classic dishes like noodle bowls rice and pho, but their main emphasis is on their Vietnamese street foods and other unique dishes. We came during dinner time, and their vermicelli, pho, and rice bowls aren’t offered at that time, so I will have to come back and give them a try.
The venue shares an entrance with Gong Cha, a bubble tea place. In terms of parkng… it’s downtown, so meter parking everywhere, and being near the arena, very accessible by transit. There are TVs around the area for those who wish the watch the hockey game, and some nice booths and tables.
They also serve some unique cocktails here, so we started off with the dragon mojito and the emperor kaffir mule. The Dragon Mojito was sake, pineapple, ginger, lime, mint and soda. This was really light and refreshing. The other drink we had was the Emperor Kaffir Mule, which is Hennessey, lime, ginger beer and Kaffir Lime Leaves. If you guys didn’t know this before, I realllly like ginger beer. It’s my go-to drink of choice whenever I’m out! I love me a good Crabbies, so naturally, I really enjoyed this drink!
We opted to try a few of their signature dishes to share, which were the Oxtail Fries and Bone marrow. We also opted to get their calamari, because it’s always a crowd favourite. After we finished our appetizers, Thuy was so kind and brought out their Viet Beef Carpaccio for us to try which was actually my favourite dish of the night!
The Oxtail Fries was one of my favourite thing of the night. I’d definitely recommend this. The braised ox tail gravy was really good and had a good depth of flavour. It was nice and savoury, and great on top of the fries. The fried egg was also really nice too, and gave it even more umami flavour.
The Calamari is nice and simple. Lightly battered squid, and served with a spicy mayo. Pretty standard fare, and executed really nicely. Very simple dish, but so easy to get wrong. Thankfully, it was done well here. The squid was nice and tender, and overall really enjoyable to eat.
Another dish that stuck out to us to order was the Bone Marrow. It’s baked marrow, topped with bread crumbs, sea salt, garlic bits, and served with toasted bread. Very flavourful, and a nice dish. Nice and tasty dish, but I think my money would have gone further with another order of Oxtail fries (seriously though, those fries are tasty).
Last but not least, was the Viet Beef Carpaccio. This is thinly sliced beef, mint leaves, cilantro, fresh chilies, topped with a lemon fish sauce. This was really light and refreshing. A lot of flavours, and delicious. I really liked how the lemon fish sauce brought everything together. The fresh chilies added a lot of heat too! So not for the faint of heart.
Overall, I really enjoyed my experience at XO Bistro+Bar. I went for an earlier dinner, so the vibe in there was quite chill, but I can imagine that later in the evening this place gets really lively. I do wish that they served some of their lunch items for dinner, but maybe that’s not operationally feasible. Out of the few dishes I had here, I’d say they are on the right track! I read some not so great things about their pho, but as with all new restaurants, there are some growing pains. Give this place a try for yourself!
Edit: January 3, 2018
So a couple weeks ago I went back to XO Bistro Bar for lunch. I didn’t have a chance to try any of their lunch or mains, so I figured it was time. I got their “the works” pho, their porkchop and rice, and an order of their oxtail fries (so good).
The pho comes with beef, beef balls, and some flank, topped with typical pho toppings. Pretty standard pho, not too bad. The broth was flavourful. Pretty standard fare for pho. The toppings may have been on the lighter side. It is a bit pricier for what you get if you were to go a more “regular” Vietnamese restaurant, but they charge these prices because they are trendier, and central.
The porkchop rice was definitely my favourite of the two dishes. The porkchops were quite thick, and the dish comes with two pieces. Definitely a very sizeable portion, and beats a lot of the other Vietnamese restaurants that I’ve been to. This is always my go-to order whenever I go to a Vietnamese restaurant, and the dish at XO bistro is definitely on par, if not better. It doesn’t, however come with an egg, which I did opt to get, but I don’t think I need to next time since it’s so sizeable.
Lastly, we got an order of their oxtail fries. Last time I was here, I got a happy-hour size of this dish, which I think is just perfect for sharing. A full order is quite big, and maybe a little bit too much to share on top of your main. Still very tasty, but it’s just a lot to eat.