- Name: Odla
- Location: 801 Broadway Ave, Saskatoon
- Phone: 306-955-6352
- Website: odla.ca
- Prices: $5-$28
- Cuisine: Contemporary Canadian
- Atmosphere: Comfortable, open space with plenty of natural light.
- Drinks on offer: Cocktails, wine, some local beer
- Best bets: Pork pâté, beef steak, honey posset, Strawberry Angel (cocktail)
- Vegetarian friendly? Small selection of vegetarian dishes available.
- Additional information: Odla has an attached marketplace that sells fresh produce, honey, etc.
Dining at any mindful, contemporary restaurant at this time of year in Canada can be a real treat. It’s peak summer and that means virtually every ingredient is ripe, ready to be used and just a stone’s throw away at a farmers’ market. Sun-kissed snap peas, crisp and sweet baby carrots, absurdly juicy stone fruits such as peaches and apricots. It’s a time of year when chefs are the most excited to cook and we, the diners, should be the most excited to go out.
Still, not all restaurants celebrate Canadian bounty by way of placing an emphasis on utilizing the freshest and local ingredients around them, which is why it’s nice to see a concept such as Odla approaching things the way it does.
Saskatoon’s newest sit-down restaurant is the collective efforts of three people: farmer Arlie LaRoche of Farm One Forty, sommelier Lacey Sellinger and chef Scott Dicks. With a direct connection to the farm, this eatery is an epitome of farm-to-table, using Ms. LaRoche’s meats such as pork and lamb on its menu in addition to a spectrum of Saskatchewan-grown ingredients.
Located on the city’s ever-loveable Broadway Avenue in a space that formerly housed a casual family restaurant and bar (Nino’s) for decades, it’s nice to see a new, more refined dining option on the strip. The space itself is a nice size and layout, with a main copper-topped bar, slightly elevated seating area with mellow green panelling surrounding tan leather banquettes and a large communal table adjacent, but the photos of Farm One Forty on the wall have an odd presentation stretched on canvas.
Knowing the mentality behind this restaurant, it’s unfortunate to not have fallen in love with the food and drink while dining here. Although not without its high points, a concept such as this certainly has comparable eateries in the region and many of its dishes and cocktails seem to lack the expert touch of its contemporaries.
Without diving too deeply into the drinks, I don’t even know where to begin with the “market price” listed beside a classic martini or Old Fashioned, and an Aquavit and snap-pea cocktail still lingers in my mind for all the wrong reasons, being devoid of any snap-pea flavour and its overwhelming presence of Aquavit. The “Strawberry Angel” is a bubbly number made with Lillet, gin, rose water and prosecco and makes for a better start to your night.
Mr. Dicks’s country-style pork pâté is thoroughly enjoyable – appropriately salty and served with a mélange of pickled vegetables and a delightful Saskatoon-berry mustard. It’s a nice way to start things off.
Next to the table is a plate of chickpea and carrot fritters with grated carrots and raita. Caught somewhere between and falafel and a pakora, the centres of the sizable fritters were near-gummy and lacked seasoning. A smaller size for the fritters and a little salt could really turn things around here.
Main dishes that showcase the farm’s top-tier proteins such as the “lamb merguez” or the “beef steak” have set prices, but don’t always have the same cut of the type of meat, which is somewhat unusual. The lamb (loin and braised shoulder on this particular day) comes with a healthy schmear of hummus, fried chickpeas, a fried potato and an underwhelming grated kohlrabi, zucchini, bell pepper and kale slaw. It’s a dish I’d expect of an intermediate home cook, not of a restaurant.
The beef steak is a better option, cooked to a nice medium-rare and served with charred onions, oyster mushrooms and jus. It’s a hearty dish that you can opt to add their unique charred pike and herb hollandaise onto, which my date and I did because, well, you rarely see that option outside of a steakhouse.
Dessert here is a simple array of baked goods (cupcakes and cake) and items in mason jars. The sea-buckthorn curd with raspberry couli and graham crumb is tasty, but probably does not need the teaspoon (approximately) of fresh thyme leaves sprinkled on top. The honey posset – a classic English dessert pronounced pos-set – with a finishing of maldon and minced rosemary is a pleasant final spoonful to an evening.
The menus here at Odla proudly explain that the restaurant’s name, which is Swedish, means to cultivate and grow. I hope Odla will do just that over time.