A little cheese with that wine…

Divino
113 – 8th Avenue SW, Calgary
403.410.5555

 

Because I’ve been eating in a lot more these days I haven’t been to Divino in a long time…although it used to be one of my go tos in downtown cow town. Recently I visited again, and I will say this. Divino has delicious Tempura Haricot Vert and Onion Soup Gratinee. I love French onion soup! They also have an excellent selection of wine and assortment of cheese. The cheese plates are good, but I actually enjoy Farm’s cheese plate a bit more because each cheese (or meat) is paired with an accompaniment, where as at Divino all the cheeses are only accompanied by fig jam. And while their main courses are solid, I’ve not once found myself in love with one of them. The atmosphere in the restaurant is fitting for its offerings and the menu is on point with no Calgary confusion fusion. For wine bar I’m giving Divino a Very Good…If I were rating it on food only it would likely only be a Very Okay.

 

If you have been to Divino share your rating using the stars below Not OKJust OKVery OKVery GoodGreat (2 votes, average: 4.00 out of 5)
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Forget about caviar dreams…Pizza dreams, but I’ve still got champagne wishes!

Ristorante Pulcinella Inc.
1147 Kensington Crescent NW, Calgary
403.283.1166
 

I seriously woke up one morning dreaming about the ripieno calzone (sans salami). The ricotta cheese melts in your mouth and is contrasted perfectly by the texture of the Neapolitan style pizza dough. The wood-burning hearth kisses the pizzas with a charcoal flavor and serves as the primary centerpiece of the dining room. The white walls and decor seem modern yet reminiscent of the Mediterranean to me, perfectly suited for the style of the food. The strength of the food relies heavily on quality of the ingredients presently simply. Nothing too complex or flavors in competition or contradiction to each other. There is good balance in the food, in the menu, and restaurant presentation. Service can be a bit slow, but it always professional. They have a good wine selection. I’ve had a lot of trouble finding good pizza both in Calgary in Vancouver, but Pulcinella is something special, and I’m going to give it a Very Good, but the calzone and their signature pizza both get Very Goods from me. The restaurant is busy and can be a bit noisy when busy, so it is best suited for meeting friends or a date where you aren’t looking for a lot of romance.

 

If you have been to Pulcinella share your rating using the stars below Not OKJust OKVery OKVery GoodGreat (2 votes, average: 4.00 out of 5)
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No parking

River Café
200 Barclay Parade SW, Calgary, Alberta
403.261.7670

 

The River Café is my most beloved restaurant in Calgary. After being to Rouge, I’m challenged to say it is the best, but for overall the River Café still has my vote. The food quality is reliable, the food philosophy is admirable, and the service is good. The smell of the wood burning oven and wood fired grill permeate the air bringing the rustic details of the cabin ambiance to life. To add to the mystique there is no valet parking (a shock for downtown Calgary), in fact you have to walk through Prince’s Island Park to get there, and I’ve done so happily on rainy, snowy, and sunshiny days alike. Breakfasts are divine, and you must try the smoked trout flatbread (featured in the photo here)…melt in your mouth. I’ve heard two less than positive reviews on their bison as a main course, but I’ve always had good fish and vegetarian meals. My favourite appetizer was the mushroom perogies, I love perogies! The menu changes seasonally so don’t get attached to any one specific dish, but try new things. Sal Howell owner and founder together with Chef Scott Pohorelic have given us an epicurean oasis in downtown cowtown.

 

If you have been to the River Cafe share your rating using the stars below Not OKJust OKVery OKVery GoodGreat (3 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
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Bowl licking good…

Rouge
1240 8th Avenue S.E. Calgary, Alberta
403.531.2767

 

If you are going to venture out in minus 20 degrees Celsius it is best that it be to a place as inviting as Rouge. A quaint red house on a corner in Inglewood’s is the perfect setting for a romantic dinner, or celebratory dinner with friends. If the best hits menu that we ordered from is any indication, Rouge’s kitchen will not disappoint. The amouse-bouche from the kitchen was yummy spiced pumpkin soup with pecans and chives. A selection of starters all proved to be delicious, with the Rabbit Fois Gras Tourtiere as my favourite. The mains were rich in flavour but well portioned. The details and presentation are excellent, and the service is both amusing and attentive. Our server made excellent and strikingly honest suggestions the most notable of which was to order the sticky toffee pudding, which is among the best desserts I have ever had. It was so good the birthday girl coined it ‘bowl licking good’. One the selections from the enRoute feature which has proven to be helpful, but keep in mind among Calgary’s best restaurants it meets the criteria for a high price point as well. Dinner is likely to be in the 100$ range per person, more depending on courses and beverages.

 

If you have been to Rouge share your rating using the stars below Not OKJust OKVery OKVery GoodGreat (3 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
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Calgary comes of age? # 3, supreme gracious mango god?

Mango Shiva
218 – 8th Avenue SW, Calgary
403.589.4888

 

Funky lighting from chandeliers to candles burning unattended in the bathroom hallways give this restaurant and lounge an enticing ambiance. I’m not quite sure about the name, Mango Shiva, I think Shiva means supreme god in Hinduism, and in Sanskrit it can mean gracious, so is this place Mango Supreme god or a Gracious Mango…not sure ?! This is one of the many restaurants in Calgary that boast Naan Bread – with thanks to Kanchan I will note that this is a glaring redundancy as Naan means bread. But other than this minor violation of language this restaurant is very good. And some of their food items actually fall into the “great” category including the delicate and perfectly spiced pakoras with tamarind chutney and the tandoori roasted chicken with butter sauce. The later of which are recommended on behalf of my dinner companions. Mango Shiva is modern Indian cuisine, well executed, in the heart of downtown Calgary. Pricier than the average Indian restaurant (T.I.C.This is Calgary), mains are 16-24$.

 

If you have been to Mango Shiva share your rating using the stars below.

Not OKJust OKVery OKVery GoodGreat (2 votes, average: 4.50 out of 5)
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landlocked but dockside? (Calgary comes of age? #2)

big fish
112 edmonton trail ne, calgary 
403.277.3403

 

One of the great questions that remains for me about Calgary is can a place that is landlocked really get it right when it comes to seafood?  big fish has sustainable seafood, thoughtfully prepared and appropriately themed food, and is worth the drive, even in minus 30 degrees Celsius.  They did hit on two of my pet peeves today…ambiguous bathroom gender signs, and hard cooked poached eggs.  But they resolved the most important of these, hard eggs, both promptly and without question.  As for the pictures on the bathroom doors that indicate male and female washrooms, let’s just say the picture on the women’s washroom is quite masculine looking, and you might get confused too. The menu items don’t have names they just have descriptions which makes referencing them a mouthful.  I had the ‘pan fried trout rosemary hash with lemon butter and poached eggs’.  Once the eggs were replaced with soft poached this meal served in mini cast iron pan was delicious.  The trout was flavorful, delicate and melted in my mouth, while the rosemary potatoes and poached eggs made for perfect accompaniments.  The portions were a good size and around the table from the wild mushroom scramble to the smoked trout scramble the food was yummy.  Mimosa’s made with Spanish cava made this a great Sunday brunch.  I was intrigued by the ‘house coffee’ that comes with Vodka, but even I couldn’t have vodka that early!  Service was prompt and friendly.  For me big fish rates a very good, and I will try to make it back for dinner sometime, or stop by one of Dwayne and Alberta’s other restaurants – Diner Deluxe, Open Range, Vue Café, and Urban Baker.

 

If you have been to big fish share your rating using the stars below Not OKJust OKVery OKVery GoodGreat (2 votes, average: 4.00 out of 5)
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Calgary comes of age? First down…and thinking enRoute might have something here…

Mercato
2224 – 4th Street S.W.
Calgary
403.263.5535

 

The first stop on the enRoute mission is Mercato. “Exciting, imaginative expression of Italian classics…”. Mercato is a restaurant with a mix of an Italian grocery store. It has a striking open kitchen and a mix of classic tables and long bar height tables. The restaurant has a loud buzz and is comfortably lit. The menu is just the right length, appropriately themed, and has an interesting assortment of side dishes. We ordered an antipasto platter as an appetizer, main courses, and a side dish. Too much food, but great to try it all. The side dish was Funghi, which was “great!”. The gnocchi was homemade, soft and supple, avoiding the common gnocchi plague of being over worked and therefore tough. The ricotta on my Fettuccini was divine and the pasta was al dente. Masculan Pinot Nero felt like a big hug from an Italian mother as it mingled with the dinner. However, crack open the check book because this is what those in the know call a “negative per diem day”, and the rest of you who are sane call a $$$ meal. Mains are reasonably priced in the $16 range for pastas (more for meat/seafood), but it’s the extras that add to the price, but also the experience. Mercato gets a Very Good (borderline Great).

If you have been to Mercato share your rating using the stars below Not OKJust OKVery OKVery GoodGreat (3 votes, average: 4.67 out of 5)
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enRoute Magazine – This is a Paid Advertisement

Last week I was sitting on the plane and looked across the aisle to see one of the passengers reading an article from the enRoute magazine entitled “Calgary’s dining scene comes of age”. Shocked I scoured my copy for the article. Having been staffed in Calgary for a year, I must say that in general I feel at best deprived from culinary culture. I’ve got a few generalities about restaurants in Calgary including:

  1. It is hard to find good food at a reasonable price, and often you find pricy food that’s not great
  2. They thoughtless and excessively use premium ingredients
  3. Fusion cuisine was mistranslated here and ended up being ‘con’fusion cuisine

So when I read the article’s small print and saw that it was sponsored by Tourism Calgary I was not surprised, these folks have some serious incentive to convince folks that food in Calgary has taken a turn for the better. The article claims that Calgary has “blossom[ed]…to rival…Toronto and Vancouver”. Really? Are you kidding me? Well the article lists a handful of restaurants in its defense, and I am optimistically going to try many of them to report back to you whether or not the Calgary Tourism board has it right. Has Calgary’s dining scene come of age? Stay posted we will figure it out…

There is a link in the article for a contest, but they got the link wrong, so here’s the link: http://enroutepromo.com/tourismcalgary/ 

Let’s hope that’s all they got wrong, because I’ve got about 20 meals ahead of me on this one…