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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Tequila?!

Tequila Kitchen
1043 Mainland Street
604.681.2120

 

So in continuing to explore blogging I’m taking suggestions for restaurants from different places, and still looking at enRoute magazine for a few reasons. When I was living in Montreal a friend of a friend, someone who I trust immensely on the topic of food, took us to a restaurant that was suggested in enRoute and it was great. Also, the Calgary restaurants I have been trying in my “Calgary comes of Age?” series have been pretty good. And lastly, it is a popular source of information on restaurants so I want to try it out and report back to you on whether or not we can trust it.

In this month’s magazine it suggested Tequila Kitchen in Yaletown and given my love of Mexican food, I thought I’d give it a go and invite some friends along to try. We made a reservation for three, and then our group grew to 5 and I was impressed that on a weekend night they easily accommodated our request. Less surprised when I arrived at 7ish to find the place was empty. Our server was well informed of the menu, and made thoughtful suggestions. The first of which was to order the classic margarita. On the topic of margaritas, in Calgary (where I’ve been spending a bit of my time these days) when you order a margarita they often say ridiculous things like – “would you like the strawberry flavour or the other one?”, and when you ask what the regular one is just for fun, they don’t know! I appreciated that they have a classic margarita here, and if I hadn’t driven to dinner, I would have easily had more than one because they were yummy. The guacamole was also quite good and very fresh. However, my steak tacos were a bit dry and flavourless. It seemed around the table everyone’s food was okay, but no one was amazed. Although the lamb looked good and if I went back I’d probably get that. I also had the chicken soup, which was spicy more than it was flavourful. I will give the service and the margaritas a ‘Very Good’, but overall Tequila Kitchen gets a ‘Just Ok’. So for now, even though it is small, crowded, and hard to get a table, Lolita’s is still my favourite stop in the city for Mexican food.

If you have been to Tequila Kitchen share your rating using the stars below Not OKJust OKVery OKVery GoodGreat (1 votes, average: 2.00 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…