Alexis Bistro in Calgary
I read an article about Alexis ('s?) Bistro that just opened around Garrison Woods and I'm curious if anyone has tried it. John Gilchrist predicts that it will be Calgary's hot new restaurant this summer...
So I read this review in FFWD of some new place that opened July 15th:
Kind of in an oddball spot. An old strip mall in Altadore on 16th Street just off 50th Ave (not too far from the house I lived in until I was 4). Most of the people in the restaurant were at least twice our age, but I think thats reflective of the demographic of the neighbourhood and the fact that I dont think word has got out about this place yet. The waiter was saying that once John Gilchrist reviews the place, theyll be packed for the next two weeks I dont doubt that at all.
My wife had the Chefs menu ($70 + $15 for a half lobster) which was a salad of fresh tomatoes with basil, some seared duck breast served with beet and candied orange, then a scallop wrapped in wild boar bacon served with smashed peas, a quick citrus sorbet and champagne shooter, then she had beef tenderloin with pont neuf potatoes and a side of half a lobster. Dessert was shortcake with glazed fresh strawberries in crème fraiche.
I had a soup of chicken consommé with corn and mushroom ($7), then escargot with slivered garlic served on custini ($12), a sorbet shooter, then braised rack and shank of lamb with rosemary potatoes and grilled asparagus ($36). Dessert was crème brulée with chocolate truffles and coffee. During the meal I had a couple of glasses of the Boundary Rider Shiraz/Voignier ($10 a glass I think).
So the place is fairly relaxed, not stuffy at all. Small, with seating for 50 max, and 2 waiters. It is fairly Bistro style, and the tables are all in the same small room its not intimate and romantic, but not crazy boisterous at all. It wasnt so noisy that you couldnt carry on a conversation, but not so quiet that you thought the people at the next table were listening to your every word. The service was very good, but not in your face, hurrying you along, or annoyingly attentive. No grandstanding with a 10 minute explanation of what youre about to eat they let the food speak for itself. Presentation was excellent. Wine is served in Reidel crystal.
For what my wife had, the scallop with the peas was excellent the peas accompanied the flavours superbly. The duck was well, its hard to go wrong with duck. It was delicious. I had a bite of the tenderloin and it was very, very tender. I dont like lobster, so she was on her own for that, but she loved it. The berries for the dessert were guessing were garden grown, as they were small, deep red and full of flavour. Interestingly, they have an herb garden growing out on the patio, so you see the chefs heading out with a knife or scissors to cut fresh herbs. It doesnt get fresher than that. My wife made the comment to the server after that they should serve the lobster on a separate plate, because it got a little slippery from being with the tenderloin (from the sauce) and when breaking it, little bits of lobster shell went on the rest of the plate. The server was very receptive and said he would have the kitchen implement that right away.
The wine I had was great. Deep, spicy, full bodied. The consommé was wonderful and the fresh, young corn in it was very nice. The escargot was nicely done not over the top with garlic and butter, but just right to be flavourful and not overpowering. The lamb was so tender it was unbelievable. The meat just fell of the shank and was even hard to pick up, it just fell apart. There was a lot of dish there for a main, bordering on too much, but just right for a good appetite. It was truly some of the most delicious lamb Ive ever had. The crème brulée was very tasty, truffles were like butter. Only niggling complaint with the crème brulée was it was slightly too stiff and not creamy enough. My coffee was only warm and not hot, but I asked and had a hot cup in about 15 seconds.
At the end when the bill came ($160 before tax inc wine), my dessert and coffee werent on there so I asked our server and he said he took them off because wed had a couple of problems I said it wasnt at all a problem, but he insisted. So two thumbs up for the service and he didnt come by and make a big hoopla about comping that stuff for us (and really we didnt have any problems my wife made a suggestion, and my coffee was replaced quickly and without any commotion).
So I would recommend it. It is very much French cooking, so its not light at all, but was a very nice experience.
My wife and I ate there recently. She had the steak, I the duck. We shared a tiramisu desert. The food was outstanding - we travel fairly widely and eat out often, and I consider it to be the best meal I have had ever! The ingredients were obviously of very fine quality, and the preparation and presentation first rate. The service was friendly and professional, and with no silly pretentiousness.
I do, however, question the serving size of the wine sold by the glass. The claim was that servings were between five and six ounces. That would be between a fifth and a quarter of a bottle. I know what a quarter of bottle looks and feels like, and it really did not seem to be that much! (This is a problem I have noticed in a number of Calgary places recently - tiny quantities of wine served in huge glasses, the apparent smallness of the quantity, when questioned, being blamed on the size of the glass!)
Most large wine glasses are able to fit 20 ounces of liquid. A bottle of wine is about 24 ounces. This means you could almost pour the entire bottle of wine into a single glass. You can get almost 5 portions of wine from a bottle if you do a 5 oz pour. It usually works out to 4.5 glasses per bottle.
Free pouring at the table very rarely benifits the restaurant. It almost always equates to more wine for the customer for the same money.
Should all restaurants go to the measured carafe poured into your glass at tableside? Then people would complain that the wine in the carafe is not the wine that they ordered. One could pour at the table into the carafe and then pour that into the person's glass. But then why wouldn't they just pour it into the glass and save a step? Waiters are usually busy and aren't really that concerned about how much they pour since it's the restaurants wine. They do want you to be happy so the tip will be good...why would they short pour? How about measured lines on the wine glasses! That would be classy! Just like in Europe with the measured pint glasses.