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Nov 22, 2005 07:55 PM

Restos for the weekend - Calgary

  • c

My boyfriend and I are coming to town for a weekend in December and we're trying to map out the places to eat at. Preferably we'd like to try out a tasting menu at a nice restaurant ($100-ish range before tax, tip, and wine) for an evening, and maybe lunch at another nice resto one day. It's a total of 3 days worth of meals and it would be nice if we could try a wide variety during that time. We're willing to try anything at least once so no limitations there, but we would like to keep within a budget for the other meals. The River Cafe and Il Sogno has been suggested and if anyone has an opinion on which is better for lunch or dinner, it would also be greatly appreciated! And also, is there anything we absolutely must try while in Calgary? (we're from Montreal) Lastly, my bf has quite an apetite so places with good portions are preferred.

Any suggestions welcome! Thanks in advance :)

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  1. Char:

    This Edmontonian will pop in before our regular Calgary-Crew chime in.

    You have already mentioned two of my favourites, River Cafe and Il Sogno.

    Both are superb. Personally I would go to River for lunch over Il Sogno. Proximity, menu and ambience favour the former at this time of day. Very good wine list with an emphasis on hard to find Cdn. wines.

    I had a very good lunch at Il Sogno the first time I had been to the spot but overall I think I would go to River.

    For dinner it will really depend upon what you want. I had two lovely dinners...actually a selection of appetizers up at the bar at River my last visit to C-Town. The menu emphasizes regional cuisine. Hearty fare but without forgetting about fish. The last visit arctic char and sablefish were on the menu along with trout.

    Just earlier today I recommended Il Sogno to friends who are heading down that way next week. The chef makes pasta to "die for". No matter what you order you "owe" it to yourself to try his pasta.

    I have been "toying" with the idea of going to "Cowtown" for a week-end and Il Sogno would have been the place I made reservations at. The attention to detail. The flavours.

    I am a "big fan" of Divino Wine & Cheese whether for lunch or dinner. If they have their inside out black truffle ravioli with lobster...yikes, go for it!

    Muse in Kensington is very good.

    If you head down the list there are some comments about a newcomer The Tribune which is just across Stephen Avenue from Divino.

    There are a lot of good places to eat in Calgary. Living Room, Teatro [I have usually found it better at lunch than dinner], Belevedere, Centini, etc.

    As a former Montrealer enjoy your visit...are you bringing any St. Viateur bagels or Schwartz's smoked trip back home was complete without lots of those.

    1. Since Bob has covered River Cafe and Il Sogno (is it true the chef has left Il Sogno? I've heard rumblings that things have gone a bit downhill since the last time i was there, which was an awesome meal), i'll cover some of the other options.

      For a tasting menu (evening), i'd recommend Rouge instead of River Cafe. They focus on fresh local ingredients as well, and have an excellent combination of game meat, fish, and all things in between. Their tasting menu is amazing. Better sized portions than the River Cafe as well, which i never find to be quite enough. It's in an awesome old home in Inglewood, but to be honest, it's tough to top the atmosphere at River Cafe.

      For lunch, im with Bob on Divino if you're looking for an awesome lunch. Excellent selection of wine, and the food is phenomenal. A Quintissential Calgary experience (lunch or dinner, i prefer lunch) might be Caeasar's steak house. The steaks are good, and the decor and service are a total throwback to the 70's. If you're looking for more upscale and modern, stay on Stephen Avenue (Centini's, Divino, etc) rather than Caesars. If you're up for a dark, red velvet, steakhouse type experience, try Caesars.

      Other things worth trying include Piato (fine Greek dining), The Living Room for hip, modern dining. If you're looking at slumming it a bit (non-fancy type places), let me know, and it's a whole different bevy of options.

      11 Replies
      1. re: Yen

        Thanks Yen:

        If Chef G. has left Il Sogno [I just checked their website and although owner PK is mentioned there is nothing about the chef] "all bets are off" was his attention to detail and taste that I really enjoyed.

        Everything had to pass him before it went out. It was all good and may still be good. I have not been since he apparently left.

        1. re: Bob Mac

          According to the ChefDB, he's still there. Im not sure how often it is updated though - if you look at Alain Ducasse for example, Mix Las Vegas isnt listed (though fairly new, it's been around for at least 6 months now).

          I should just go back myself - other people can be so unreliable sometimes! :)


          1. re: Yen

            Guiseppe is gone, has been for over 2 months now. New chef is a bit of a mystery can't recall his name or where he's from... Glen Manzer, formerly the exec chef at River was sous-chef for about a week, heard it didn't work out.
            Have to agree about Chef G though, his vigilance and passion was what made the food so stellar, it'll be interesting to see how they carry on without him

            1. re: Bex

              Thanks for the update. I wonder where he'll land.

              1. re: Yen


                If you do find out where the chef ends up I would appreciate hearing as well.

                1. re: Bob Mac

                  He's at Teatro...more info later if you'd like.

                  1. re: Dianne

                    Thanks Diane..what is your "take" on him being there? Different spot that Il Sogno. Beautiful space. Personally I have had better success at lunch than dinner.

              2. re: Bex

                More updates!!!
                Guiseppe is currently looking for a new kitchen. He was rumoured to be involved in a new project at La Caille, which may have since fallen apart, also he has been spending time with Michael at La Tavola on Penny Lane but he has most recently been at Teatro with Dominique. Glen Manzer did stints at Petroleum Club and helping out at the Ranche between Sous Chefs and was at Il Sogno for about 2 months. His face even appears on this years chefs calender behind new Chef Emil Shellborn, a new comer from Winnipeg(yet another one). Glen is the new restaurant chef at Wildwood, where he started in mid November.Hope this helps.

            2. re: Bob Mac

              it's interesting this conversation about "chef G" and his departure from il sogno. let's just say that personally, i know chef G, as well as the new chef, emil shelbourne-both are equally passionate and meticulous about their food and it's delivery, from the kitchen to the table. i wouldn't be so quick to assume that just because Chef G is no longer heading the kitchen at Il Sogno, standards have slipped. although i appreciate customer loyalty, there's almost room for new talent.let's not be too presumptuous.

              1. re: coqauvin

                I don't think anyone stated that standards had slipped at Il Sogno, people are simply curious about the effects of a major change at a beloved restaurant. I worked for Joe (Chef G) for quite some time and honestly feel he would be hard to replace. On the other hand, change can be good. I think the commentary here is simply the result of the interest people have both in Il Sogno and its talented former owner.

            3. re: Yen

              Thanks for all the suggestions! We would also like to have a few non-fancy options if anyone has any suggestions. And we don't mind driving around town to find the more obscure little restos, as long as its worth the drive!

            4. I'd suggest you save at least one meal for something Asian- Calgary has an accessible and varied Chinatown, with some excellent dim sum options (especially, in my opinion, Harbour City), one fantastic if tiny Taiwanese place (Han's), and a slew of Vietnamese restos- Vietnamese is to Calgary what sushi is to Vancouver and it's filling, tasty and invariably cheap. However, my favourite "Asian" resto in Calgary and quite possibly my favourite resto in Calgary period is Soba Ten Noodle House, which is at the NE corner of 11th Ave and 5th St SW. Amazing value and astonishing food, as long as you ignore the obligatory, uninspiring sushi and stick to something you cannot get anywhere else in Canada: house-made soba.

              1. Calgary's got a comparative plethora of Ethiopian; the best is Queen of Sheba on 12th avenue and 2nd street SW. Some terrific sample plates. Big portions. Run by friendly people. They've brought in some tasty national beer and do a mean coffee too. (They also do breakfast and a buffet lunch.) Afterwards, try a nightcap at the Hop n Brew next door.

                1. The best food in Calgary by far is Mercato on 4St S.W.
                  Way ahead of its time for Calgary.
                  So New York,San Fran and Italy.

                  Must Try