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Feb 24, 2006 02:41 AM

Seafood in Calgary

  • l

Where would you recommend good seafood in Calgary? And I dont care for fancy schmancy big name places like Catch (huge disappointment, btw) but just good seafood in any environment.

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  1. r
    rafer madness

    without sounding condesending, i would avoid eating seafood in calgary. save yourself the agravation and wait till the next time you visit the west coast. i am serious. calgary is no different from say, madison wisconsin. it's land locked baby! cows rule the land there

    29 Replies
    1. re: rafer madness

      Without sounding *condescending*, I spent seven years in Madison earning my PhD and have lived in Calgary for six, and there is not one thing that the two have in common.

      What you are looking for is absolutely Big Fish on Edmonton Trail- it got an honourable mention in En Route's best new restaurants in Canada issue in November, and I've heard nothing but gooid about it. Not anywhere as expensive or "fancy" as Catch.

      Rafer, fresh seafood comes to Calgary within hours of its harvesting now- same as Toronto, Chicago, Berlin, and many other cities around the world not on the ocean but with some very good seafood restaurants. When a resto in NYC serves mussels or oysters from PEI, do you think they're any less "fresh" at Catch or some other oyster bar in Calgary? If you thing so, you're wrong.

      I saw time stand still with the sablefish at River Cafe, but it was VERY expensive for a small portion. Still, it was one of the most decadent experiences of my life.

      1. re: John Manzo
        rafer madness

        john, i agree about calgary having great sushi - i have been to towa and have enjoyed it very much, but i think the post was regarding "fresh seafood" ie - lobster, fish, oysters etc. i have been to catch with a party of four and we only found it ok. portions were quite small, especially the miniscule oysters. some steak houses in calgary do ok seafood, but nothing to write home about. i realize the "fresh" issue - i am not saying that calgary does not get it's seafood any faster than nyc, vancouver, winnipeg, or even madison, i am saying that it is a steak town and does not have any stand out seafood restaurants...unless you count joeys only or red lobster as one. uugh. my advice, and take it for what it's worth, is to go to the market and buy the freshest seafood you can, and do it yourself.

        1. re: rafer madness

          I agree with the opinion that Calgary has seafood that is mediocre at best. I have had previous discussions of this same subject before on this site, and months later, I still stick to this position.

          1. re: fingers
            rafer madness

            thank you. and mediocre seafood also exisits in edmonton, saskatoon and view is, it's not a matter of how fresh it is - all cities are relatively the same - it's which restaurants are preparng it. and in that sense, i am not a fan of any places on the prairies for seafood. do no get me wrong - calgary has great sushi, vietmese, and various other ethnic places, but there is not one place from calgary to winnipeg that has jumped out at me. have had many great seafood meals in vancouver, victoria, toronto, montreal....and it's because they offer wayyyyy more seafood options just because the demand and volume is there. toronto is not by the ocean, but it has some damn good places for seafood.

            1. re: rafer madness

              I agree with Rafer, you just can't get fish that fresh when so few people order it. I've lived here for over 4 years (moved from Vancouver) and go out to eat everyday at lunch since. The seafood here is pretty poor, it'd be a stretch to even call it average.

              Usually when I bring someone to a restaurant they haven't tried and they get a disappointing fish entree, my usual response is "what do you expect, this is Calgary" or "this is a steakhouse". i.e. Saltlik has one fish entree (Halibut) which is pretty bad (their ribs are bad too). Many finer restaurants around the core only have one, maybe two fish dishes. You'd be better off going to Costco and getting a salmon and BBQ it yourself.

              Perfect example of below average seafood that you still need reservations for at lunch: Chowder House.

              And Towa Sushi isn't even in the top 10 for sushi places in Calgary, unless you like corn and lots of rice in your giant rolls while sitting on Ikea furniture.

              1. re: Vancity Vic

                What are your top 10 sushi places in Calgary?

                I am no longer enchanted my Towa, just so everyone knows. It's been lapped very handily since that post in Feb 2006. Calgary just goes from strength to strength; this city is impressing the hell out of me.

                1. re: John Manzo

                  I can't even say top 10, there are not that many I'd go to. Here's a list of my favorites, keep in mind I'm the type that orders by the piece. One caveat - I've been to some of these places for lunch and dinner, weekdays and weekends, and the service and food quality often varies, especially in the Chinese owned places. Some of these on the list I go weekly. One thing I've unfortunately learned to accept in Calgary. In brackets i put one gripe and one compliment.

                  - Sushi Kai (new downtown, great salmon, often run out of items)
                  - Sushi Bar Zipang (half of the customers were from Japan, but I had bad very small Toro sashimi)
                  - Fujiyama (salmon, caterpillar & softshell crab are superb and so is the toro at times, service can be very slow to non-existent at lunch)
                  - Hana Sushi (hit'n miss but I still go a few times a year)
                  - Sushi Hiro (quality, but again bad tuna at times)

                  I'm always up to try new places, I hear Wa's is good. Some others I've tried off the top of my head: Kawa is OK, Towa is not as I've mentioned before, Sushi Tokyo / Ichiban are awful, Sumo not very good, Sakana same as Ichiban (Crowfoot location got shutdown by Calgary Health), Sushi Boat I'd try again, I liked Zen 8 though lots of people I know didn't, new Blowfish tries to hard but just doesn't taste right, Reiko's is pretty good, Shikiji average and Kyoto is just OK.

                  Now I'm craving sushi :)

                  1. re: Vancity Vic

                    Where's Sushi Kai, Vic?

                    I for one am now heading to UPTOWN for lunch! I need sushi!

                    You really should check out Uptown- 11/11SW across from Co-op.

                    1. re: John Manzo

                      I've heard good things about Uptown, I'll have to try it.

                      Sushi Kai is at the back of Dragon City Mall (not to be mistaken with the horrible Sushi Tokyo at the front!) on the 4th Ave side. Its the last store in the mall on the main floor next to those Chinese video stores. Tell Sally Victor sent you!

                      1. re: Vancity Vic

                        Uptown has gone significantly downhill. It's decent when Michael is there, but more often than not, it's the new, in-training staff. Take it with a grain of salt.

                        1. re: Vancity Vic

                          Sushi Kai has been a disappointment. First time, portions were small, fish (incl. Salmon) wasn't as fresh as I expected, and I left hungry.

                          Second time wasn't any better.

            2. re: rafer madness
              over zealous gourmand

              did you know that frozen at sea fish is fresher then fresh fish? because the boats stay out for a few days at a time the fresh fish isn't very fresh. the fish frozen at sea ends up being quite better. by this rationale it shouldn't matter where you live. I have never had seafood on the westcoast that blew my socks off. most high end restaurants in town offer some sort of seafood dish but a full on seafood place won't ever come are right it is cowtown. so it's rather logical that we eat beef.

              besides....the oysters were small at catch? what an odd thing to say. oysters come in all sizes. the small ones tend to be better anyways.

            3. re: John Manzo

              I would have to agree with John Manzo about Big Fish. They always have a different selection of oysters and other seafood, so you're sure to get something different every time. They also offer a great ala carte brunch and a fabulous "off the beaten track" wine list including come whites from southern Italy and Austria that are great pairings with seafood. Check it out for sure.

              1. re: Truffled

                I have to disagree with you guys on Big Fish. I find them overpriced. Yes, they have 'fresh' seafood, but the preparations aren't that great, and the menu is limited. I still like Cannery Row - old school, I know.


            4. re: rafer madness

              Rafer, I have to add that suggesting that anyone "avoid seafood" ANYWHERE is a ridiculous suggestion. Fish is an incredibly beneficial food and to avoid it is to avoid, say, sushi (of which Calgary has some very acceptable examples) or even such base items as fried cod or, for God's sake, tunafish and mayo- these are all good for you, to varying degrees, and even canned tuna has great medical benefits. So don't tell people to "avoid seafood." It's horrible advise.

              1. re: John Manzo

                I need to add my voice and recommend Big Fish. It's a casual restaurant with excellent service. The Fish is fresh and very well prepared. The owners are the same people who own Diner Deluxe and the Urban Baker just up the street, also excellent quality places. One tip, all the bread comes from their bakery up the street "Urban Baker", their best bread is their tuscan loaf. If you order anything with bread ask them to put it on the Tuscan loaf, or include it with soups etc, you will love it!

                1. re: Major_9000

                  i'm with the rest for Big Fish - I had a great salmon lunch there and our office had our christmas party there - which i would recommend to any group - we had the place to ourselves, oysters and cocktails then a 4 course tasting dinner - everything was delicious and fresh.

                  i haven't been to urban baker in a while - do they have the pear and black pepper bread yet? that is to die for!!

                  1. re: pants

                    The Pear & Black Pepper bread has been spotted on Fridays & Saturdays at the Urban Baker - gotta try it with brie...

                    While there, go for the other bread that I plug - Chocolate Cranberry Sourdough - have it straight, toasted with peanut butter or blackberry jam, or as French toast with Caramelized apples...

                  2. re: Major_9000

                    I just discovered Big Fish recently too - I was walking by last Sunday on my way to the Country Kitchen with my parents and sister (another great little breakfast diner, BTW. Nothing fancy, but great service and rarely a wait for a table, which is rare in Calgary). We decided to check out the brunch menu at Big Fish and were intrigued, so we decided to stay. We were all impressed with the creative menu, the excellent service, and the fresh dishes. My dad had a soft shelled crab "club"; my sister had a scramble with goat's cheese and smoked trout, and my mom and I had the veggie bene. Great coffee as well. In fact, I wonder as I write this whether I should be sharing this new breakfast spot since it was lovely to walk in, get a table, have prompt service, and totally love our meals ...

                    I will definitely be back to try some more fish dishes in the evening too!

                    1. re: Jigga

                      Wow, maybe it's time for a revisit. Other than the oysters, i found the meal to be entirely forgettable. I was very very disappointed with Big Fish.

                      1. re: yen

                        I have to agree w/ Yen here....had dinner last was ok....but nothing besides the VERY YUMMY OYSTER SELECTION really rocked my world....OH...and the slice of bread that came w/ my Pot ea Feu (I know I spelled it wrong!) The service was great, the wine list extensive, but my main was forgetful and my husbands surf and turf was average. I think the best thing besides the oysters and bread was the soba noodle salad, but even that appeared to have frozen little shrimp. It was nicely seasoned though....

                        Anyone been to the new restaurant "OPEN RANGE" next door? These folks are taking over Ed. Trail storefront by storefront!

                        1. re: Susanbnyc


                          Im pretty sure there's another thread on Open Range if you check. I've been three times now. Uninspired, decent food. A bit overpriced. Not worth visiting imo, but not a disaster if you end up there. I remember having more comments than that in the previous post, but i prefer the greek restaurant (Piato) that used to be in that space.

                      2. re: Jigga

                        That soft shell crab club is one of the best sandwiches in town.

                  3. re: rafer madness

                    Calgary, land locked, as of when? What happened to the vast inland sea? Rafer, you may have seen the contrails of the aircraft taking Coretsan Osyters and other west and east coast yummies to Calgary (and Edmonton and Winnipeg and Madison) in the same time it takes to drive from the docks down Granville to downtown Vancouver. I recommend The Catch...Oysters and Scotch. Sell a kid or two and go.

                    1. re: foodiesnorth

                      I'm no expert but the PEI oysters I had at Opus on 8th were delish.

                      1. re: foodiesnorth

                        I have eaten at Catch and was not impressed. Personal opinion. But last time I ate there was 2003, so who know what it's like now. Way better places to eat in Calgary besides Catch anyways, so I think I'll sell my kids, your kids, and your friends kids kids and go to River Cafe for a real treat.

                      2. re: rafer madness

                        i agree fully - eat sea food on the east or west coast. calgary sea food is by default STALE

                        1. re: chillfactor59

                          It's not more "stale" than seafood in Vancouver. There might be a one-hour delay in delivery- that's it. You can get incredibly fresh seafood here, and against a really dumb comment made on this board, restos do NOT only serve "one" seafood entree.

                          I just got back from Chef's Table and enjoyed outrageously good FRESHLY SHUCKED BC scallops and monkfish among the tasting menu items. There are more seafood than non-seafood items.

                          We're one hour from Vancouver. One.

                          1. re: John Manzo

                            Indeed, many types of fish and shellfish can be kept alive until they reach the table. Can't get any fresher than that.

                      3. If you like oysters go to Embarcadero on 17th there's a 99 cent special every day.

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: hsk

                          Personally I rate cheap oysters with cheap sushi and say "no thanks".

                          1. re: formerlyfingers

                            Oysters are live until they're shucked so there's no issue of freshness like there is with raw fish, unless you get served a dead one (yuck - but you can't miss it).

                            Personally, I LIKE cheap sushi places bcuz they're usually busy and sell LOTS of sushi so their fish is usually fresher.

                            1. re: hsk

                              Proviso First: I have not eaten at an all you can eat or "cheap" sushi restaurant

                              The concept makes me shudder. I would think, at least out here on the prairies, that you get what you pay for.

                              Catch? Sensitive point. I decided to drive from Jasper where we were celebrating our anniversary to Calgary to try Catch several years ago. Thank goodness as always the Icefields Parkway was outstanding. Catch? Diabolical. Bad from start to finish except for one appetizer which was a tarte tatin topped with sweetbreads which was outstanding.

                              Wrote about our dinner at a website that will not be mentioned and had the email forwarded to Michael Noble who then was still there.

                              Not just Calgary, Edmonton suffers from the absence of a good fish restaurant as well.

                              1. re: Bob Mac

                                Sushi Land, Portland Oregon (a city that is NOT on the coast and not particularly blessed with good Asian restos) is unbelievably CHEAP and not bad at all- when you can walk away having polished off EIGHT robata plates, including TWO UNAGI for $1.50, and pay a grand total of $13, and not get dysentery? That's a good food day!!

                                1. re: John Manzo

                                  That's funny, I was just in Portland and was told by a local that if I've eaten sushi in Calgary that I just shouldn't bother in Porltand.

                                  Regardless, the quality of all the other food I had in Portland was great — and, as reported, really cheap.

                                  1. re: bohunk

                                    You're right, sushi in Portland is not great, especially with such amazing other options- great assortment of Thai and Viet places and Mexican that absolutely shames Calgary- but this place was such a curiosity I had to try it.

                        2. Has anyone had the seafood buffet at the Petroleum Club? It's a private club I know, but from what I've heard, if you can score an invite from a member, it is excellent, full of fresh, well-prepared seafood. And if you're there with a member, they will likely be paying, so perhaps it is a win-win situation!

                          Also, a friend of mine has been trying to get me to go for crab at Booker's for ages. Is it worth a visit? Is it even still open?

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: feuerzeug

                            I've had the lunch buffet at the Petroleum Club a few times and I always look forward to it when I get the invite. Its not the seafood buffet, so maybe thats something different, though there is some seafood at lunch. Its right along the lines of the Palliser and Banff Springs buffets... I always stock up on smoked salmon and save room for all the desserts. No jeans and no use of cellphones allowed in the main dining area!

                            1. re: Vancity Vic

                              I guess they have a special seafood dinner buffet, and I think it happens once per quarter-year. I've heard they do lobster, crab, mussels, fish n' chips, etc. People who have been tell me it is outstanding.

                              And just because you mentioned it, I have to say that the Banff Springs brunch buffet is the best I've ever had.

                          2. The original comment has been removed