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Are Calgary restaurants overpriced? (moved from Canada board)

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Many seem to be debating the price of eating out at "good" restaurants in Calgary lately. Is it too expensive? I've been looking at various prices at restaurants that have AAA beef tenderloin on their menus and comparing prices - of course, sizes of steaks may vary and depending on what sauce etc would make a difference (ie truffle versus mushroom)- So heres a list of whats on the menu at fine establishments in the city:

Rouge - Grilled Alberta Beef Tenderloin, Browned Sage Butter, “Dirty” Sea Salt $40

Il Sogno - AAA beef tenderloin grilled rare with Arugula salad, sangiovese reduction and Parmigiano Reggiano shavings - no price on their website (so $$$ they wont deign to show it?) I'm guessing approx $35

Centini Seared AAA Alberta Beef Filet – warm gorgonzola cream $38

Teatro - ALBERTA PRIME BEEF TENDERLOIN, FOIE GRAS RAVIOLI, SALSIFY & MOREL FRICASSÉE $44

La Chaumiere - Filet of Alberta "Galloway" beef with black truffle sabayon $29.50

Capo - Pan-seared 7oz AAA beef tenderloin, young gorgonzola mousse, port reduction &
sautéed broccoli rabe $34.50

Murrietas - Aged, 6oz Beef Tenderloin - Port wine, cassis glaze.$30.72

The Living Room - 8 ounce fillet, black truffle jus and roasted fingerlings $38

Considering the prices that even Tony Romas, Earls etc charge for even a striploin I don't think its too way out there. Also some of these establishments use tablecloths !! AND don't have fillers on their plate such as fries, baked potatoes that usually go back to the kitchen anyway.

I can't think of anything nicer than sitting in a beautiful dining room such as Teatro or Capo and eating off fine china and drinking from fine crystal. Maybe the bill's more because we definitely wouldn't order a $70 bottle of wine to go with our Pizza or Quesadilla at Earls?

I think that most of these places get a bum wrap that they're too expensive - what do you think??

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  1. pickyeater:

    Too expensive? As you pointed out that issue is debatable.

    Personally, when it hits over the $40 dollar a course mark I begin to have reservations. Mind you as also observed that may have something to do with the use of truffles or foie gras and the like.

    I do not regularly eat cuts of beef when I am out and less so during the summer period... That is what my barbeque is for...but I appreciate you likely would come to similar comparisons if you used something else as your "benchmark".

    Calgary's restaurants are being supported by a buoyant economy and although I think it is fair to say they are expensive. Overpriced? Not sure. Time will tell.

    Likey remain better than Toronto..mind you they might say the same thing about New York, etc., etc.

    Mind you I do not mind sippin' a $37 Sandhill Small Lots Program Petit Verdot or a $43 Osoyoos-Larose [$2 or $3 under retail]in the improved...but admittedly not fine crysal...steware at an Earl's too.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Bob Mac

      I think the prices will always reflect what the market will bear. 50 dollars for an entree is a fairly hard cap at the moment to pop. That's usually a steak with a fairly pricy starch and a booze reduction of some worth, coupled with a bling ingredient like foie or truffles or another pricey ingredient (squash blossoms, chantrelles and so on).

      I think people should be very hesistant to pay over 20 at a crap restaurant like Earls or Moxies for anything. The roast chicken comes out of a bag, the salads, the vej and so forth are all as cheap as they can get.

      The other big number can be seafood dishes, but I think they are worth avoiding. The best Canadian lobsters are small and more of an appetizer size. The best seafood dishes in the city are things like lobster gnocchi at Brava (or the Poutine!). Fish can be a different story and a nice line caught salmon can be expensive.

      The bottom line for dollar amount is not merely the ingredient costs, but how much value is put into them. If there is an ethical/organic angle (like the river cafe), or something unique to the city (suckling pig at Teatro). Obviously the atmosphere should be quite good - I can never get past the cheesy vampire art outside of Tribune, but I love the room at the Belvedere. At 30 dollars an entree, I can stomach the clip art slide show at Divino, but for 40 and up I expect an art collection like Teatro.

      Cooks in general make horrific wages. They get very little from the tip pool, work long hours and bear the brunt of the labour of getting the food to the table. If you can imagine the effort it takes to put together a pinnacle feature on a Friday or Saturday, the cost would likely seem trivial.

      1. re: Gobstopper

        Just a comment about Teatro, only been once and we were underwhelmed. Then I had a tenant who was a chef at Teatro and he said he was surprised how much of their stuff is not made on site. He said it was good purchased goods but still purchased.

        This fellow was from a well known place in Vancouver where he said everything was made in the restuarant.

    2. I think that eating out in general has become more expensive whether it's at a fine dining restaurant or at a place such as Earl's. I recently had an iced tea and some curry chicken rice dish at Earl's and the bill came to over $20 for something I probably could have reproduced at home for under $6. The owners of fine dining establishments are fully aware that we as customers are paying for the experience of being pampered almost as much as the food since we'll forgive a half-decent over priced meal if we have a fabulous waiter. Which I think is the reason places like Earl's are doing major renovations to their decor so that they can get in on jacking up the prices as well.

      1. I think the fact is, in a place like Earl's, the food costs only account for 1/4 to 1/3 of the cost of a dish. Everything else goes for the lease, the fancy dishes, the decor, utilities, the labour and training. (not to mention all the 'hostesses' that just hang around)

        I'm OK with that, IF the dish I'm having is actually really well done and not just something that could be done better at home. Not something, IMAO, that you typically get at those franchise chains. But that's something you have to judge for yourself.

        1. Well as far Centini is concerned I just came from there and 38 bucks was certainly too much for yawnsville cooking that you could get at the "Italian" restaurant in any Marriott or Hilton or Hyatt anywhere in North America. Chewy clumped-together mushrooms, underdone pasta, the usual yada yada yada porcini parmesan white truffle oil yada yada yada. Whatever the food revolution was that produced this now tired universe of flavors, it's time for a new revolution.