Globe & Mail Reviews Calgary's Saint Germain, River Cafe and Capo
Today's [Saturday July 8]edition of the Globe and Mail includes a review from Joanne Kates of Saint Germain, River Cafe and Capo.
Saint Germain does not fare very well, "Saint Germain...is lionized locally as one of the city's top three restaurants. If that's the best they've got, then Cowtown might as well still be the land of steer'n'beers. Which it kind of still is.." ouch!!
Even complements concerning "good intentions and good ideas" like the commitment to local ingredients are dulled by the conclusion, "...the execution is rough and unsophisticated".
River Cafe does much better as well it should in IMHHO given the excellent meals I have experienced there, "This may be the best place east of the Rockies for summertime brunch...".
But Chef Di Gennaro's relatively new spot Capo gets something close to a rave review. The article's title is "Capo is the capper of Calgary" which sums up the thrust of her writing. Turns out she had many of the same courses that my wife and I had during our visit a month or so ago.
She too was impressed by his pasta. "The aroma of black truffle pesoto and porcini coulis on my taglierini should be enough to bring the strong men at the next table to their knees". Amen! It and the bolognese filled ravioli were outstanding!
I still haven't had the opportunity to try out Capo - though the River Cafe kitchen was in great spirits when we heard the review today. It felt great to get some props for brunch. I've made just about every weekend daytime flatbread in the last two and a half months, so it's nice to get an A grade. We had no idea that she had been through the restaurant. I guess I'm going to have to go to Capo soon.
The whole Style section is on Calgary ("Calgary Cool") and it is about freaking time.
I like Joanne Kates but it's typical of her arrogance that she proclaims Capo "Calgary's best restaurant" without even acknowledging that she's only sampled three. She only scratched the surface of the high end- she did review Teatro in 1998 (yes, one Calgary resto review in eight years during which she reviewed more than 400 in Toronto for Canada's "national" paper) but should have come back, did not see il Sogno, Muse, Catch, Belvedere, Raw Bar (which has received much better press than has Saint Germain), Brava, The Living Room...
Right now, incidentally, my favourite Calgary restaurant is Han's. Their chili chicken is to die for and the thing they do with cabbage- almost all by itself- it's incredible. They have an eggplant dish that is actually better than the time-stood-still one I used to get at Jing Peking in Toronto when I lived there....
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Calgary doesn't lack in "true fine dining." Compare our high end to cities of a million or so (Edmonton, Ottawa, Louisville, SLC, Milwaukee) and the options here are more than respectable. I must again add that I moved here from Toronto in 2000 and it's not the "fine dining" at Scaramouche or North 44 that I miss- what I miss most, by FAR, is the incredible, tops-in-North-America number of West Indian, especially Trinidadian, places. That, and Gryfe's bagels. These are however compensated, sort of, by Calgary's similarly astonishing Vietnamese options and the fact that Calgary has much better sushi at much better prices.
As chowhounds we should never (IMHO) conflate "finest" with "best."
I think since John's arrival in Calgary things have gotten better and better. At the moment the biggest limitations on great fine dining is staff and supply - lots of money and vision here. The sad thing about Trinidadian is that it doesn't seem to be getting better. IMHO the worst thing about Calgary isn't ethnic eats or fine dining. It's the endless crap mid-range outer Calgary restaurants - Earls, Moxies, Redwater, Outback, Keg, Kelsey's, Boston Pizza. They occupy the +- 20 dollar entree range, they muck up the hiring practices, they make bullshit food, they also represent the lion's share of the dining dollar in the city.
I do have to give a shout out to Earl's for trying to improve. They hired Michael Noble after he left Catch to develop new and interesting dishes for their menu. I have not been to Earl's recently but plan to go in the next few weeks -- so I don't know if they've rolled out his new ideas.