Lunch at the Belvedere isn’t something I do often…but as the sky went cloudy and the thought of another mediocre pub lunch on a chilly patio crystallized in my mind I exited Stephen Avenue and figured the timing was spot on to treat myself. At least I hoped it would be a treat because I knew it wouldn’t be cheap eats.
The Belvedere has become a bit of an oddity and I can say having been a regular there years ago. It’s not the inviting environment that it used to be and while other places on 8th offer a less stuffy formal dining experience The “B” soldiers on. They still have a great wine list and wonderful menu prepared by Alain Chabot but the lounge banquette looks run down and is dire need of a “restaurant makeover”. Thankfully the dining room has maintained its elegance and is wonderfully lit during the lunch hour, even on a cloudy day.
Upon reviewing the lunch menu I instantly saw a dilemma. Alain offers way too many GREAT sounding dishes and it’s a shame to only be able to choose one! Having recently been to Paris I chose a distinctly Parisian route and began with the daily soup…French Onion. I didn’t care for this as it had too much sherry vinegar (or some kind of vinegar) and not nearly enough onion flavor. The bowl of soup was served with two pieces of baguette topped with melted cheese so it was hardly the boring old school onion soup you get in many places. For $10, even though I didn’t enjoy the broth it was a nice dish (the table next to me seemed to enjoy so it may just be that my taste buds that didn’t appreciate the flavor). The glass of 2000 Chateau Duplisses Bordeaux ($12) I ordered was the perfect temperature but was too oxidized to be fully expressive. The vinegar in the soup didn’t help the wine either.
Along with the soup and wine the waiter brought me 3 kinds of bread (rye, red pepper, and baguette) and all were excellent. It is such a small thing but yet so many places serve whatever crappy cardboard their baker sent over that we lose sight of the fact that great bread is…well…great. I scarfed down the rye and red pepper to try and kill the vinegar taste in my mouth but saved the baguette for my next course.
For my entrée I ordered the “Game Sausage and Smoked Sturgeon Valley Pork Cassoulet”. Presented in a deconstructed fashion this dish was superb. Even though the waiter told me the dish was served traditionally (e.g. in a cassoulet bowl) I was pleasantly surprised and impressed by the look of this classic Parisian offering. The flavors in the sausage and pork were the closest thing to food porn I have had in some time. When I inquired as to how the pork was smoked yet devoid of any smoke ring I was told that the pork is “cold smoked” on site by Alain and his team. All I can say is…WOW! For $26 this dish was worth every penny. I drank a glass of 2004 Duckhorn “Decoy” Meritage ($20) with my entrée and it was a perfect compliment…a little extreme in price but an equally sexy assault on the senses. Soaking up the leftover “thyme jus” with the baguette was the perfect way to clean the bowl. The portioning of this dish was perfect so I figured…bring on dessert.
The one dessert the Belvedere is known for is “Sticky Toffee Pudding with Treacle Sauce and Devon Cream”. I hadn’t had this in years…my mouth watered with anticipation…and then POW! This is one of “THE” things I think every foodie in Calgary should try. It has perfect texture, just enough the sweetness and the cream compliments these characteristics in such a way that you cannot wait to get another forkful in your mouth. I would eat this every day if I could.
Spending this kind of money on a lunch for one would generally make me feel guilty…it is quite extravagant and not something I do often…after this lunch I felt REALLY guilty! Not only did I feel that it was worth it…I’d do it again…and next week you might find me back there enjoying a quiet lunch for one! Cheers.
Alain Chabot left the Belevedere about a month ago. Must have left his menu behind though from the looks of it. Last I heard on the grapevine, he will work at Il Sogno and try to breath some new life into that place (never been the same since Chef G. left). Il Sogno is apparently closed for a few weeks starting July1, so I assume he will begin when they reopen (their website says big changes are happening there). Anyhow, interesting to see who and what will happen at Belvedere now.