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Oct 30, 2007 11:56 AM

Belvedere, Calgary

Has anyone been here lately? We'd like to go for dinner this Saturday, and we were thinking of Belvedere. I had a less than spectacular meal last time (totally oversalted), but I love the space - especially the lounge for before (and perhaps after) dinner drinks. My husband and I don't get out much (well we have takeout all the time, but nothing special), and were hoping for something exceptional. Thanks.

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  1. Based on my one trip there about six weeks ago, I'd say that it may be a wee bit overrated. It was alright, but far from exceptional.

    4 Replies
    1. re: maclock

      Do you have any exceptional experiences you can recommend? I'm trying to step outside my usual ideas. Something with interesting food, loungy atmosphere, and competent service is a starting point for me.

      1. re: Jigga

        Regrettably, I don't. I have been meaning to try some of the higher-end places here in Calgary, but the eye-popping prices leave me gunshy.

        I have dined at Murrieta's a few times and have always enjoyed it, but it doesn't sound like what you're looking for at all. For instance, I wouldn't call the food very interesting at Murrieta's; just very good old standbys.

        And although you aren't considering it, I'd stay away from almost all of the steakhouse recommendations. I've dined at Caesar's, Carvers, Cattle Baron, Smugglers, Reef 'n' Beef, and all were quite disappointing. Best steaks to date? Murrieta's and Joeys. Seriously. Although I suspect that Buchanan's or one of the insanely expensive places on Stephen Avenue does an excellent steak, even if it's a $40-50 cut.

        1. re: maclock

          I find that the best steaks in town come fight off my bbq anyways - there's a butcher on Edmonton trail that does custom cuts. Always better than any steakhouse around!

          Murietta's might be a thought - I always forget about that one. I like the lounge there too. Haven't had the best service there in hte past - lots of apologizing from our server about being too busy and forgetting about us.

          Thanks for your thoughts anyways!

          1. re: Jigga

            I wish that I could be of more assistance, Jigga.

    2. I had a similar experience to maclock - all right, but not exceptional. Ever since they lost Chabot to Il Sogno, i havent heard that many great things.

      For loungy, interesting food, and competent staff, i'd throw Muse on top of the usual selections of Divino, Brava, eight/Mercury, which are obvious lounge+food combinations.

      18 Replies
      1. re: yen

        You know, even Muse and Divino, while both good, didn't exactly knock my socks off.

        Have yet to try Brava and Eight.

        1. re: maclock

          Out of curiosity maclock, which restuarants do you like? Where are your favorites? What restaurants have knocked your socks off? Not just Calgary, but anywhere.

          Please don't take this personally, but i havent seen a highly complimentary post from you yet and im curious to see where you would choose to eat. I've eaten at a lot of places, and there are dining experiences here that i think fall into the excellent category. Im not talking the French Laundry/Masa/El Bulli/Fat Duck/Robuchon stratosphere, but definitely high class.

          1. re: yen

            You are right; I am not easily impressed. However, I would hasten to add that for me, it's not necessarily all about refined surroundings or choices. I mean, I have prattled on about pizza, fish and chips, and donairs more than fine dining choices.

            To be honest, dollar for dollar, I have found dining to be better value in my home town (which is not in Western Canada, so I won't list the best dining values there). As Calgary is an expense account city and as people are willing to splash out more here, I find that the food in most of the recommended higher-end places is usually good, but not exceptional. That's just my opinion. The very best of the best is likely exceptional here, but the prices are simply stratospheric and I'm not willing to part with that much money to find out.

            Don't worry; I'm not taking anything personally. We're all pals here, right? :-)

            1. re: maclock

              Oh i agree, good food is good food, and you are just as likely to get it at some dive as some fancy pretentious place. But you certainly seem to have had a fair share of experiences at many of the fancier places in town, which is why i find it surprising you havent found one place you really enjoyed. Is it value for money you're judging them on, or is it just straight up food?

              I don't get blown away much anywhere anymore - so i can understand that. But that's quite different than saying restaurants are "decent, but not great".

              And if you're talking dollar for dollar, im not surprised at all. Prices here, for the most part, have gotten ridiculous. I went to Buchanan's for a burger tonight, and the price has gone up to $18!! To top it all off, it sucked. There are still good deals to be had, they just take a lot more digging to find them.

              1. re: yen

                It's a function of both value for money and straight-up food, Yen; the two are near inseparable in my estimation.

                I find that prices in this city have departed from reality, and now many good/decent, but not exceptional, places are all the rage if only because they are the places where people can afford to go. The food they turn out is perfectly good, but not outstanding, and it doesn't in most cases warrant all the cold, hard cash that it costs.

            2. re: yen

              Whoops, Yen, I confused Tribune with Belvedere!

              I have yet to have a full meal at Belvedere (I have only popped in for creme brulee and coffee a couple of times). It was Tribune that I found particularly underwhelming. My mistake. Apologies all around.

              1. re: maclock

                Lol. No need to apologize, especially to me as im just a fellow respondant. However, i think your feedback could apply to both restaurants :)

          2. re: yen

            So we decided on Tribune with drinks afterwards at Belvedere.

            As for your other suggestions Yen, I totally love Brava (we go there quite frequently when we decide to do something other than takeout).

            Unfortunately, Eight was a disappointment - the service (up to the entrees), the cocktails, and the appetizers were excellent, but the waiter promised me (in fact he insisted) that my lamb would be perfectly cooked (I asked for rare since my meat is always overcooked). My meat came out fully medium, and the waiter never came back to do a quality check. Then my desert was burned, and again, no quality check. By this time it was around 11, the club was getting busy and we decided to just call it a night at the dinner table and go dance. I'll probably go back though, since I like to give every place a couple of chances to get it right.

            I've never been to Divino for dinner, but the few times I went for lunch, while the food was good, the service tended to be overly slow for the business lunch crowd. I did really enjoy pre-dinner cocktails and cheeses there though. What have your dinner experiences there been like? What are some good dinner menu selections? If I go for dinner it always helps me to have some ordering suggestions.

            Finally, I had one fabulous and 2 less than fabulous experiences at Muse. My first visit was with my husband and we had probably the best food and service we've had in a long time in the City. The next two times I had trout, which was, to put it mildly, less than fresh. Our waiter was also very distracted and not so attentive. I will still go back though, since my first visit was so stellar. Plus I love the popcorn with the truffle oil on it. If only it tasted that good at the movies. Thanks for reminding me of this place!

            1. re: Jigga

              I've always found it interesting how different experiences (espcially bad ones), and heck, even the order we have the experiences in, can shape our opinions.

              For example, you've had one fabulous and two less than fabulous meals at Muse. And yet you're still willing to go back, because your first experience was such a good one. I find i definitely am a lot more forgiving of an establishment if my first experience was excellent as well. I wonder if a good first experience makes us more tolerant? It must.

              On the contrary, i had a bad experience at Tribune the first time, and a lousy experience at River Cafe the first time i went as well. Now i've been back since, usually based around other people's plans, and had some perfectly good meals. But im not sure there's ever any way they'll become my favorites, just because of the first impression. I understand why people like the River Cafe, i just think my views are tainted based on my first experience. It's all very interesting anyway.

              Anyway, regarding Divino, i have enjoyed my dinners there. My biggest issue with Divino is the space - it's loud, hard to hear people from across the table. The pacing is fairly slow as well - about the same as lunch - which is definitely on the slow side. However, at dinner, im never really in much of a rush, so it's no big deal..The food more than makes up for it.

              I dont always eat dinner the same way. Sometimes, a bunch of appetizers. Sometimes, just an entree and cheeses. Depends on my mood.And for other people, how much you like cheese (i love it personally). I've sample extensively from the appetizer menu, and far less so from the entrees, but i'll let you know what i've enjoyed.

              For me, first and foremost are the moules and frites. Their frites rock. I've had the sweetbreads, which were good but not the best i've had, the niciose salad, and whatever flatbreads are on the menu. These were all excelent.

              For entree, i usually go with the lobster cannelloni, which is also on the lunch menu. It's darn tasty though. I've had the Halibut, and i've had salmon. Salmon was ok... Halibut was really really good. I think i've had a red meat dish there once, but it's all fuzzy from excessive wine. Lamb maybe? Buffalo? Something like that.

              As i said, the noise is a bit bothersome when you want to have a quiet conversation. I find it better for 4 people or more where you're out for a night on the town, than for any sort of romance. But i still love it. You just have to know what you're getting into.

              1. re: yen

                I have found Il Sogno to be the most consistently impressive dining experience in the city. I eat there about twice a year, and have done so for about the last 5 years (usually for special occasions, as they aren't exactly giving it away!!). Although the cost is high, the service and food have been fantastic every single time.

                1. re: shopwinedinefine

                  I agree completely, the food and service are both top notch at Il Sogno. We also go there only for special occasions(I've said it before... three kids six and under isn't condusive to lots of fine dining experiences).

                2. re: yen

                  I agree - it is interesting how certain impressions are so formative when it comes to dining - particularly those first ones. I guess it's just like with people! Anyways, I always enjoy your posts Yen - I think I will give Divino another chance, but not for an intimate date. I agree, it is a bit loud and more conducive to group gatherings. The lobster cannelloni sounds delicious ... even at 9am.

                  1. re: Jigga

                    It's not the biggest serving, but it's so rich, it doesnt need to be!

                    Let us know how Tribune and Belvedere are - im especially curious about Belvedere for drinks - wondering what the vibe is like and how good the energy is in the room for apres-dinner. It's not exactly the first place that comes to mind for drinks!

                    Anyway, hope you have a great Saturday.

                  2. re: yen

                    Divino is where we decided to go Sat. night... hopefully I can hear DH and my BIL across the table (so-so hearing from years of concerts). I love cheese though so I'm excited to finally give Divino a try. :)

                    1. re: maplesugar

                      don't miss the haricot vert tempura and mustard sauce!

                      1. re: alex8alot

                        Loved the tempura green beans! So did DH and my BIL. The whole experience was wonderful. Sadly, there was no cheese(I was outvoted) ... we ended up at Nectar for dessert though. MMmmm chocolate experience. Perfect night (although Divino was loud, not unbearable, but certainly noisy) imho. :)

                      2. re: maplesugar

                        Brillat-Savarin. A must try if you havent before (and if you like soft cheeses, but who doesnt like soft cheeses!? :) ).

                        1. re: yen

                          Thanks alex8alot, thanks yen... I was looking over the menu and yes I think I'll be ordering the green beans and probably a three cheese tasting... including the Brillat-Savarin...among alot of other delish looking items on their menu. Something tells me I don't want to count calories Saturday hehe.

                3. Jigga, Maplesugar... any updates on your evenings out last weekend?

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: yen

                    I sure do. We went to Tribune for pre-dinner cocktails in the lounge and I enjoyed a nice Hendricks martini with a cucumber garnish (I comment on this only because I love martinis and always appreciate something other than olives as a garnish as I am olive-d out - perhaps too many martinis?).

                    We then moved to the basement of Tribune and shared a bottle of cab recommended by our quirky, attentive, and clever little waiter (who also happened to be a sommalier).

                    For our meal we each had a perfectly prepared beef tenderloin. Unfortunately we filled up on bread and bruschetta and red pepper dip and cheese and olives from Mercato at my pre-dinner "book club meeting" so we didn't have room for appies. BTW - the red pepper dip made at Mercato and the feta stuffed olives they sell are delicious for snacking.

                    I must comment on the fact that my beef at Tribune was perfectly cooked (rare but still warm), since I am medium-ed out with beef in this city. I can't recall the last time I had a steak that wasn't overcooked. The beef was accompanied by a red wine reduction, black truffle shavings, and asparagus, as well as an amazing creamy yet crispy butternut squash "bake". For dessert I enjoyed the lemon tart - which was tart and smooth and the perfect way to end a heavier meal. My husband had, as usual, the most chocolate filled offering on the menu, which he of course loved. Being a non-chocolate lover, I didn't try it so I can't say whether it was "to die for", but it looked tasty.

                    I had wanted to check out Belvedere after dinner - I always liked the lounge there - but I got dragged to a birthday party at "The Well" - which is attached to Kyoto 17 (which I believe has some of the "un-freshest" sushi in the city). To my dismay, when we arrived the entire lounge smelled like pungent old sushi. Not that I'm surprised, but I didn't like the place at all.

                    So that was my night. Unfortunately a bit weak on the food description due to a martini induced haze. Nonetheless, I will for sure go back to Tribune, but I'll try for a better after dinner lounge next time.

                    1. re: Jigga

                      "....recommended by our quirky, attentive, and clever little waiter (who also happened to be a sommalier)..."

                      Sounds like there should be more to the "story"....

                    2. re: yen

                      We had a wonderful dinner at Divino... and those who said it was noisy were absolutely correct. We were seated at the back of the restaurant and halfway through dinner a large group of guys came in and had a rather boisterous evening... I can't complain really since they were just enjoying themselves and the only loudness was laughter...they weren't so loud as to be obnoxious.

                      We started with the haricot vert tempura. It was a nice light start to the night. The beans were crisp and the mustard dip was tangy and delish. I had the Portobello Tarte Tatin as my first course... and I must say, I usually don't like mushrooms much... but this dish converted me! I loved the portobello with the balsamic... and the goat cheese paired well with them both... taking the bite out of the balsamic and providing a nice creamy base.

                      I decided that since we never make lobster at home I'd try the lobster canneloni. The filling was creamy and chock full of lobster, the only minor flaw (and I mean minor) was the pasta wasn't quite al dente...it was on the soft side. I've made cheese canneloni at home and I can't seem to get the noodles to stay firm either s maybe I'm expecting to much? As for the portion size - two large cannelonies were enough for me... was I stuffed? No, but I don't like that feeling.

                      I can't describe what BIL and DH had but I can tell you we all left Divino giddy about going back and trying more of their menu.

                      Because my BIL is new to Calgary we took him to Nectar so he could try two places in one evening... plus I LOVE Rebekah's desserts hehe. I had the Chocolate Experience *drool* a demitasse cup of hot chocolate, a scoop of Nectar's Chocolate ice cream and a small melt in your mouth chocolate caramel tarte with sea salt garnish. The salt/caramel thing gets me every time. We capped off the evening with some cognac and an Americano.

                      It's a good thing I don't get out to dinners like that every night... or my scale would be screaming for mercy ;)

                    3. I went for dinner at the Belvedere on Wednesday and left disappointed which is a shame because it has been one of my favourite restaurants in town for a number of years.
                      The Service was quite good but the place was virtually empty which I always find rather off-putting. As for the food, aside from my Fois Gras starter our food was decidely underwhelming, especially my pheasant entree which was very dry and uninspiring.
                      Perhaps it was just an off evening but with the prices they are charging I will be reluctant to return.
                      I think perhaps I will now stick to Capo and Rouge for my fine dining fix.
                      By the way, has anyone been to Il Sugno recently? I have thought about giving it a try in light of its new chef, who as you may know is the former chef of Belvedere.