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Nov 1, 2007 07:09 PM

Three Alberta restaurants make enRoute's 30 Best New Restaurants

Well folks, the annual enRoute food issue is out today. And I'm happy to see that Alberta is pulling its weight, with two restaurants in the Top 10, and one in the Top 20. (And Winnipeggers are represented in the Top 20 too, with Oui Bistro and Wine Bar.)

Here is the link to the Top 10 list and article:

And here's the link to the "Next 20" list:

It looks like there are also loads of great new restos in Vancouver. I'm especially intrigued by "The Taco Shack".

Now the question is, has anyone dined at any of these Western Canadian winners? I've been to Edmonton's Skinny Legs and Cowgirls, which is good indeed and I like the fact that they use a lot of organic veggies and meat. It's not perfect, but it has personality and attitude which I think is sorely lacking in Edmonton. I've also been to Blink, but only when the first two chefs (they're on their third in a year, but it seems that has paid off!) were cookin'. Jennifer

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  1. Yep, not a bad showing, not as great as last year with two Calgary restos in the top 10. Still, you have to be amazed at Vancouver- FIVE in the "next 20"?

    14 Replies
    1. re: John Manzo

      Yes, it is surprising. However, I've never spent much time in Vancouver, so who knows. Though, it's good that an "Eastern Canadian" reviewer and magazine gives that much ink to a Western Canadian dining scene.

      But have you eaten at Blink lately, or this Trough Dining Co.? I'm curious. Are they that good? Jennifer

      1. re: EdiblePrairieJennifer

        Eastern Canadian reviewer? I think there is a fairly significant western component to the writing and reviewing. Gilchrist, Mary Bailey, Shelora Sheridan, Gary Hynes, etc. etc.

        Not surprised that Vancouver did well. Pretty dynamic dining scene.

        I see that even Victoria has two mentions. We were going to try Niche a couple of weeks ago but decided instead to try out another newcomer Stage in the Fernwood neighbourhood which has been opened by the owners of Paprika.

        Have not been to either of the southern Alberta options nor Cowgirls

        1. re: Bob Mac

          Hi Bob! Yes we do contribute suggestions and do the initial leg-work to on the list (which amounts to a point-form email with names, addresses and one-liners of why we like the place), but once we send in our recommendations, the writer, Chris, and editors decide which places, if any, he will visit. Some years, like last, he gave Edmonton a miss altogether. which at first made me mad, but I realize that there was just nothing that was going to make the list anyway in his opinion. Many months later, the contributors find out who made the list about a week before it hits the public.

          I think I actually like that format. If you live in a place, it's too hard to be objective. And the whole thing is supposed to compare dining across Canada. And Chris is very opinionated, sometimes over-the-top, but it makes for an interesting list.

          Yes, Victoria had some interesting spots too. How was Stage?

          1. re: EdiblePrairieJennifer

            Me again. I've been thinking about your response, Bob. I guess enRoute does makes their annual list seem more democratic than it is. And perhaps this is why it interests me. I enjoy reading the list because it is so un-democratic, and really depends on one person's palate. But I find Chowhound infinitely more useful because of the multitude of opinions. I'm just musing now, because I feel that the days of the "restaurant reviewer" are numbered, so I'm curious to gauge the relevance of lists like enRoute. (Not that I wish any lack of future employment for Chris!!) Thoughts?

            1. re: EdiblePrairieJennifer

              Certainly do not disagree with your observation Jennifer. I definitely do not put much stock into En Route's conclusions and look at it more out of curiosity than anything else. That having been said, it was interesting to go through the list of past "winners" and see how many we have actually tried.

              I know Atlantica is now on my "must try" list should we ever have the pleasure of getting back to "the Rock".

              I did try Whalebones when in Ottawa in February on the advice of the bartender who served me at Beckta and it was excellent.

            2. re: EdiblePrairieJennifer

              Thank you for the "background" info Jennifer.

              Mixed feelings about Stage.

              It is quite a casual spot with a neighbourhood feel directly across from the Fernwood Inn which also was recently renovated. About 40 or so seats with a few more up at their bar.

              Not a bad wine list with a chalkboard for the dozen or more by the glass

              I was initially luke-warm. Our bill seemed high for what we had ordered and due to the pacing as the kitchen did get their food out quickly, we seemed to be finished quicker than expected so it differed considerably from our two nice dinners at Brasserie L'Ecole and Cafe Brio.

              Small plates. Not tapas per se but similar.

              However, then when my wife and I discussed what we had ate, there was not a poor dish among them.

              Our lamb stew with a wedge of baked polenta was quite good as was the duck confit served over a sauce that included crunchy brussel sprouts and grainy mustard. The fried octopus was delicous simply coated with flour and cornstarch and served with a lemon. Simple veggie plates of brocolli fried in olive oil, garlic and chili peppers and then roasted winter squash with brown butter and sage were excellent.

              I am glad that we tried it but I am not sure that I would "rush" back during our next visit.

              Continuing with the En Route theme do you remember the furor from the restauranters in Montreal when Lisa Aheir's SOBO in Tofino was named as one of the 10 best new restaurants? We were in Tofino prior to Victoria and SOBO has moved from the Botanical Gardens outside of town [where Cafe Pamplona formerly was] to the modern space where Pasticerria Conradi had been in the middle of the village.

            3. re: Bob Mac

              Anyone try the food at Blink lately? I work nearby and I have never seen it more than a quarter full - even on a Friday night at peak time. I have also not read or heard of a good review, so I guess I am confused with it having a spot on the top ten new restaurants in Canada.

              1. re: ennui


                Were it not for the additional "insider" information provided by Jennifer above I too would be surprised. Blink must fit into that niche that the writer is impressed with.

                1. re: ennui

                  Blinks first chef was from Vintage, the second from Broken Plate. I really can't understand how this restaurant made it to the top 10. The current chef will be fabulous and certainly has a great reputation. I enjoyed the menu a few times. I now understand why they didn't change the is is is horrible...$25 a day for parking downtown!

                  1. re: ChefsMenuTasting

                    Parking at night in DT Calgary is a fantastic deal. And that's more likely when you're going to dine at Blink, right?

                    I got a copy of enRoute and I was appalled that FOUR of the judges for this list came from Vancouver! No other city had more than 2 judges. Is there any wonder why so many Van restos made it? When they stack the deck so blatantly? Ridiculous. There is no way a taco place that could be outdone by hundreds of such places in the states should have made the "next 20."

                    1. re: John Manzo

                      Could it be that the present Chef has won over John Gilchist in his previous restaurants in Vancouver?
                      True, Stephen Ave is free parking from 6pm on.

                      1. re: ChefsMenuTasting

                        In addition to 8th ave:
                        James Short Parkade
                        112 - 5 Avenue SW OR 115 - 4 Avenue SW
                        $2 Evenings everyday 6 pm to 6 am; Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays 6 am to 6 pm.

                        Telus Convention Centre Parkade
                        Entrance on Macleod Trail South between 8th Ave & 7th Ave
                        Evening Rates start at 4pm
                        (maximum of $4)

                        1. re: sharonanne

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            4. re: John Manzo

              Why is this amazing, I have travelled around the world and eaten in many cities. Vancouver is up there with many of the best. As someone who was involved at a high level of the food and beverage industry I am familiar with trends and culinary and the dining cuisine and Vancouver is amonst leaders in these areas. For example there is a post here on Chowhound asking world class cities for dining and Vancouver comes up often as does Montreal, as does New York, as does Sydney as does San Francisco etc., and I don't recall seeing Calgary mentioned. Again I have eaten at several 3 star Michelin rated restaurants and have some knowledge about food.

            5. From the "Next 20" list, I have been to The Taco Shack in Vancouver. I gather that I tried the newer of two locations, on Broadway, so I don't know if it as good as the original location on Cornwall. It was good value and pretty tasty compared to the Tex-Mex dreck one is normally served in Canada.

              I don't know how it made it onto the "Next 20" list. While very good, it's not fantastic or anything. Tacos el Asador in Toronto, on Bloor Street next to Christie Pits park, is better if you ask me, but still wouldn't warrant inclusion on this list. Sometimes I don't "get the groovy set".

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