Some Old Favourites (Calgary)...
- Divino (Weekday, Dinner)
An old friend of mine came back to town and kindly treated us to dinner at Divino. After my earlier suburban experience I was keen to eat well for a change. Sat near the kitchen and went straight into entrees so we could save some room for dessert. I (likely inappropriately) combined sparkling shiraz with the roast chicken. It sat on a pile of parsnip puree with marscapone, green beans and had a red wine sauce. My dining companions had duck and a lamb chop feature. The pricepoint at Divino is so directly comparable to Earls that it makes it hard to understand how the latter can stay in business. The chicken was perfection and the skin was magnificent. As in, I wanted to roast chickens, broil the skins and take bags of skin as snacks during the work week. Second round was dessert. I had a chocolate pave - which I really thought would be a wedgie, layered chocolate almost napoleon thing. It was just a tube of nice mousse. The apple pie was wicked however, and a rhubarb ice cream that came with the lemon tart was an out of the park hit.
- Big T's (Weekend, Lunch)
I still haven't stepped into Palomino (or that is, around the crack smoking moron, and then into Palomino). However, a recent trip to Big T's on a weekend lunch is forcing me to look elsewhere. The Stadium location has never had great service, and it didn't get any better. They were out of St. Louis ribs (early into grey cup weekend). Our food was a bit sad looking but had certainly spent plenty of time with burning wood chips. I can't whine too much as I don't think things have changed much; they just haven't gotten any better. Considering they've closed the Heritage location you'd think they would bother addressing some of their shortcomings.
- Namskar (Weekend, Dinner)
As the city still waits for the return of Mango Shiva, we (4) sat down to an epic meal at Namskar. The massive Tandoori grill platters put even the Elvis platter of Big T's to test - Skewers of shrimp, kebabs, a spicy chicken breasts, classic tandoor chicken thighs and more - at 24.95 it dwarfs the BBQ platter for generosity. Adding to the excellent naan, coconut rice and butter chicken - they also have a creamed black lentil dish which is memorable. I find the spice level here to be a touch lower then Mango Shiva, but deep spiced flavour throughout the meal. We skipped the pakora, as it is the only disappointment I've had at Namskar in the past. Service is semi attentive but done in the "team of waiters" style.
- River Cafe (Weekday, Lunch)
It's been a good while since my last meal at the River. It was a cold day on Monday and I knew that the restaurant would be quiet. We were greeted with some warm apple cider to take the chill off. We got lucky with a substantial amuse to start. Tempura lobster tail with kimchi, grilled lobster with prosciutto powder on a dulce and cucumber salad and house cured bacon laid out like carpaccio with a tarragon vinaigrette. A New Zealand wine followed to prep us for our entrees. I had the Bison brisket, which was under 30 dollars, and mindblowing. Tender brisket with a plum BBQ sauce, served on scalloped potatoes with hollandaise - matched with green beans and cabbage sauteed with bacon. Brilliant. Partner had seared pickerel, sweet pumpkin tartar sauce, onion perogies and a bit of side veg. Spot on cooking and the pumpkin tartar sauce was creative and refreshing on the mouth. They are now sourcing their cocoa from a single plantation and the truffles are wicked.
It was a bit of a disappointment- the group had reserved the upper level private space that accommodates, oh, 60 or so people easily and maybe 15 showed up, so it was not especially festive. There was a decent cheese platter (no manchego but still okay- I love manchego) at the back of the room, an open wine bar although I was wearing my designated driver hat so I didn't partake but everybody seemed happy with what was on offer, and then the food was just hors d'oeuvres. They were very good (esp bacon-wrapped tenderloin, yum) but didn't really give us a clue as to what the regular menu looked or tasted like. And even after stuffing my face with excellent little tomato-zucchini "tarts" was really hungry when we got home.