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Reviews of Kensington Restaurants (Calgary)

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I am taking my wife to see the Nutcracker in a few weeks. It is being preformed at the Southern Jubilee, so I figured it would be easiest to eat somewhere in Kensington (plus, we live just north of Kensington and I'm always curious as to what everyone thinks about the eats there). I would prefer something nice, as we will be nicely dressed for the performance.

A few specific places I am considering (but please feel free to comment on any Kensington Restaurant that you absolutely love!) -

The Muse - I have a few reccomendations from folks to check this place out. First, what should I expect to pay for a dinner for two and a bottle of wine? Second, is it worth it?

Moroccan Castle - I have heard very mixed reviews about this place.

Pulcinella - Have heard nothing but good things, but I'm worried that it might be a bit too casual for our "dressy" attire.

On another note, I visited Ten Scene a few weeks ago and was not overly blown away. Definitely a great improvement from the Verve, but I still thought it was a bit overpriced for what you got. Don't get me wrong, the Lobster Martini was fantastic! However, we did have a Beet Salad (or something like that) that was very plain and bland and another Satay type dish that was good, but something I felt I could have gotten at Joe's for half the price. Any one else have a great experience that will convince me to give it another try?

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  1. i've heard good things about muse as well, but haven't made it down there.
    pulcinella is hit and miss - we had disgraceful service last time we were there - the lone bartender was busy but we were forced to wait through that bar line to get an extra wine glass - our server was in a panic for some reason the entire night and having a difficult time with everything - it was quite busy when we arrived, but seemed to settle down rather quickly. We had ex-servers in our group and they were surprised at the level of panic from our server. Our food was decent - but somewhat spoiled with a terrible lemoncello and poor service

    2 Replies
    1. re: pants

      Is there such a thing as good lemoncello? :)

      My +1 for Muse. John has the link to the website, which, like most restaurants, actually doesnt list prices anymore. A practice i abhor, but anyway. You can expect to pay about $60 for 3 courses per person, not including wine. Wine really comes down to personal preference, so i dont feel qualified to answer what that price might be.

      1. re: pants

        Pulchinella has been having a very tough time keeping staff lately. That doesn't excuse bad service--in fact, quite the opposite. The new manager has been hiring people with little service experience and throwing them into the bull pen with no training. I know this because I was one of them. I expected to go through some kind of training when I was hired, and was surprised when I arrived on my first day (a Friday afternoon--a busy lunch time) as one of only two servers. It was entirely too stressful (I was probably more than panicked), and after likely disappointing a number of tables, I quit. To reiterate, I've worked with food before, but never served. I expect better service than that when I go out to eat, and I expect the managers to care enough to train their staff, so I don't blame anyone for their annoyance.

        I find Muse very hit and miss. I've had wonderful food there, and passable food. The service is always good and I'm a big fan of the ambiance. I have not been there in awhile because my last food experience was of the passable variety.

      2. Muse is a favourite of mine. You can see menu and prices at their website, http://www.muserestaurant.ca/

        Moroccan Castle is on 19th in West Hillhurst, not really Kensington.

        I'm a big defender of Pulcinella. Never had a bad experience there. The mushroom fritti is to die for. We always ask for our pies a tad well done and they always oblige.

        Tibet on 10th is in my limited experience (two visits) a very nice place, but I worry about the longevity of any resto in that complex, seems cursed.

        I "absolutely love" Globefish on 14th- go early to get a table.

        I've heard much good about Niko's Bistro too- very curious about that place.

        4 Replies
        1. re: John Manzo

          I've also heard good things about Niko and can't wait to try it.

          Didn't see any prices on the Muse site...can you ballpark it for me (ie $40/main?)

          Globefish is quite good!! Have you every tried Wa's on Centre St. and 17th Ave NW (I think)? We alternate between these two every other week!

          1. re: mkj361

            I am so ashamed to say I've never tried Wa's- although if you're north of sunyside I'd guess this is a local spot for you- I'm in Bankview/

            Muse is typical higher-end; count on 10-20 appies, 25-40 entrees, I'd say $100 for two would be ballpark but that depends on what you drink.

            1. re: John Manzo

              I've been to Niko's twice and was really impressed both times. They have a great antipasto starter which is more than enough for two people - loads of marinated vegetables, meats, bread etc. It's been a while since I was there so I'm a bit fuzzy on the details of the menu, it is small (3-4 pasta dishes, 4-5 meat/fish dishes) with a couple of specials. I think I had pasta one night and veal another and was very happy with both. They do brunch as well and I keep meaning to check it out - just keep being lured to Dairy Lane!

              1. re: John Manzo

                Definitely give Wa's a try; it's more traditional than Globefish, but I personally found their fish to be higher quality. The service is very good, and the place is small enough that the Itamae can greet everyone as they walk in. I live about 6 blocks away, though, so maybe I'm biased!

          2. Thanks for all the input...now I just have a pure curiosity question. Has anyone eaten at both Blue Nile and Marathon? It has always intriuged me that two ethiopian places can stay in business only a couple blocks away from each other. Would love to hear what everyone thinks of the two.

            1 Reply
            1. re: mkj361

              I think Marathon has the better food—well-spiced meat at a good temperature (warm-hot) and tasty, tangy bread—and Blue Nile has the lower prices. But I don't mind Blue Nile. I think the food is quite good there, too, especially the meat that's been cooked in a yellow curry kind of sauce/marinade. Sorry I can't be more specific. I can't remember any of the Ethiopian names for dishes!

            2. I've had dinner at Muse and loved it. It's a great spot for a romantic dinner, but it is at the upper end of the price scale (prices already mentioned in this thread seem about right). I think it's worth it though.

              Moroccan Castle has great atmosphere. The food, while good, isn't as good as Sultan's Tent once was. Incidentally, I noticed Sultan's Tent has re-opened on 14 St just south of Kensington.

              I've never eaten at Blue Nile, but eat regularly at Marathon and love the food there. be warned; the service/pacing can be very relaxed.

              Pulcinella - I'm still not sold on this place after a few visits. I think it maybe comes down to the fact that i'm still trying to decide if i like this style of pizza: super thin crust, almost burned on the bottom, but still doughy/moist on the top. hard to hold, too. But the ingredients are top notch, no doubt.

              6 Replies
              1. re: marcopolo

                I'm not being snarky here, but just want to suggest that you try Pulchinella with knife and fork. That's how pizza is normally eaten in Italy and it is much less messy.

                1. re: John Manzo

                  i think you're definitely being snarky -- but that's ok, i don't mind... That's how i end up eating it anyways... i actually eat pizza with a knife and fork most of time, because otherwise i always seem to burn that little bit of gum behind my front teeth. huh... that's probably TMI.

                  1. re: marcopolo

                    After having actually lived in the south of Italy, I can tell you that the majority of Italian people cut a triangle of pizza and then fold it. Also, the crust should not taste burnt, thats more a matter of not cleaning the ash from the wood oven regularly.

                    1. re: calgaryeater

                      My napolitano blood must be guiding my hands then, because that's how I do it- saw off a bit, use my fingers to nibble.

                      I like the ash, actually.

                      1. re: John Manzo

                        ...thinking of Vesuvius perhaps?

                  2. re: John Manzo

                    That's funny... I remember my first meal out with Italians when I moved to Italy. We went to a pizza place and everyone else was cutting their pizzas into triangular slices, folding the slices in half and then shoving them into their mouth practically whole. I was cutting mine with a knife and fork, and I wasn't even half done my pizza when the rest of the table finished. I distinctly recall the words my dining companions used, "Italians don't cut their pizza!" I was reminded of that fact every time I went out for pizza for the next two years!

                2. I live in Kensington... enjoy Pulcinella a lot. It is on the casual side though - sometimes people bring kids. Haven't been to Muse but would like to try it.

                  Niko's was quite good. Excellent service, good food. They do a decent brunch too which seems to be a well-kept secret, Nellie's can be lined up out the door and Niko's will still have tables.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Casta

                    I used to be a big defender of Pulcinella and I love their pizza, but I had a bad experience the last time I went. My friend and I had the fungi fritti to start (which was amazing as usual), and then ordered two pizzas to share. The appy took noticeably longer than usual to come out but we didn't mind too much. However, the pizzas took over an hour to come out after the appetizers. When I asked the server (who was actually very friendly), she responded that our order was stuck behind a large group... I thought restaurants were made to withstand busy-ness? I didn't know it was my fault I ordered at that exact time. When the food came out, the pizzas were great as usual, but the wait times left a sour taste in my mouth.

                    I don't know if I was to expect anything other than a quick apology, but it was really a shame.

                    What is fair to expect after waiting abnormally long for an order to arrive? Free deserts? drinks? or nothing at all? Not really too sure on the manners for this.

                    1. re: Hoj

                      I would think a glass of wine to tide you over while you waited would have been a nice touch.

                      1. re: Hoj

                        Their pizza spend something like 70 seconds in the oven- I do think some apology was in order at least.

                    2. Is La Luna Rosa still open on 14 st at the bottom of the hill? We've had good meals there but it has been some time. The location is certainly handy for the "jube" (daughter).

                      1. I'd try Muse if I were you - my husband took me there before the Albera Ballet/Joni Mitchell performance a while ago and we had a superb experience. Admittedly, we went in early so we could eat before the show started - and not be rushed (around 5:30, which is far earlier than I'd normally eat dinner) - so we had the undivided attention of the front and back of house staff. Our server was magnificent - totally attentive (but we hardly noticed his presence) and very intelligent (re the menu and all other things food and wine). Since it was a while ago, I can't recall exactly what we had to eat, but I recall it was delicious. And I do recall having some super sweet heirloom tomatoes, creamy buffalo mozzarella, sharp olive oil and sea salt for an appetizer. And I always love the truffle popcorn that they serve upon your arrival. It really was the perfect, romantic (and I'm not a romantic) start to an evening at the ballet.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Jigga

                          Thanks for everyone's input. I have made the reso for 5:30 at Muse. Still have to check out Pulcinella very soon and can't wait for a good brunch at Niko's!