Review of Rouge, Calgary.
Hey folks, just thought I would put a review of Rouge up. My girlfriend Emelie and I are moving back to Europe soon for the winter and thought we would head out for dinner at one of the few "top" Calgary restaurants we haven't frequented before but wish we had, so last night we headed down to Rouge.
When calling for reservations I informed the host we would like to both have the tasting menu which sounded good to his delight. On arrival being quite cold last night we both had jackets on and oddly enough there was no where to hang them or a coat rack or anything was even offered, which put us off as we slung em over the back of our chairs Denny's style. You know I really have nothing against putting my coat on the back of my chair in a casual setting, but when you are in a fine dining scenario it seems perpustorous and a sort of blasphemy to me, its the little things that set a great restaurant apart from the masses.
After being seated in our beautiful corner table, and enjoying the great interior design and rusticness of the inside our server introduced herself and offered a choice of three different waters, which was a nice touch. Unfortunately she did not ask us to indulge in an appertiff or anything of the sort like a cocktail like we would have wanted to, instead bringing the wine for our first course pairing directly with our water, which was a bit weird. It would have been quite nice to have sipped on something before while getting aquainted with our surroundings. We would definately have had enough time seeing as our first course didnt arrive until the wine pairing was nearly empty.
Usually when ordering a tasting menu one would hope the kitchen would send out some sort of amuse bouche, as a way to let the feast begin in one bite kind of thing. Its not mandatory but its a nice touch, and it never came. What did come instead was a piece of bread slopped down on our side plates, that turned out to be, I dont want to be to harsh here, but stale. God, it tasted like it had been sitting out since lunch service, we were gobsmacked, but it was served with what seemed like a nice chilli oil.
After picking at the softer parts of our bread our first course arrived. We couldnt believe it! A seared scallop, 2 seared prawns in a tomato basil puree with some whilted arugula. Absolutely terrible. I still cant believe they would try to serve this in a restaurant that is supposed to be of a certain top caliber. The prawns appeared to be foreign Black Tiger prawns instead of our beautiful BC ones and were SO overcooked, and chewy. The scallop was cooked nicely at medium rare, and the tomato basil "puree" was liquid like a soup and offered no flavour compliment to the dish at all. An absolute disaster, and I really hope you believe me here that Emelie and I are not super picky eaters. We enjoy good food and good wine and have had been fortunate enough to eat at some of the better restaurants in the world, so believe me when I say this dish was an absolute disaster that a 1st semester culinary student wouldnt even put together. To say we were pissed is an understatement, we were thinking of getting up and leaving at this point due to the bread and now this. But we perservered on, thinking it could only get better. Overall a 1/10 for the first course, with the alpha zeta pinto gris as the pairing getting a 5/10.
Our second course showed a bit more promise. A duck confit cake served with pickled cucumber fresh from the garden, wilted arugula and a chutney. Good mixture of technique, and the flavours came across decently with a nice presentation to boot. Emelie found her cake dry, but I was pleased with mine. A nice pairing with a pinot noir. A solid 6/10 for this, not very memorable, but good technique and decent enough flavours.
The third course was quite good and definately a step up, but really how can you go wrong with fois gras? A large piece of fois with blackberry, a cassis coulis, fois mousse and "fois balls". Presentation was good, tastes were there and the Sauterene pairing was effective but once again nothing mind blowing or adventurous. An 8/10.
At this point a small break was taken for a palate cleansing course. Some home made soda of some sort that tasted quite watered down with some very nice cranberry gelatin, fresh from the garden. Weirdest palate cleanser either of us have ever seen. The soda part was terrible but the gelatin part was great. Definately still trying to wrap our heads around this one still.
For the 4th course, our main was served, and I was not wowed at all by what was brought. Anyone that has lived in Calgary long enough has seen this done a million times I'm sure. Filet mignon with truffled potatoes, a natural reduction and some veg. Blah, blah, blah. Where is the adventurous spirit, where is the chefs personality showing through. The potatoes were good, the filet was cooked nicely at med rare and the veg were done perfectly. But still just a 7/10 for me, show some ingenuity, this dish is so old and boring. Where is the inspiration?
If you've read this far I'm sure you can tell we didnt have the best experience, which is really too bad. We had very high hopes for this inglewood gem, but man did they ever let us down. So as I go on to this next course description I apologize for being so negative, just putting out the truth.
Our 5th course was a cheese course. And we are just completely flabergasted by what we were served. I am still in shock. Our server told us about a nice blue cheese she would be bringing and we were excited, big fans of blue cheese. What she served us was long pieces of romaine wrapped with some sort of cheese string and had tiny chunks of blue cheese about the plate with a basil oil dripping over the whole mess. I'm trying to stay professional, but as a European trained chef all I can say is I am embarassed for whoever came up with this dish. As much of a disaster as the first dish. We dont go to restaurants to pick them apart, we go for a nice meal always expecting the best, but wow, this was beyond terribly done, silly presentation and a terrible oily flavour. A complete embarassment, I still dont know what the chef was thinking with this one. 0/10
Now the 6th course was definately the highlight of the meal. A beautifully done panna cotta with an upside down cake and some fresh berries. Well presented, well done, great flavours. 9/10 for that one.
After that, our 300 dollar bill was paid and we left. A meal of absolute weirdness. I can say Rouge is lacking the "small things" that make great restaurants, and how they won awards with the food that was served is beyond me. All I can think is the Chef was not in the kitchen last evening to watch over what was being sent out. Where I come from, you send out a dish like the first one with shrimp chewy like octapus you get fired. We had high hopes and were extremely let down. I believe it was also our servers first night, or her first week anyways, and needs to learn to not talk so much and just let people enjoy there dinners, instead of telling them about how "mind blowing" and delicious some of the crap we just got served is.
Leaving on a positive note though, some of the dishes showed good technique and some traces of originality, overall for the entire experience a 5/10, and I can say we will definately not be repeating for awhile and not reccomending to friends.
On a funny side note, the major highlight of the evening for us was watching the table next to ours trying to "break" there bread on the corner of the table because it was so hard, haha. Anyways, wow, is all I can say.
Donnie and Emelie
Thanks for the review Donnie! Wow, it sounds like the mighty have fallen. With all the great new restaurants opening up I must admit I haven't been to Rouge in some time. In my experience, they have have always been very good (having said that I have never tried their tasting menu) but it now sounds like they have lost their mojo.
Hopefully it is an aberation but at the prices they are charging one doesn't get too many second chances.
Donnie & Emilie:
I have such a feeling of "deja vu" reading your post because it is as if I have read it before and on trips to Calgary we have not thus far eaten at Rouge.
Sounds like an interesting [?] nite but at $300+ I do not think so.
Good luck in Europe this winter...will that buy you breakfast [smile]
I actually prefer to sling my coat on the back of the chair... mainly because I've been told you're supposed to tip the coat check person and I've never figured out how to do this. I don't typically carry a lot of money. Could anyone enlighten me on this?
For the rest, thanks for the warning. If I spend that kind of money I want my experience to be memorable... I have a reservation at Rush, I'll see how that goes.
Thanks for your review, interesting. We've eaten at Rouge twice in the past couple of years, and the second time, we felt it was going downhill, but couldn't put a finger on it.
As for tipping the coatcheck person, I just discreetly hand them a loonie or two and they happily accept. Felt a bit awkward, but no one's not accepted as yet!
Yah, unfortunately from all the great press we have heard of them prior they just had a really off night. I really hope for there sake it was just an accident of a night, because true enough as stated above at that price you dont get many second chances.
As for tipping the coat check person, you should not have to worry about that in a fine dining setting. The servers will all share with or "tip out" the support staff, such as the host, coat check, bussers.
When we do come back in the spring I think we will have to repeat because I truly do hate putting out a review like this one on a decorated restaurant, but at a certain caliber it should be close to perfection with every service. We'll see what the year brings I suppose, they should just be glad it was us and not John Gilchrist haha.
It's too bad you had such a poor experience. I hope that it was just an off night, since I went and had the tasting menu with another couple during the summer and our experience was spectacular. I can't go into the detail you did since it was a few months ago, but I can say that the food was exceptional and our waiter was even better - probably the best service I've had at a restaurant in years.
Restaurants of the (supposed) calibre of Rouge don't get to have "just a night off" and charge premium prices for it. Everyone deserves a second chance, but it would be wise for Rouge to quickly correct whatever went wrong and to make sure it never happens again ... or to change their menu and pricing to match the odd "night off".
re: Bagel Guy
I agree 100% BG - restaurants of high calibre are being paid partially for their consistency. They deserve a second chance, but I find it'll usually come after a few other people post countering positive reviews before I'll consider going back.
Clearly, a menu and pricing change won't happen :)