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Fine Dining in Calgary?

Hi western Hounds. I am visiting Calagary for the very first time and will be staying with friends. I would like to reward my hosts with a few great meals. We're all adventurous eaters and eat anything from true chowish finds or ethnic foods to an upscale dining room with dress code and good wine list. Location and price are not important., but good service and value for the buck for high-end dining are. (and by upscale I don't mean the type of place where the most important factor is being seen - food first!!) What's the buzz on new, innovative, local chefs? I'd welcome your recommendations.

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  1. For something fairly new, innovative, and high end, (but not too high) I would recommend Alloy. It's on 42nd Ave SE, just outside of downtown. Here's the website:

    I love the ambiance and energy in the room, and it's bright and reminds me of California, which is quite refreshing in Calgary in the middle of February!

    The 3 dinners I've had there have been memorable, to say the least.

    1. You'll probably get a few of these names more than once with your post but I strongly suggest downtown: DeVino, Centini, or Teatro, all should meet your requirements for outstanding food and great service. Outside downtown in Kensington, I'm a huge fan of both Muse and Chef's Table for the same reasons as my downtown choices.

      For great food in a more relaxed atmosphere (and smaller spaces) I don't think you can go wrong with two more Kensington joints in Niko's Bistro and Delicious Thai.

      I'm envious of your hosts, enjoy the eats.

      1. Please please please- Chef's Table at the Kensington Riverside Inn- search this forum for it.

        Also I went to Jaro Blue for my bday a couple of weeks ago and it still moves me, just a superb meal.

        Lots and lots of good press of late about winebar kensington and vin room.

        blink looks very cool.

        1. I would enthusiastically concur with the Chef's Table recommendations. I would have also recommended Il Sogno but with the recent departure of Chef Chabot I'm not sure what the state of play is with that restaurant.

          1. I would recommend Rush. I had a great time the two times I went, and the deconstructed BLT was certainly innovative!

            1. capo capo capo....
              capodining.ca - I believe.
              ate there recently.... over the top! Service is on, food is very tasty and the room is upmarket and very tasteful. luxurious.

              1. Beautiful, fine dining meals to be had at Capo, Chef's Table and Rush. My picks would be in that order as well.

                I love Mercato for great Italian, and a great atmosphere. Sit at the bar.

                1. Haven't tried Chefs Table yet (last time I went to Calgary, I didn't plan ahead and it was booked up), but heartily recommend both Capo and Teatro.

                  But here's another suggestion: since it is your first visit to Calgary, you've probably also never been to Banff, and no trip to Alberta is complete without going to the mountains. So head up there one day and go to Bison.

                  1. If I had to pick one and only one, I would pick Chef's Table as well.

                    Other picks:
                    Catch (dining room) - the Executive Chef Hayato Okamitsu is one of the finalist in the Canadian Culinary Championship/Gold Medal Plates so the tasting menu should be interesting.
                    Sky360 - the revolving restaurant in the Calgary Tower - local would never go up there since it is too touristy a thing to do. New chef (formerly from Il Sogno) - about a month so he might not have had enough time to put his stamp on the menu, And the view is great.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: cancowboy

                      I went to Sky360 for Christmas last year. I was a bit afraid it would be too touristy, and the food would suffer because of it, but it was actually very good. We were all impressed. And that was before the new chef so I think it would be interesting.

                      The only downside was having to pay admission to go up to the restaurant. >< It's for going onto the observation deck. We made it count by spending a while on the deck after we ate. That was enough fun that we decided we didn't mind after all.

                      1. re: AriaDream

                        I thought they comp-ed the elevation fee if you had reservations but according to the website it is only for lunch. Too bad - it could have been an extra dessert!

                      2. re: cancowboy

                        nope, Chabot hasn't put out a new menu yet, but the word is he's working on it. Should be good

                      3. Wow, thanks to all of the posters for an abundance of recommendations. Much appreciated. I'll do my research, make reservations and report back our experiences when I return home. So looking forward to Calgary!

                        1. Thanks again to all who posted. I had decided that I wanted to try Chef's Table, Vin Room and Catch but didn't get to any of these restaurants :-( My hosts were kind enough to act as tour guide for my first visit to Calgary so I had a 4-day whirlwind tour of the city, and Banff, most often ending with an evening of cooking great meals at home because we were all tired. I will try again next time. I was, however, lucky enough to dine in the following places:
                          River Cafe - had lunch on a beautiful sunny day which made the view that much better. The room is really rustic and may seem dated to some - my only complaint about the decor is that I found the seats uncomfortable. The food was fabulous - I tend to favour locally sourced menus. We had the butternut squash soup, feta/walnut/eggplant salad, bison burgers and tuna confit with roasted quinoa. The flavours were amazing and the meal was truly enjoyable. I would compare it to some of the best locally sourced restaurants in Niagara/wine country. The wine list looked good but I was the only one wanting wine with lunch. I had a glass of prosecco that was not chilled enough. The service was friendly but not overly attentive - the room was practically empty, no more than 5 tables with 2 servers. On the other hand, we were allowed to linger as long as we liked. Overall, a good experience. I would return to sample the rest of the menu and would recommend this place to others.

                          Crazyweed (Canmore). - On the way home from Banff, we impulsively decided to stop in at 5:30 PM on a Saturday without a reservation. They were gracious enough to seat us explaining that they would require the table by 7:20PM (no problem). The menu was interesting, with lots of asian influenced dishes. Wine list was acceptable. We had the Jewel Box salad - fresh with greens, fruit, goat cheese, Calamari (lighly battered, perfectly cooked with hint of black pepper in the batter), Thai grilled chicken (yum and very generous portion for an app.), red seafood curry bowl (it was authentically spicy, not "dumbed" down for the average palate and the seafood amount was generous and cooked to perfection, not a bit over done) and to finish the Callebaut chocolate cake with carmel ice cream (to die for!). The meal was perfection. The service was good although I would describe it unpolished (but thankfully nowhere near the horror stories posted on this board). Our orders were taken promptly, and courses served withing good time and at the same time for all diners. We were seated at a table that was really a narrow hallway between the kitchen and bathrooms but seeing as we didn't have a reservation, I didn't complain. However, the server, who was attentive and friendly and happy to engage in some chatter with us, asked us how we liked the table since some people think it's the worst table in the place?!!!! Why mention this? I replied that yes, one might think so given that the table is wedged behind the kitchen and around the corner from the loo. The server didn't get it. Also, throughout the meal, the server would clear plates before all had finished dining (a big no no in my books). Again, I would say minor issues that did not spoil the meal.

                          Salt and Pepper (Bowness Village? NW) - Mexican food that blew me away but I have to qualify this with the fact that in Toronto, there is no good, authentic mexican food (no joke - search the site sometime). This is a true chow find for me - great hospitality, service, and margaritas (Mondays they serve a whole pitcher of margaritas for $10!!!) Best Mole this side of the Mexican border (for me anyways).

                          So overall, I still need to go back and try the great places recommended by all but if what I sampled is any indication of how good the dining scene is in Calgary, I'll be back soon.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: tuttebene

                            And I forgot to mention that at Crazyweed, they substituted ingredients from what was listed on the menu (instead of pomegranate seeds, berries were used in the salad and instead of red curry, yellow curry was served). Should the kitchen make diners aware of these changes or this is just common behaviour in the biz?

                            1. re: tuttebene

                              Tuttebene: Glad you enjoyed River Cafe - I feel it's one of Calgary's best, and lunch is wonderful there. Brunch and dinner are great as well. Menu changes monthly so it's always worth a second pass. Agree about the seats for a long meal.

                              I think Divino, Rouge, The Ranche all make an effort to source locally as well.
                              Thanks for reporting back!

                              1. re: Gobstopper

                                I was at River Cafe for my B-day dinner on Friday night this past week and was exceptionally happy with the food (sable fish for me, halibut for my bill paying wife). The sable fish was roasted to perfection, buttery soft texture with lentils that were also perfectly done. The charcuterie plate to start was also excellent, especially the duck rillette... but I'm a sucker for pretty much any rillette.

                                The major disappointment (tuttebene mentioned this briefly) was the service. I was very disappointed with the totally inattentive service. The wine we chose for dinner was out of stock but we weren't told till our appetizers showed up, we couldn't get our server's attention to save our lives all night.

                                I had thought with the economy slowing, staff turnover slowing, etc... that service would have improved of late but River Cafe was definitely not in that vein. I have not had service issues like this at their competitors lately (Muse, Chef's Table or Sugo) and although I'll go back to RC, I'll pause and mull my other choices more closely before I do.

                          2. Yay! Someone is taking me out for dinner! I looked at the menus for Rush and Alloy online and neither have a vegetarian main dish. If I phoned in advance, do you think they could whip up a vegetarian entree? I don't really care what it is, as long as it's nice and fancy...

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Jetgirly

                              Yup, most restaurant will accomodate, but they deffinitly would appreciate a phone call, and maybe not being there during the big rush as cooking off the menu is kinda time consuming.
                              Hope it's good

                            2. I dined at Rush earlier this week and was impressed with the experience: the attentive service, the amouse-bouche, the creative wine pairings from the sommelier... maybe not the Rushicle and it's secret powder so much, tho it was fun. The chef's tasting menu didn't catch my fancy, so I ordered from the a la carte menu. The foie gras torchon was good, tho I didn't understand the piece of something-like-peanut brittle it was served with, tasty tho it was. The seafood risotto was also tasty, especially paired with a dry sherry, quite a surprise for me. I had lamb for the main, well presented and well prepared, tho I wasn't crazy for the cut. Dessert was also good: 3 kinds of chocolate, the gelato wasn't exceptional but the rest of the dish was.

                              Overall, food was quite good (and well presented), service was exceptional, I liked the room as well. Expensive but worth it. A good venue for high-end business deals, celebratory nights out.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: alley

                                This is a GREAT THREAD!

                                Glad you got to River Cafe and Crazy Weed. Those are both very nice and I'm sure you were not dissapointed as they are quite "foodie". But I concur with the general sentiment of this board and will go out on a limb and say that I think RUSH, CHEF'S TABLE and CAPO are all one step up. (As close to perfect as you get in Calgary.) For this caliber of dining in BANFF try EDEN at the Rimrock hotel.

                                Other comments such as CENTINI and a ALLOY previously posted were really good too because those are both fantastic and perhaps a bit more on the value for good money side of the equation. For example, Alloy should be a staple for a foodie's business lunch in Calgary - especially outside the downtown core. It always impresses my guests!

                                1. re: jsfoodchat

                                  Yeah Capo would be my vote! Outstanding service and very upscale food.