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Feb 28, 2009 07:47 AM

Avenue Magazine Food Awards

This year's article points to a lot of the "usual" suspects. Though, I find myself not as diametrically opposed as I have in the past to the choices. Overall Avenue's portrait of Calgary continues to distance itself from reality - A city of millionaire 30 somethings who lust after condos, jewellery and overpriced furniture - but I imagine we'll see frugality return. Anyone remember the dineresque version of Moxies in the early 90's? And of course a quote from John Gilchrist (He who can not be filled) lauding the virtues of any place that can get food in his mouth quickly.

The Bad:
Not sure I agree with globefish - they are good, but is gimmick plating really the key to great sushi?
Boogies Burgers is awful in reality. Sad patties on oversized buns with bland watery toppings.
The continued excitement over Cora's leaves me stupified.
Choklat has nothing on Les Truffles. Watching the staff touch my food made me want to throw up.

The Good:
L'epicerie - macaroons and sandwichs (skip the foie gras, go with the pate)
Hotchkiss green beans changed my life.
Namskar is still on top
Divino, River Cafe, Belvedere
Glad to see Thai Sai On references and ZERO King and I references

The places I might try:
I remember the Holy Grill when it was a burger and panini place with great fries - might try the newest version.
Feel cautious about Farm when so much of it comes from Valbella meats. But good all around reviews.

Brava, Tribune ?

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  1. Is this the March issue? How did you get it so early?

    Holy Grill is just... go. Just go.

    4 Replies
    1. re: John Manzo

      Looks like the food writer's picks are on Avenue's site in three parts, part one lists the winners in alphabetical order, parts two and three list writer's "best of" details:

      HTH :)

      1. re: maplesugar

        Ah, found it at the magazine shop on 17th next to Farm- I rather liked it. I like the balance of critics' and readers' choices and was not embarrassed by most of the readers' choices.

        One huge issue though- in what alternate universe is Holy Grill "suburban"? It's so close to downtown you can practically spit on it from the front door- on 10th freaking avenue SW for cripe's sake. In most people's books that's barely even beltline- they'd just call it "downtown." Not remotely suburban.

        I was a little taken aback by Globefish sweeping all four for sushi- I'm one of the few people on this board who still love GF without reservation, but how anybody could rank it ahead of, say, Blowfish is a puzzle. Not to mention all the good I've heard about Wa's and Zipang, but oh well, they didn't all vote for some godawful crap like Sumo.

        As "best of" dining issues go, I think this is one of the "best" efforts I've seen. Kudos to Avenue.

        And Gob, really, Avenue is no different from any other glossy monthly "city" magazine. Toronto has Toronto Life, Chicago has Chicago mag, Vancouver has Vancouver mag... this is how these are done and if you dig around you'll find some magnificent writing in Avenue. I just wish it would change its name (what's wrong with "Calgary" or "Calgary Life" etc?) and, and I know this is weird, but I wish they sold it on the shelf as Toronto Life always had- there's something desperate about giving it away.

        And they should sell it in Toronto and Vancouver. Okay, I'm done.

    2. In Best of the burbs NW:

      "AC: Tucked away in a strip mall across from McMahon Stadium, you’ll find Saigon Y2K, which might just have the best Vietnamese food in the city"


      12 Replies
      1. re: sharonanne

        Seconded. Saigon Y2K may be the worst of the four hundred zillion generic Vietnamese joints in Calgary. I think it stays in business solely due to the bizarre dearth of restaurants near the university.

        1. re: sharonanne

          I love one thing at Y2K and that is their (curry?) chicken fried rice.

          1. re: John Manzo

            Glossy fantasy magazine or not - Y2K, and their barrel sized pho filled with microwaved faux meat is just about as bad as vietnamese food gets.

            As far as the quality of it... I get it, and it's not all bad... But between Y2K and those Glenmore Trail fish... really? really?

              1. re: Gobstopper

                There were tons of Viet-owned places in Berlin (was there Feb 13-21) and not a single Pho to be found- if they didn't serve "Thai" they went out of business... just noting that there was once a time where Viet was exotic and inaccessible (I remember college in Portland in the 80s, a city full of excellent Viet, but back then there was ONE place in town- time do change!), now we can complain about nonstandard pho...

                Somehow this is all reminding me of Louis CK on Conan.

            1. re: sharonanne

              That's the problem with editing, what I really said was the Y2K has some of the best Bhun (apologies for the spelling) in the city. Extra spring rolls are cheap and it is fast. I never eat the Pho there, I prefer Pho Kim just south of 16th Avenue for that.
              And the Grilled Pork Stuffed salad roll at Minh Chau in Inglewood are mouth watering. The category was best in the N.W. and I used to live near Y2K and get take out (the table service is awful) all the time. Honestly my knowledge of restaurants in the N.W. is a bit lacking so I went with what I know. But again you have one sentence to try and make that clear. it's difficult. AC

              1. re: ToeKneeSea

                Thanks for the explanation, AC. I agree with your other choices.

                Bun is my standard order at Vietnamese restaurants. I've found Y2K version to have overcooked noodles and lack the generous portions of fresh mint, basil and crisp bean sprouts of other places.

                I like the bun at the place facing Centre St just south of 16th ave although that is just barely NW. A Touch of Ginger on 10th st is better than Y2K as is the Viet restaurant in the strip mall north of Churchill high school in Dalhousie. Even my local place in Silver Springs is better than Y2K but I don't order bun there as I like their sate chicken over rice better.

                Thank goodness we live in this time of abundance. We have a local Vietnamese restaurant! My parents thought pizza was exotic.

                1. re: sharonanne

                  I've found that Viet restaurant in Silver Springs terrible. Their "sate" soup is nothing more than regular pho with chili oil.

                  I find the pho at the place near Churchill too fishy.

                  Oriental Dallas is pretty bland too.

                  Y2K is bland as well, although their sate is average, but the cuts of meat they use are terrible.

                  Getting viet food in NW Calgary is depressing.

                  1. re: Shazam

                    I did say "even my local place ... is better than Y2K" which is hardly enthusiastic. I do like the sate beef on rice though it was less good the last time we were there after an absence of a few months so who knows. The husband/father who cooked was sick so maybe there is a new cook.

                    I don't find NW Calgary Viet food depressing, I just find it is often not overly exciting but at least it's another option. I wish I could remember the name of the place on Center st because it does sometimes rise up to excellent.

                    1. re: sharonanne

                      Sorta NW, Pho Ahn on Centre Streeet a couple blocks south of 16th, has some of the best soups, especially the curry. Pho Kim, a block away is Ok as well.

                      For Y2K, I second John's curried fried rice. Also, #66 shrimp paste wraps are pretty good as well. Ignore all soup.

                      Don't like Oriental Dallas either or Essence of Saigon (near Churchill).

                      1. re: sharonanne

                        My friend brought some take away from the Silver Springs place for movie night and I really liked their lemongrass chicken.

                      2. re: Shazam

                        Oriental Dallas is still around?? I got curry chicken at their (former?) 17th Ave SW location a few years ago and it was one of the most repulsive Viet experiences of my life.

                2. I agree with the assessment on sushi? Do they mean sushi or over priced rolls? Globefish is not bad but hardly the best.

                  Then again I never take a review from John Gilchrist very seriously.

                  1. I'm wondering why Tribune got totally skipped.
                    Also, no mention of Brava, Capo (with the exception for service) and perhaps some of the more exciting ethnic options in the city.
                    Seems odd...

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: L.C.

                      it's important to remember that Avenue is simply a shiny promotional tool for calgary's well-connected. take their restaurant awards with a grain of salt, as they are definitely not unbiased.

                      1. re: bc9701

                        You should defend the magazine, because nonlinear's claim about this being a quid pro quo advertising game is libelous.

                        1. re: bc9701

                          i'm not saying you have to pay to get written up in the magazine, but instead that the content revolves around an 'old boys club' who just happen to have strong business interests in the city. it is not an unbiased publication.

                          and john, the truth isn't libel.

                          1. re: nonlinear

                            Vancouver Magazine is very much like that too - it was the same restaurants every year with the exception of the new restaurant catagories - in some ways I don't mind, it keeps some of the gems from being ruined by becoming too popular and it also gets us talking about all the categories again.

                            1. re: pants

                              I always thought they were more weighted towards real estate and fashion adverts... I don't actually believe there is any real collusion. Just because the choices are odd, the oversights glaring and the food knowledge is poor = Doesn't mean anyone is sneaking/bribing/cajoling their way to the top.

                              Gilchrist - unlike a Joanne Kates - is a flawed critic simply by his recognizability (the Darlene Murphy of Food). The Maitre'd's of Calgary are not so well equipped to "flag" almost anyone else at the front door. After all they are almost entirely recruited from High School.

                              1. re: Gobstopper

                                i'm not saying it was advertizing money spent - just always the same places - didn't seem like there was much true exploring going on, a lot of "it restaurants" and that sort of thing