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"Experience" restaurants?--Calgary

Lainey1978 Sep 9, 2009 02:41 PM

I was recently invited, by former co-workers, to the Sultan's Tent, which I thought was fabulous, for the experience as much as the food. I was wondering if anyone could shed some light on any other places like that. I'm looking for something that's impressive to take company to, or places that are unique or exotic, and interesting for special occasions.

I think I know about most of the restaurants in Calgary, so I challenge you all to suggest places that offer something a little bit "different." Clearly, I'm not that difficult to impress, as I think what did it for me at the Sultan's Tent was the decor, and that you eat with your hands after having them washed by orange blossom water. I was also impressed (and so was my visiting friend) by Koreana because you get to cook on the table, just to give an example of how little it takes to impress me. :o)

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  1. sharonanne RE: Lainey1978 Sep 9, 2009 04:28 PM

    Sushi Boat? Not the best sushi in town but the boats got my daughter and several of her friends to eat "weird food" when they were young.

    3 Replies
    1. re: sharonanne
      Lainey1978 RE: sharonanne Sep 9, 2009 06:21 PM

      Is it a nice place? That might be something I could look into...

      1. re: Lainey1978
        sharonanne RE: Lainey1978 Sep 10, 2009 08:25 AM

        The room is very nice. Good artwork with a sculpture/fountain thingy happening in the middle beside the chefs. The sushi is better if you order but the boats are cute.

        1. re: sharonanne
          AriaDream RE: sharonanne Sep 14, 2009 09:08 PM

          I would second this. The boats are so cute! It's definitely a fun place to go.

    2. a
      aktivistin RE: Lainey1978 Sep 9, 2009 07:42 PM

      Perhaps Bolero or Gaucho would suit the bill--the atmosphere is similar to other restaurants, with a little bit of South American flair, but the real difference is how the food is presented.

      Here's a thread on Bolero: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/402806.

      1 Reply
      1. re: aktivistin
        Lainey1978 RE: aktivistin Sep 9, 2009 08:28 PM

        Yes, I was thinking after I posted this of those. I've been to Bolero, but never to Gaucho. I would like to go there.

      2. John Manzo RE: Lainey1978 Sep 9, 2009 08:13 PM

        Ethiopian places are pretty special and unique, and fun too. There are several in Calgary.

        For me, watching the kitchen is always special, and one memorable one recently was at Farm, sitting at the counter. But there are lots of those opportunities at other restos too.

        3 Replies
        1. re: John Manzo
          Lainey1978 RE: John Manzo Sep 9, 2009 08:30 PM

          Can you recommend a good Ethiopian place? That is something I would like to try, but when I look at reviews of Ethiopian places in Calgary they don't sound that great. Poor service seems to be a recurring trend in the reviews. What should I expect if I go to an Ethiopian restaurant?

          1. re: Lainey1978
            irishgirl RE: Lainey1978 Sep 11, 2009 05:38 PM

            Slow (rather than bad) service has been a feature of every Ethiopian restaurant I've eaten in, in several countries, so I'm assuming it's a cultural thing. I recommend Marathon in Kensington and Fassil on 17 Ave SE. I've heard bad things about Blue Nile, and the last time I passed it Queen of Sheba looked closed. We usually go to Marathon and get one of their mixed house combinations, as you get to try lots of different things. It's not a place to go when you are absolutely starving and want food in front of you in 15 minutes, but it has been faster the last few times I've been - we were eating 30-40 minutes after sitting down rather than 40-60 minutes.

            1. re: Lainey1978
              Jetgirly RE: Lainey1978 Sep 11, 2009 05:40 PM

              On 10th Street in Kensington there is both Blue Nile and Marathon. Blue Nile is a way better value- you get about twice the food for half the price of Marathon. Also, almost all of the people eating there seem to be Ethiopian. BUT Blue Nile was closed a year or two ago for health code violations - you may want to check online to see if they've been closed again since. Marathon is half the food for twice the price and half the service. Furthermore, I didn't like the food as much. Salad on injera? Really?

          2. CookieGal RE: Lainey1978 Sep 9, 2009 08:31 PM

            Open Sesame below bolero has pretty cool decor, and it's a build your own stir fry buffet, so there is a task / hands on element to the experience. + they have banana wontons to die for!

            Also you might consider Japanese Village (while the food isn't fabulous) the fire fry show is fun!

            1 Reply
            1. re: CookieGal
              Lainey1978 RE: CookieGal Sep 9, 2009 08:55 PM

              Oh yeah, I've been to Open Sesame, but I only had an appetizer and their fabulous banana wontons! (Which my husband duplicated but made bigger, and even better, if you can believe it). I did take my husband to Japanese Village for his birthday once, but I wasn't impressed with the food, either. Thanks for the suggestions, though! I do want to go back to Open Sesame sometime and actually eat dinner. That is a good place to take guests, I think.

            2. a
              alley RE: Lainey1978 Sep 11, 2009 02:37 PM

              Depends on how much of an "experience" you are looking for, but some ideas:

              Casbah - another Moroccan place, I like it even more than Sultan's tent.

              Dinner on the patio at River Cafe, or at The Ranche in Fish Creek - you forget that you are in the city.

              Ethiopian: my favourite is Fassil's, on 17Ave. Most nights full of Ethiopian families. Go hungry and be patient, especially on a busy night. Definitely not fancy.

              Dosa night (Wednesday night) at Southern Spice - stick to the dosas (expecially try a paper masala dosa) and the other South Indian snacks. Not too impressed with the rest of the menu tho, esp the non-veg. Not fancy, but you'll forget what country you're in.

              Dinner at the kitchen at Mercato, if you can get in. Or at the counter (for 2 or 3 people) at Fleur De Sel, or Petite.

              If you have a group together (6 or more), book the Harvest table at Farm.

              Dinner in the garden at Rouge when the garden is open.

              Or around the pool at Raw Bar.

              Capo or Rush for an impressive (and expensive) night out.

              Szechuan Restaurant on 16 Ave NW, if you like spicy, go with a group and be adventurous in your ordering.

              Dim Sum - see separate threads for recommendations.

              Go to Banff and the Grizzly House for hot stone and exotic meats, fondues. For special occasions, see if they have their tacky-but-fun private room available - you raise a flag when you want them to come in, or when you don't (I can't remember which is which, you might want to be careful).

              Or Laurier Lounge in Calgary for fondue - not as exotic, but fun.

              John can comment on how much of an experience Jaro Blue is for tapas.

              1 Reply
              1. re: alley
                Lainey1978 RE: alley Sep 11, 2009 04:17 PM

                Those sound good, especially Raw Bar (I hate paying for parking, though) and Fassil. I'll have to google Farm because I know nothing about it. Thanks!

              2. ybnormal RE: Lainey1978 Sep 11, 2009 02:58 PM

                If you know someone, or if you diligently make a reservation, I suggest the Highwood Dining Room Thursday Lunch Buffet at SAIT for something a bit different.

                The food is mostly terrific, and you get something different everytime, and reasonably priced. These are hospitality students cooking for you, and if you get lucky, somedays its prime rib or turkey or lamb, and not cheap cuts either.

                Reservations are hard to get, but if you call them on the Thursday morning, you can sometimes get put on a wait list. They might call you up at 11:00 AM if you are willing to go, just to maximize the tables.

                Well worth it though!

                5 Replies
                1. re: ybnormal
                  Lainey1978 RE: ybnormal Sep 11, 2009 04:17 PM

                  Reservations are hard to get? Ah, crap! I've really wanted to go there for a long time! What if I book, like, a month in advance? Still hard to get?

                  1. re: Lainey1978
                    aktivistin RE: Lainey1978 Sep 11, 2009 08:31 PM

                    SAIT opened their bookings about a month ago, and the book tends to fill up fast, sometimes even a couple months out. I remember calling for a reservation in early October one year and being told I was out of luck until January. So the earlier, the better!

                    1. re: aktivistin
                      Lainey1978 RE: aktivistin Apr 25, 2010 08:44 AM

                      I tried booking on Open Table, and all the reservations were taken up for as far out as Open Table allowed you to make reservations--something like nine months. I don't know if it was a glitch on Open Table, or if it really is impossible!

                  2. re: ybnormal
                    sleddog RE: ybnormal Apr 6, 2010 02:55 PM

                    Question on the Highwood Thursday Buffet...
                    How much is it? I know their dinner is around $40.
                    Just curious about their lunch buffet. Anyone else been there?

                    1. re: sleddog
                      ybnormal RE: sleddog Apr 24, 2010 03:43 PM

                      Sorry sleddog - was in China & Hong Kong, revelling in Cantonese cuisine :-)
                      Talk about experience restaurants!

                      Their lunch buffet works out to be about $20 with tax/tip and no drinks.

                  3. AriaDream RE: Lainey1978 Sep 14, 2009 09:09 PM

                    Hmm... if you want a place that's impressive in a very high class way, I would heartily recommend Rush. The food and service are excellent and while it's expensive, it's worth every penny.

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