"BR and Steak Frites at The Bank," Stephen Ave, Calgary?
- John Manzo Dec 18, 2009 05:56 PM
There's some sort of event that I saw an ad for at the gorgeous old bank at 125 Stephen Ave, what was once The Banke nightclub and briefly a high end resto early in the decade... in the small print was "BR & Steak Frites" opening in, I think, February. A search shows some job ads for head chef and other posts.
This is a massive space and I'm not sure if any resto can do it justice, but I'll keep my ear to the ground. If anybody has news, please enlighten us.
There was a mention of a NYE event in today's Swerve.
"The Heist Ring in 2010 with the ultimate bank robbery. With live music from Disoriental, Suns of Boey, Mikey Da Roza and Olive Boy & Aphi. Includes two complimentary drinks, appetizers and a 500-balloon drop. At Aqua Audio (formerly the Bank Nightclub), 125 8th Ave. S.W. $79. theheist2010.com."
I spoke to someone who attended the NYE event and she was told it would be a steakhouse-type restaurant. As an added incentive, the crowd was showered with 50,000 $1 off coupons.
That would make four(?) steak restaurants within a block - Saltlik, Ruth's Chris, The Trib and this one!
Was into BR& today to look around.
Manzo is right, it's massive. This may indeed have some ramifications.
However, it is an incredibly striking room, to say the least. Being a fan of its particular style, I found it to be really beautiful. A little bit of Empire/Chippendale meets Art Nouveau I guess one might say. It sets the stage, I'll say that for it.
French brasserie menu format, with charcuterie/cheese platters by the item, several steaks, including a flatiron, if memory serves. At the centre of the menu is the steak/frites/salad combo for 20 bone.
Six preparations of mussels, sides for 5 to 8 dollars. In restaurant wine sales.
Many wines on the card are below 50 bucks. Reasonable prices, overall.
Who knows? In a room like that, if the food ain't there, it would be like driving a Ferrari with a lawnmower engine under the hood.
I'm game to check it out, though.
Took the plunge and tried the "specialty of the house," at BR&. Steak/frites/salad.
They were setting up for fashion week, and we were cautioned about a "little chaos" by our hostess. No problem, as it turns out, it was oddly entertaining watching the fashionistas buzz about and air kiss. We were seated in the lounge portion of the place, right next to the runway, dare to dream...
Safe to say that their soft opening is just that. Soft. No beers on tap yet. The wines are still coming along. Very extensive list of cocktails. Fair enough.
We were one of three tables perhaps...
Granting the place full credit for opening jitters, and despite some highlights, there were a couple of things that stood out as being pretty deficient regardless. I hope they can correct a bit as they get in the groove.
The salad opener was relatively small, comprised of mesclun, frisee and rocket with a few raisins in. The dressing was light, creamy and with its seeming hints of dijon, quite tasty. It was paired with a excellent Yorkshire pudding. I enjoyed it, overall, but would one usually pair the Yorkie with the salad as an opener? Must look that one up.
The main attraction, a sirloin, around eight ounces I believe, was presented on a separate plate and pre-cut into four pieces or so. It was enrobed in a light peppercorn sauce was very nice. The frites were excellent, done in the Belgian, twice cooked fashion and were served in a paper cone supported by a metal stand. A little heavy on the salt, depending on one's preference.
Now, the steak. What can I say? Great flavour. Comically, unbelievably, over cooked.
Having cut the thing up before sending it out, it should have been obvious to any decent cook that it was well done with a vengeance. Brown as a bear all the way through. I suspect it would have been quite tender, had it not been cooked to death. Still, they shipped it just the same. This one issue really makes me wonder how they'll do if the place is full.
As for the service, our main server was just fine. Attentive and pleasant. However, no quality check on the steaks, strangely!
The one major hitch was the spiky haired busser kid who twice whisked away my plates while I was still eating. Firstly, he grabbed the plate with my remaining Yorkie on it, spilled it on to the table, picked it up and put it back on the plate, and then says, "You're done with that right?" "I am now," I replied. Secondly, with a good piece of steak left he grabbed my dinner plate and off he went, not a word spoken! I took it in good humour, but it was laughably amateurish. I suspect his tenure will be short, if anyone is watching his act.
When I try a place I always resolve to just let things happen as they unfold, and provide no feedback on the first trip. It's pretty pointless at that stage, really. The whole staff might rotate out of there in a week or two, so whatever. More or less an informal three strikes policy.
Will I go back? Sure thing, after the BS of fashion week blows over and they've had a chance to fire whoever sent that steak out. At that point I would politely share any and all concerns. From there, they'll either get it together, or they won't. Fashion week will be followed by week after week of trying to make a go of such a cavernous space, with no air kissing to pay the rent.
Bottom line, with a few refinements I think that BR& could represent a great value for a decent meal in a grand setting. I wonder if the busser is also a bad actor?
It was pretty good, and really inexpensive. The steaks all come with salad and fries. The salad was great, spinach with frisee and arugula, sundried cranberries and toasted walnuts and sunflower seeds. The fries were served in a tall wire cup, very stylish. The steaks came with a dab of steak sauce and black salt on the side, roasted cherry tomatoes and top-on baby carrots, with a side of sauce that was a little like a bearnaise. The steaks were OK, they don't say it's AAA beef and for the price ($25 for tenderloin) I would suspect they're not. They came cooked as ordered and went nicely with the sauce. Sides were $2, served in white ceramic ramekins the asparagus and wild mushrooms were very nice and enough for 2 people to share.
The real standout for me was the prices on the wine list! It's been a LONG time since I've seen such low prices in Calgary, wines that would cost $16-$20 in a liquor store on the list for $25-$30. Quite a lot of higher end selections as well but a welcome change from places where the cheapest wine is $45 (It's $19 here).
We went on Friday night and it was enjoyable. I thought the salad was excellent with the hint of dijon in the dressing. The yorkshire pudding thing is what they serve instead of the usual bread you get at most places. It was a nice change and came up out piping hot. The fries also came out piping hot and salty (how can you go wrong with something straight out of the deep fryer with lots of salt?).
I had the porterhouse and my companion the filet. I think the filet was much better value at $10 cheaper. Although the PH is 16 oz versus 8 oz for the filet, most the difference seemed to be in the bone. We both thought that they were cooked exactly the way we requested (medium and medium-well). Not the best steak I've had but it hit the spot. The sides were good if a little small, but relatively inexpensive.
The room is cavernous and they seem to want to walk the line between casual and fine dining with it split down the centre with the lounge and bank of TV's on one side and more formal settings on the other side. There were about three groups on the formal side and maybe a dozen people on the lounge side, so plenty of seats yet to be filled.
I would go back.
We caught the last day of Fashion week and it was an interesting experience for sure.
Great balcony seats to overlook the fantastic room, crowd and action. I am glad to see those chairs are still there from the Rococo days and in good shape as well..
We ordered the 16oz Tenderloin for two, medium rare and the presentation was actually very nice. Sliced on a cutting board, with vegetable garnish.
Bearnaise, truffle butter, fries, plataines, salad and condiments all very good. Dijon truffle honey sauce for the fries was a standout in flavor.
The place was packed, our server a bit overloaded which unfortunately resulted in a meal that arrived cold. Except the fries which arrived hot five minutes later....
Maybe excuseable, maybe not. Drinks were comped. We had the same busboy with the spiky hair and he is a card alright.
I think with fashion week over, they can regroup and be an actual great place to go downtown.