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Jan 15, 2010 07:59 AM

Small Plates tour cut short by Milk Tiger

So last night a friend and I attended the Calgary Flames fan forum at Flames central. In terms of food on offer it was rolls, pasta salad, spring greens and tomatoes, and roast beef with a jus. The food was fine especially for the environment. However after we were still peckish so after discussing Taste’s new wine list which features one red and one white from each of their suppliers along with a supporting reason for being chosen we decided on exploring Calgary’s downtown small plates options. Plan was Rush, Milk Tiger, Giuseppe’s, and finishing off at Taste as they are open till midnight.

First stop Rush, I can not think of a better small plates deal. $5 gets your any one of a number of small plates, all are made to order. We had the Maitake Tempura, which is Hen of the Woods mushrooms cooked tempura style. It was very tasty. Next plate was tuna tartare, followed by crab cakes done in a tempura casing. We also had the spring creek beef shortribs, the meat was incased in a flatbread with kimchi on top which really tied it all together. The octopus dish consisted of a herb puree, hazelnuts, some kind of sausage (chicken I think), with small tomatoes. While I appreciated the presentation the octopus did not impart much flavor, then again you don’t want it to taste fishy so not a complaint. Our last dish was the smoked salmon on bread, I know that the salmon was sourced from somewhere as it was highlighted on the menu but I can not recall who it was.

We enjoyed everything and due to Rush being downtown it was not busy so we received good service, something sorely lacking in this town. We also learned that Rush offers complimentary valet, so for those of you out of downtown it is easy enough to drive down and not worry about parking.

Upon leaving we stopped in to see a friend but her restaurant had a private party buyout. So we moved on, our next stop was to be Milk Tiger somewhere my friend had not only never been but had also never heard of. Milk Tiger has a neat small plate concept, which fit well with our intended small plate tour. The place had about 10 people or less and so we took a seat along the wall. Having come from the Flames Forum my friend was wearing his Flames Jersey, along with a suit and dress shoes. The server quickly explained that Milk Tiger has “house rules” which include no sports apparel. She did also explain that everyone there loves the flames, but could he kindly remove his jersey. Which he considered doing until our server explained she actually likes the canucks, along with some of their other house rules, which included no one under 21 years of age, nor hats. Well a quick scan of the room confirmed that it was unlikely that everyone was 21 or over on top of which one person was wearing a hat. Needless to say we left having felt a little outside of the scene they were trying to cultivate.

My friend remarked to me that having just eaten at what is Calgary nicest dining room Rush and not once being asked to change our dress why would a business prejudice itself by turning away customers. We also noted that there are a great many restaurants and bars that have dress codes etc… in Calgary but they all accommodate the home town team. Some may agree with the stance Milk Tiger took and we were willing to comply until we noticed we were being singled out. So my two cents is head down to rush and take advantage of the wonderful $5 small plates menu, park for free, get great service and eat well for cheap.

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  1. I've only been to Milk Tiger once, and found it to have very pretentious service. Won't be going back.

    1. As if I didn't miss A Bar Named Sue enough...

      1. Sorry to hear you had a bad experience there. I know some of the staff personally and I've been there often and have always found the service warm and pleasant, even when I've been served by staff I don't know. Your experience is definitely unfortunate, however.

        A caution about guesstimating bar patrons' ages however: I don't know how old you are 300rwhp, but if you're over say, 32, I would say that you're at a definite handicap for guessing ages. 21 these days means born in '88/89! As someone who spends a lot of time in bars and at the UofC campus, I can say that 'university age' has never looked so young to me...

        1 Reply
        1. re: marcopolo

          As someone who is not far from the age and has had to id people under 25, I am not entirely off base. But yes hipsters do tend to look young and fresh or old and haggard. It just seems that the places in New york and London that this place is trying to emulate with these rules can draw on a large enough clientele, not calgary. Whereas Calgary is very much a flames supporting town, which is not something that should be used to segregate.

        2. Dress code is a foreign concept in Calgary, but I'm glad to see it's making some headway (beyond no shirt, no shoes, no service). It seems like every other bar panders to the sports fan, so hearing this makes me love Milk Tiger even more.

          "Pretentious service" to me means the kind of place where they tell you what order to eat your food in, or they won't let you add salt or make substitutions lest you offend the chef, or they talk up the precious ingredients in that teaspoon of foam on your plate. Needless to say I've never had anything like that experience at Milk Tiger, just beautiful cocktails and good food.

          3 Replies
          1. re: 23skidoo

            Pretentious to me means ones self feeling of importance, which is not what you want to experience when dining out as a customer. A perfect example is the no sports apparel rule; on any given night you'll find jerseys being worn by patrons in some of Calgary’s best restaurants, including the Muse, Caesars, Alloy, Olives, Rush, Wine Bar, Seven, Chicago Chop House etc. I don’t place Milk Tiger anywhere near the tier those other restaurants are on. Just another reason for me not to go back. But hey, to each their own.

            1. re: cffl526

              I've always felt comfortable there. The servers are friendly, and I've had conversations with the bartender - he wasn't flirting with the other staff or sulking in the corner. They've never come across as self-important to me.

              1. re: 23skidoo

                Before and after the game is a large market of dining guests...if you can afford hockey tickets and a team should be welcome to spend your hard earned cash where ever you please. As long as you're not stumbling around from your dome that case I might ask that you proceed to "the red mile"...but I would ask in the most polite way ever!!

          2. I agree the small plates at Rush are the best deal going, great food, sizable portions for only $5.

            I can't comment on Milk Tiger, I've never been there, but Taste was a lot more $$ for a lot less, and Guiseppe's is really weird: They give you a full menu along with a short list of 5 items that you can order (apparently the menu is just for descriptions) plus pizzas. Apparently it's always like that, not just on the evening we went.

            I can't say I agree with Milk Tiger's no-jerseys policy, but in reply to cffl I've only seen jerseys in high-end restaurants when the Flames have a home game (there wasn't one on the 14th). You see them in bars all the time, so it might be that Milk Tiger is doing it to differentiate itself.