I flew into Calgary a couple days ago for my brother’s 18th birthday.  My trips to Calgary are usually jammed packed with family events, social gatherings with old friends and copious amounts of food and alcohol.  This trip so far has been no different.  Last night I had one of the best meals I have ever had in my entire life.  My parent’s had been hearing good things about a restaurant in Inglewood, a small neighborhood with a lot of cool shops and a budding restaurant scene.  We arrived at the small, intimate venue that seats about twenty people in the main dining area and about another dozen more in the private dining room at the rear of the restaurant.  The seven of us, my parents, two sisters, brother and brother in law sat at a large table in the middle of the dining room.  The waiter greeted us and offered us an amuse-bouche to start the evening off while we were deciding on wines and drinks.  The hors d’oeuvre arrived in a small tent-like dish and inside were two beef tenderloin meatballs on a red sauce with a small piece of toasted buttery bread.  The meat, mixed with the sweet but not overpowering sauce gave us a hint of the mouth watering delights that were about to come.

We went around the table and started ordering individual antipasto trios, a host of pasta dishes for the whole table to share and individual mains.  By the time we had finished ordering, we realized that we ordered every single dish on the menu.  GO TEAM!  There were three types of bread that arrived with a butter infused shallots.  The breads were all made fresh in house.  The first was a Parmesan bread, the second was a multigrain bread, and the final was a fancy olive bread.  Delicious!  There were three antipasto trio starters to choose from and a seasonal soup.  My older sister and younger brother ordered the seasonal soup, a butternut squash.  The bowl of the soup arrived and all that was in the bowl was a candied apple garnish in the middle of the bowl.  “It’s a recession, we have to cut back” the waiter joked by then he proceeded to fill the bowls with the thick soup base from a shiny brass kettle.   As she was finishing, my sister began passing the bowl around for everyone to try.  The soup was very rich and delicious.  My mother ordered the the classics trio which came with a beef carpaccio with pickled eggplant; parmaprosciutto with confit melon (the melons were stacked in a pyramid over the prosciutto which looked really cool) and a mascarpone arancino with cheese fondue.  My younger sister ordered the vegetable antipasto trio which came withan asparagus and roasted beet medley with apple balsamic (aged 12 years); vine-ripened tomato salad with goat cheese and vin cotta; and a mushroom manicotto with truffle dressed micro greens.  My sister could barely contain her excitement as she had recently discovered her love of mushrooms.  As soon as the dish came there were giggles of excitement and then silence.  If you know my sister, you know she is a lot like me in that she is very chatty.  The silence is an indication of how good this dish was.  On the way home, my father mentioned that he doesn’t like beets but he thought the roasted beet with the apple balsamic was very tastey.  I had the seafood antipasto trio which came with a sweet and sour calamari; wild scallop ceviche withtruffle-lime; and a roasted pepper with preserved tuna aioli glazed with a candied apple glaze with a hint of maple syrup and then covered in a 12 year balsamic.  The tuna was excellent.  The fish was fresh and the overtones of candy apple and maple syrup mixed very well with the raw tuna.  The scallop ceviche was light and refreshing.  There were shreds of peppers that sweetened the thinly sliced scallop.  The calamari was amazing!  Probably the best I’ve ever had.  It was sweet and smoky (they added paprika) and served with three orange slices and citrus greens.  Before the dish came I told my father that we could split it but he mentioned that he wasn’t a big fan of Mediterranian calamri since it usually ends up very rubbery.  There was no rubber on this plate.  He tried a piece and then proceeded to ensure everyone else around the table try it because it was that amazing!

The second round of dishes were three pasta dishes which we decided to share amongst the table.  The first was the ravioli.  It has a bolognese and mascarpone filling, fancy seasonal mushrooms and fresh marjoram jus with creamed grana padano.  The house made ravioli covered with the dark marjoram jus and white grana padanowas like a work of art and tasted even better.  The second pasta dish that arrived was the house made gnocchi.  These ricotta dumplings were served in a lobster americainesauce, black truffle oil and micro greens.  I used to say that lobster lacked a strong flavor which is why when they serve it in restaurants they have to serve it with butter or it would be bland.  This lobster sauce has provenme wrong.  The sauce was very thick with a smooth lobster flavor that blended elegantly with the ricotta dumplings.  The sauce of was so good, there wasn’t a drop left on the serving dish by the time we was done with it.  My sister practically was licking the plate.  The last pasta dish was the tagliolini which was a prawn/zucchini ragout with lemon zest, fresh chilies and thyme butter.  The noodles were thin and filled with a pungent lemon flavor.  It was a little too tart for my liking but it was a great dish none the less.  It was a little lighter than the other pasta dishes which was a nice change of pace.

The mains… all I have to say is whoa man!  Actually I have a lot more to say than that (come on, it’s me).  My brother ordered the “Bovine – Head to Tail”.  The dish was plated with a braised veal cheek with soft polenta, beef tenderloin with sauteed rapini butter, and an oxtail raviolo with celery root puree.  My brother isn’t the most articulate character so when I asked him how the dish was and he replied, “Good”, you really have to watch his facial twitches to see how good.  His eyes widened and his head began bobbing with up and down with nods of approval.  It must have been really good.  The dish also came with some additional salt on the side for extra seasoning.  Upon trying the salt, my brother in law said, “This tastes just like the scotch we drank with your father last month!”  I tasted a grain and agreed.  This salt WAS solidified 16 year old lagavulin scotch.  The other main was called Ocean’s three.  The dish comprised a seared wild scallop on Israeli cous-cous, verjus; green tiger prawn on a potato-apple salad and topped with smoked paprika oil; and baked halibut in a puttanesca sauce.  The seared scallop was served medium rare and was well received by the table.  The tiger prawn had a mild spiciness to it which was complimented by the tart but freshingpotato-apple salad it was served on.  Some thought that the salad may have been better than the prawn, which shouldn’t take anything away from the shrimp but just highlight how good the salad was.  The fish may have been the hit of the night.  My brother in law, who was a sous chef at several restaurants thought university, said “that fish couldn’t have been cooked more perfectly”.  My sister, who is sitting next to me now, is still raving about the soft, moist and buttery delight.  I opted for the “other white meats” trio.  This came witha roasted pheasant breast with muscat and rosemary cream (almost like mashed potatoes but better), rabbit mortadella with tomato and grappamarmalade, and the highlight of my evening, the pork belly served withtruffle honey and carrot puree.  The rabbit was complex with a pistacchio, garlic and general spiciness that was smoother out by the marmalade.  The pheasant withjuicy and blended nicely withthe muscat and rosemary cream (it was like thanksgiving in my mouth).  The pork belly was seared perfectly on the outside, was soft and tender on the inside, and mixed perfectly with the puree.  I was practiallylicking this puree off my plate.  The the mains were also served with a bowl of fresh greens mixed in what tasted like a super fancy butter sauce.

Most of us were stuffed at this point but that doesn’t stop our team from ordering several desserts.  My brother ordered the chocolate hot torte with banana-caramel ice-cream and gianduja mouse.  When he bit into it, he closed his eyes and said, “Mmmmmmmmm”.  When asked later how it was, he said, “good”.  We really have to work on that boy’s vocabulary.  My sisters had the panna cottawhich came withvanilla bean/buttermilk pudding withrhubarb consomme and orange cat tongue cookies.  It was a creamy delight and a nice way to cap off the evening.  My mother ordered the “Pear” which was a pear macerated withred wine and brandy, topped witha semolina shortbread (it tasted like pure sugar) and pear ice-cream.  This was shared with the rest of the table.  The presentation was impressive and the pear was unlike anything I have ever tasted.  It was sweet, but not too sweet, refreshing and complex.

Throughout the evening we shared many laughs and even the staff appeared to be enjoying themselves (I think they found it amusing when we expressed how much we love food and found our reactions to each course entertaining).  The service was excellent and the experience as a whole was amazing.  It was hands down the best meal I’ve ever had at a Calgary restaurant.  If you ever find yourself in Calgary, are willing to spend a little more on a meal, and are tired of eating steak at one of the thousands of steak houses here, this is the place to be.  (Sorry, none of us had a camera so I couldn’t take any pictures.  Just know each dish, in additional to tasting awesome, were works of art).

~ by jlowjlow on July 3, 2009.

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