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Calgary - Big Fish (short review)

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Calgary - Big Fish (short review)

Yen | Mar 15, 2005 09:26 PM

I know i tend to ramble, and the word concise really doesnt fall within my vocab, but i have a 6:00am flight to catch, so i'll keep this as quick as i possibly can.

The latest Ennest project, Big Fish, is attached to their fine Greek establishment, Piato. They share a bar, and occasionally serving staff as well, as Piato was near empty, while Big Fish was packed to the gills. The single server in Big Fish was overwhelmed - they brought various staff over to pitch in.

To sum it up, I was very disappointed. I'll break it down into the components that matter to me.

1. Atmosphere was great. An eclectic mix of furniture (no table the same), it looks like a bit of a Maritime garage sale. It works. Light blue stucco, a few accents, the space is cozy, but comfortably seats 30. A bar for drinks and waiting is great. Jack Johnson on the stereo was a nice touch.

2. Drinks were eclectic, but good. My gin and tonic used ginger syrup in it - surprisingly a very nice blend!

3. Price was moderate: soups and salads in the 7-11 range, appetizers 9-14, entree's 16-25ish.

4. Portion sizes were small.

5. Service was erractic, but the poor guy was really trying. The place was swamped. He spent a little too much time sitting at the kitchen station waiting for food, when there were bills to collect, plates to bus, and water to refill, but otherwise was reasonable.

6. It was amazingly slow. A couple who was there before us left before their meal came. Our appetizers arrived within 2-3 minutes, then upon completion, it took over an hour for our entree to arrive. Other tables were not getting food either - the serving staff blamed the kitchen, but who know's where the issue was. They weren't turning out any dishes, so either they botched an order completely, or they are truly slow.

7. Management was good, smart, and understanding. Alberta came over and apologized for the wait, mentioning they were swamped and the kitchen was back logged. She comp'd our appetizers. Mistakes happen - it's how a restaurant deals with it that matters. Professionally handled as always.

8. Now the food. Two of us started with the scallop and mushroom chowder. I love scallops, i love mushrooms, and i love chowder. How could you go wrong? The soup came out quickly, but was luke warm and cooled quickly. The portion size was incredibly small. It was fairly salty, and was more infused soup than a chowder. The ingredients were blended, and then drizzled with a couple of oils (if i had a better memory, i'd remember. But i don't).

The last person started with the crab and butter lettuce salad. It was fairly plain, but the lettuce was nice, and the crab was fresh. Decent, but at $11, perhaps a bit expensive.

For entrees, we sampled 4 items. The arctic char, on a bed of rice was actually very good. Simple, they let the fish speak for itself. A good quality piece of char. The portion size would not satisfy most people - my dad, who eats very little, finished the dish, which is very concerning to me. At $19, a good deal if you don't need a lot of food to fill up.

The seafood feu pot was some vegetables and seafood cooked in broth. Very clean and crisp, it was however, quite bland. A few mussels, clams, some fish, some snow peas, and assorted vegetables, it was a Bouillabaise without the flavour, or complexity. I wouldnt try this again. Once again, the ingredients were good and fresh, but the taste wasnt. AT 16 dollars though, it wasnt outrageous.

Lastly, i had two appetizers as an entree - the mussels, and the portabella mushrooms stuffed with crab. The former was good - the mussels were a bit overcooked, but plump and of fantastic quality. They were a bit cool, like they hadnt been under the heat lamp while waiting for the other entree's to be completed. But the flavour was decent. The portabella mushroom was disappointing. Some shaved crab on top, it was a sandwich of two portabellas lightly marinated, with crab on top, and some greens (arugala, a stick of rosemary, and some other indistinguiable greens) sandwich in the bottom layer.Plain, not very flavourful, and once again, cold. At $9, and $11 respectively, i would order the mussels again, but definitely pass on the mushroom.

In summary, it has potential, but it was disappointing. I certainly expected better. I would wait - definitely until the kitchen has ironed out their issues. The ingredients were good, but the food issues and preparation are a bit more troubling to me. The portion sizes won't feed your average North American, but your average North American probably eats too much. I really wanted to like it - but it ended up being a disappointing evening for me.

Hope that helps.

Post Notes: My guess at a recommendation if you choose to go? Try the oysters - expensive though they are (2.75 each), people who ordered them seemed happy. The drinks were great too.

It was packed - when i arrived at 5:45pm on a Tuesday, there were 2 tables left. By 6:00pm, there were people waiting. No reservations means get there early.

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