I went for a bit of an afternoon refresh after checking out the Glenbow's Rodin show on Friday (good show, skip reading the labels). As it turned out, I ended up staying for three courses.
Divino in Calgary is probably most responsible for expanding my palette more then any other restaurant. Everytime I've sat down for a meal there, I've learned something about food. The location in Kensington, which is now Muse, has one of the more interesting dining lay outs in the city - the menu they had at their old location has continued to survive somewhat intact at Gypsy in the Grain Exchange Building (Under different owners). I guess I'm trying to make a case for their status as a seminal Calgary restaurant, which isn't really needed, as the food continues to be innovative.
We sat down and ordered a plate of mussels and frites. They were simply prepared with tomato and some aromatics. The surfaces of the mussels had just become taut and a touch caramelized. The Pomme Frites are not the steak cut/rosemary fries of Virginias, but more of a shoestring interpretation and always an exacting golden brown. They are served in a parchment cone with some parm shavings mixed in, which slowly melt. The lemon aioli adds to the mussels, and I guess bridges the gap between the two. Nothing fancy here, but enough to order a couple glasses of wine and keep going. I then had a Lamb Confit sandwich with fig - which was, quite simply the best sandwich I've had in the city since Calzone's closed. It was a generous portion of lamb that had the sweetness of fig pulled through out. The bread at Divino's is always top notch - in this case they used a soft white bun bread that wasn't over aerated, and held up to the contents. It was served with a mixed green salad that had whole grain mustard seeds, cream and a splash of cheese (I think). Anytime I make it this far at Divino's, I have to order desert, we split the pear tart with sour cherry sorbet. It was a strikingly coloured dish; the tart was inverted, more like a cylindrically portioned pear crisp. The sour cherry icecream had an intense initial flavour that faded off as it moved through the rest of the dish. It was a pretty good assembly, but I thought the crust of the tart could have been more interesting then just being brown sugar/flour.. Dessert at Divino's is constantly evolving, and one of the best values in the city.
Service was knowledgeable, unscripted and relaxed. No AMEX sponsored coat check, no Perrier question first off. A memorable, exciting meal with some flavours that were compelling and new.