My husband and I had the pleasure of dining at Eight last night to celebrate Valentines Day. And I do mean pleasure!
Eight is located at 1530 5 Street SW and connected to The Mercury on 17th Avenue. There isn’t a lot of parking other than street parking but we are lucky enough to live close enough that we could just walk over. There is a lot on the west side of 5th street across from the restaurant where you can park in the evenings. There is a large terrace area out front that looks like it would be a lot of fun in the summer. The restaurant itself is absolutely gorgeous. It is very modern with huge lampshade chandeliers, spectacular woodwork and trendy lighting. That said it is a bit dark for reading the fine print on the menus but as I age I find that to be an issue more and more. It was very romantic for Valentines Day. Do not miss the bathrooms – they are lovely. I like the big square white sinks. The stalls are quite narrow but there is a separate handicapped bathroom.
The layout has a quite a club feel to it. It has a row of tables in front of a long bench at the front and a few huge elevated booths. There is also a long bar with chairs – not barstools, for dining at the bar.
The service at Eight was excellent. I have honestly never felt so well taken care of. During the course of our meal our waiter Colin took excellent care of us but we also met the manager Shelley, the sommelier Kelvin, and the chef himself, Kenny Kaechele. The staff were well trained, professional, friendly and it was a real treat to have such a great team of people taking such good care of us.
I started the meal with a glass of New Zealand Pinot Noir and then had a glass of white wine with my meal. The bartender, the waiter and I the sommelier all helped me select a nice Sauvignon Blanc to go with my dinner and then, after my meal arrived, checked by to see if the pairing was to my liking! A very nice touch. Eight doesn’t have a huge selection of wines by the glass but the ones they do have on offer were excellent. The prices were very reasonable and I think most people will be tempted to order a bottle of wine with dinner.
Ok now to the good stuff – THE FOOD! We were served an amuse-bouche right away and it was very good. Beautifully presented on a small square white plate was a cube of seared tuna crusted with fennel and coriander and accompanied by a lovely light avocado mousse. My husband doesn’t care for “raw fish” so I got to eat his too! Yum yum!!! A silver bowl of warm olive sourdough from Charlie’s Bakery was served with a sweet little dish of Greek olive oil, butter and aged balsamic vinegar. Very good quality products too – the olive oil was very light and clear and the balsamic was thick and rich – just the way I like them.
The menu offers a good variety and it was difficult to choose. My husband ordered the Bacon and Egg salad for an appetizer and I started with the Chili Lime Prawns. They were beautifully cooked, with just the right amount of spicy kick and a very soft warm Szechuan sauce on the side. There were eight prawns which for an appetizer is huge! My husband said that his salad, which included a whole soft poached egg, was wonderful. Fresh greens, nice blend of flavours and a very generous serving. I was very tempted by the Organic Salmon entrée but in the end decided on the Ravioli with lobster and saffron corn cream sauce. My husband ordered the lamb loin and was very impressed. He said that it was a very nice cut of meat and perfectly cooked. I have to say my husband ALWAYS orders lamb when we dine out together and he commented that his lamb at Eight was the best he has ever had. The portions were perfect, large enough to fill you up but still manageable – we both cleaned our plates. My ravioli was gorgeous and fresh and I am pretty sure I had a whole lobster worth of meat on my plate. Apparently, the ravioli is a very popular customer favourite and I can certainly see why!
While we were enjoying our meals the chef came out to chat for a bit. It was lovely to meet him and pay our compliments in person. Kevin seemed very relaxed and was happy to chat with us for a few minutes. We can only assume that he runs a very organized kitchen as the restaurant was quite busy with lots of Valentine’s couples enjoying dinner. He recommended a chocolate trio from the tasting menu to my husband and in fact made sure that that was exactly what he had. Kenny was right – it was a beautiful dish and it must have been really tasty as hubby was unwilling to share even one small bite! I hate to say it – especially on Valentines Day, but I am not a big chocolate fan and he said that it would be a shame to waste any on someone who would not truly appreciate it.
Now the only negative I have to say about the entire evening was the hostess. She seemed about twelve to me and I hope it was her first night – she certainly seemed lost and confused. When we arrived she greeted us, confirmed our reservations and then without a word, walked away. We weren’t sure if we were supposed to follow her or not. We soon discovered that we were and she showed us to a booth and took my coat. The booth is elevated and quite narrow and the table wasn’t centered properly in the booth and I struggled getting up and in but the hostess was long gone. The servers in the area jumped in right away to move the table. I am not sure it was even our table as it was set for four. As the serving staff cleared away the extra settings the hostess returned and took away the extra menus and the wine list as well. She spent the rest of the night clomping around, looking lost and like she didn’t have enough to do.
Regardless of this minor distraction, I can’t wait to go back. I would definitely make reservations ahead of time and expect a lively crowd from The Mercury on Friday and Saturday nights. The food was outstanding and the service truly exquisite. All in all we had an excellent evening and it was excellent value as well – our entire night was only $135 plus tip. Try Eight yourself – I am sure that it will make your short list of favourite restaurants in Calgary – it certainly made mine!