This weekend my husband and I spent the weekend in Calgary so our puppy could compete in his first dog show. On Friday night we stayed at our puppy's breeder's, and ate with her, but had arranged for a romantic, dog-free ngiht together at the Hotel Arts on Saturday night, including a night out and some fine dining.
I had originally looked through the Chowhound boards, and had intentions of going to Catch, however, after having had little sleep on Friday night, followed by an early (6am) start and a full day at the show (our boy won "Best Puppy in Breed" at eight in the morning, and had to wait around to compete against the rest of the Sporting Group puppies at 3:30pm, we were tired enough that we didn't really feel like going very far. In fact, had the room service menu at the Hotel Arts been more appealing, we likley wouldn't have made it out of our room.
So, we headed downstairs. After perusing both the Raw Bar and the Saint Germain menus, my husband opted for the Saint Germain, since he truly enjoys French Bistro food.
We both had an appetizer; my husband had the grilled prawns and pork belly, which he thought was delicious. I was torn between having the raw oysters, the tuna tartar, and the steak tartar. Having almost set my mind on the oysters instead (and having had ordered a glass of Sauvingnon Blanc to go with the oysters), I instead took the waiter's recommendation (and the raves from the next table), and had the steak tartar. Oddly enough our waiter felt that my Sauv Blanc would make a perfect pairing for the steak tartar.
Anyway, I went ahead and had the steak tartar. The verdict? I wasn't blown away. The tartar seemed like it was lacking something; it needed more salt, was crying out for a good bashing of black pepper, and perhaps something else. It was served with some very good hand cut potato chips, however. The Sauvingon Blanc did nothing for the steak tartar.
As a main course, I had lamb served two ways - a braised/stewed shoulder, and a rack of lamb ribs. My husband had a beef striploin with matchstick potatoes and sauteed mushrooms, which he ordered medium rare. It came out more on the medium side, but he chose to keep it rather than mention anything to the waiter. Once again, my husband enjoyed his meal. My lamb was good (and I had a glass of Shiraz to go with it); though (being picky here), I found the rack of ribs quite fatty. I think that it could have been braised a while longer to let the fat render out. It was sauced very well, and the shoulder stew was tasty.
We both had the creme brulee for dessert. Once again, it was well executed, but missing something. The menu had it listed as a "Tahitian Vanilla Creme Brulee", but there was no standout vanilla flavour, or evidence that fresh vanilla had been used in the brulee.
If I were to sum up the experience at the Saint Germain, I would say that everything was executed well, but was missing some critical flavour elements. There was no "wow" factor for me throughout the meal, however, the fact that both my husband and I were quite tired probably factored in there. Service was competent, not overly well informed, and slightly slow. Our meal, including two beers, two glasses of wine, an after dinner Oban for my husband, and a Drambuie for me came to $210.00 (including tip). If I'm down in Calgary again and looking to spend that kind of money, we'll do it elsewhere.
Have others had a similar experience there, or was it a one off? It was only on our way back to our room that I noticed the plaque from EnRoute naming the Saint Germaine one of Canada's best new restaurants in 2006... I have to say that I was very surprised.