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Weekly Wrapup - Calgary Rundown


Restaurants & Bars 21

Weekly Wrapup - Calgary Rundown

yen | Nov 15, 2007 10:20 PM

Im heading out of town for the weekend, but wanted to give a quick rundown on some newer places i tried this past week. Im sorry i won't be able to write a lot on each place, but i figured a quick summary might be of some use to one or two of you.

Monday i went to Ruth's Chris with some good friends. They had opened up November 5th, so we decided to give them a week to get a few kinks ironed out, especially considering how quiet their opening was. Very soft. It's located on the second floor of the Calgary Tower, and difficulty in finding parking aside, it's really easy to find.

The best adjective i can use to describe my experience is....consistent. It tasted like all the other Ruth's Chris experiences i've had. They carry all USDA Prime beef, with the exception of a small gesture to Canadian Beef Producers with a Canada Prime Striploin. Prices are very high - everything is ala Carte and the steaks ran from 42 to 58 bucks for a regular steak (105 for the 40 ounce porterhouse for 2).

I had a bone in ribeye for 55 bucks. Running 22 oz. For those who've never had it, USDA Prime is corn-fed, and quite fatty and rich beef. There's a slight yellow tinge to the striations of fat, from the corn feed. I can't believe im actually typing these words, but i had difficulty finishing it. Even with a pre-entree salad to try and provide a solid, healthy "base layer" in my stomach, the grease was tough to handle. But it was a really tasty steak perfectly done - medium rare (please folks, i like bloody meat too, but don't order ribeye rare. It doesnt get warm enough to melt the fat, and you just end up with big chunks of cold fat in the middle of your steak!!). I got mine without the finishing pat of butter, which i would recommend you do as well. It's just too rich on it's own already.

The side dishes are good for sharing, and at a healthy $8 for your typical side, it was neither outrageous, nor a great value. But they all follow the same stream. Fat, and lots of it. Mashed potatoes and BUTTER. Mushrooms cooked in BUTTER. Potatoes Au Gratin, soaking in a blue cheese and cream sauce, topped with a cheddar/something like asiago cheese mixture. Very tasty. Very very heavy.

Final verdict? Consistent :) It probably has the most flavourful steak in town. And also the priciest. The atmosphere is classic trendy steakhouse. Mahogany and Black. Glass. Dim lighting. Was it worth the money? I wouldnt go regularly. But occasionally, i crave a steak done well by someone else. And it's good. Just didnt have the value for me. The only annoy thing about the evening? Two things really. One is a wine list with up to 350% markup. Now im a socialist capitalist at heart, so i can appreciate a bottom line. But there is such a thing as ridiculous, and that wine list was ridiculous. Secondly was the annoying service. Which i chalk up to the place being new. But the server was pretentious, a little condescending, and a bit too "stuffy buddy buddy but not your buddy" kind of attitude. Needed to see less of him, hear less of him. Im guessing part of it is they are on orders to "explain Ruth's Chris" to everyone that walks through the door. I don't need the life story of Ruth. Just serve without sneering at me when i order tap water and not an $8 bottle of 1.49 San Pellegrino.

Tuesday was the day i was looking forward to the most, and ended up disappointing the most. A good foodie friend was back in town for work from Vancouver, and i miss him dearly. My wallet is a lot happier though :) Anyway, a group of us planned on meeting up after his meetings, so we wanted to check out someplace new, yet geographically close to his office. We decided on Mile One Tavern, which was sold to me as a gastropub, and lists on the website as a supper club. Here's the description...tell me this doesnt sound awesome:

"Found in the the heart of Calgary's trendy Designer District, this unequalled Urban Oasis proposes a sophisticated fusion of creative cuisine, worldly wines and cocktails backed by a hip soundtrack and an ambience of cool comfort. Striking the perfect balance of fine dining and opulent decor, Mile One gives new meaning to the term supper club. "

Now i don't know about you, but when i hear the term "gastropub", some big emotions start to well inside me. Im reminded of some of the fantastic meals i've had around the globe at these trendy booze and rock star cuisine establishments. Bistro'ey, yet creative and cutting edge, a great simple menu paired with good, unconventional drinks and libations. Man i could go for that.

Instead, i got a cavernous place, with decent finishings, and terrible food. This place used to be Alibi's, and other than the fancy trimmings, i don't find much has changed. Service was slow, inconsistent, and forgetful. Food was completely uninspired. Boring even. The orders from the table? Two burgers at 11 bucks each, 7oz steak sandwich for 14, and i had a Chicken Club for 12. Even though they tried to bill me $14, and werent able to correct it in the computer when i pointed out the error. The Chicken club was... dry. They used a lot of real bacon, which was easily the best part of it. The bread was dry. The chicken was...dry. At least the lettuce was dry. And they put ketchup and mayo on for me... which pisses me off, because i hate ketchup on a club.

The best comment of the night? As i strolled in late, i asked for suggestions.

Friend: "Get the yam fries. They're really good."
Me: "I don't like Yam fries".
Friend: "Oh...well....good luck then".

Expensive beverages, but they have the hockey game on. It was like an empty wildfire grill that couldnt decide if they were park place, or trailer park. I would give it a pass, unless you're having difficulty finding a place that has a table for pay per view.

To redeem this, we went to Brava for dessert. Good, well executed, if a bit uninspired desserts. Don't get me wrong, they're good. Just nothing original on the dessert menu. But great service, lovely ambiance, the only downfall was a slightly too bitter americano.

Wednesday i had basketball, so i, in my infinite wisdom, thought taco's and burritos would be a good idea pre-game. Oh yeah, my mommy is proud of my supergeniousness [sic]. I went to Mi Tierra Tu Tacqueria. It was fairly late, near closing likely, but unlike all the other raves on the board, i have to give it a "decidedly average...will wait and render an additional judgement later". Probation really.

I got two taco's, Cochinita, and Tinga de Res. At 3 dollars each, they were pricey, but huge. The double corn tortilla was correct. A bit too soggy, but decent. I saw the package they used, and they are the ones available at Boca Loca. The meat? They microwaved it. The flavours were actually quite good, and fairly authentic, but microwaved meat? I was pretty disappointed. And what made these taco's so huge? Rice. And loads of it. Now i've had a lot of taco's from a lot of mexican establishments, yet i've never seen rice, let alone 50% rice, gracing my taco.

The burrito? I was very very disappointed, but i realized post order that part of it was my fault. I ordered Burrito de Chile Verde, which i didnt realize came smothered in cheddar cheese. Which cheeses me off. Since that was no burrito. It tasted terrible. The taco's tasted good at least. This, not so much. I will try another burrito at some point, but hope for something more authentic.

When i asked about some of my favorite taco toppings, lengua, carnitas, carne asada, barbacoa, camaron, etc... they told me "we do one special on weekend. Come check then. We can't do that during the week, it's too much work." I understand, but not exactly what i want to hear from a food establishment. We don't make what you want because it's too much work. Take this stuff that doesnt take much time at all.

Maybe im being unnecessarily harsh, as it was 7:30, and the burrito order i was partially to blame. But i did not have the same glowing reviews that other people had. I thought Taco Cabana is better... and for those that have had it, they know that's drunk Texan food. Im willing to give their special a shot. If they can do a good carnitas, that would go a long way to pacifying me. In the meantime, a solid "don't rush there, it ain't worth it". Make your own mind up about it, but that's my opinion for now, until they change it.

Lastly, went to Tang Dynasty tonight for dinner. This used to be Emperor Seafood in the basement of the Chinese Cultural Center. Huge. And empty, with only 3 other tables. Food was ok. Pea shoots were a bit firm. Eggplant and Tofu hotpot was decent. Salt and Pepper (though in Chinese, it was written as 5 spice) pork chops were boney, not meaty. Other than the hotpot, which was pretty good, i'd give this place a pass.

Picked up my Vancouver friend and went to Jaro Blue for dessert. Nice space, very busy for a Thursday at 9:30pm. I ran into a bunch of people i knew from other restaurants, so it was nice to see them doing well. The menu for dessert was very very limited (3 options), and at $7, wasnt spectacular. But decent. Uninspired. But decent. And for being open until midnight on weekdays, it's not a bad place to hang out. Oh, got an illy Americano... and it was actually really good. I was surprised. Better than some of the illy product i've had in the past. We're going there for our next monthly supperClub, so i'll be excited to try a few of the other tapas dishes. Im concerned about the value, as prices for plates werent cheap (7/12/15 i believe), so i hope the quantity is there.

Anyway, im off to the Chuck tomorrow to cook some Calf Moose Offal with my good foodie friend, so no more reviews for a while. I wish everyone here would get the chance to try calf moose sometime, it really is amazingly delicious.

I've just exceeded my 30 minute limit i set for myself. Gotta run. Happy eating folks!

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