I’ve been blessed with a new co-worker who loves to eat as much as I do. So three days this week instead of pondering how sad it is to work every day (very sad), we’ve taken the liberty of a long lunch to check out three restaurants that participated in Downtown Dining Week, offering a three course menu for 25.00. The list of participating restaurants was impressive, spanning not only most high-end places downtown, but also Mission, Bridgeland and Kensington. Some restaurants only did an evening menu, while others were a long hike from the office, but in the end we narrowed it down to three: Teatro (because even though it’s a venerable institution, we’ve never been), Saint Germain (because they’re very new), and Rush (because they just got voted Calgary’s best restaurant by Avenue Magazine).
None of them disappointed, and here’s a quick recap of the three.
Bread rolls at Teatro
Teatro opened up with a tomato confit with a prosciutto, basil pesto and pecorino pepato. It was a lovely dish and received top marks from my co-worker, and a bit less so from me. The tomatoes were soft and tomatoey, the prosciutto lovely and the cheese sharp, but the room temperature dish could’ve used more pizzazz. Like a garlic oil in the pesto or some garlic chives slivered on top, it seemed to lack an element of spice that would make it great.
The chorizo pappardelle with red peppers, parmesan and green onion was a wonderful dish. Comforting, balanced, the pappardelle was perfectly cooked, the chorizo was sharp, and the sauce was a perfect balance of salty, sweet and sour with none of the excess sourness of lesser tomato sauces. It was a glorious bowl of pasta.
The dessert tasting was a duo of some chocolate concoction and the most amazing chocolate crème brulee I’ve ever had. It was decadent, outstanding and flawless and a perfect end to a great meal. In fact it was so good, I kind of forgot to take the photo before I ate it. It was worth it, trust me. Overall, Teatro is a restaurant that totally deserves its standing as one of the pillars of fine dining in Calgary, and it’d return here in a heartbeat for a nice dinner.
I’m sorry, I ate it… : ( It was THAT good.
Saint Germain is the only restaurant that actually offered a choice between two appetizers, entrees and desserts, and my friend and I both wanted the same thing. So in the spirit of enjoying the lunch fully, (who needs variety), we had the same starters and mains and a different dessert each. We had a wonderful smokey lentil soup to start, and it was thick and hearty and good.
The prosaic fish and chips that we chose over merguez sausage and white beans were pretty good, but not original enough to win big points. The fish was flaky soft on the inside, moist and steamy and enclosed in perfectly crisp batter, and the fries were thin and pretty good, not great. They could’ve used more salt and were a bit on the dry side. The dish came with two dipping sauces – one a tomato based sauce similar in texture to cocktail sauce, and some sort of mayo based concoction that was just addictive. Guess which one was gone first, veg or mayo?
The desserts were a white Provencal cake with lavender honey ice cream and a walnut tarte. The cake left us both indifferent – it was a plain, dryish white disk without much flavor and the ice cream didn’t seem to help, but the walnut tart was fantastic. Crumbly, crunchy, rich and nutty it was a close second to the crème brulee the day before. The prices here were totally affordable with the awesome sounding daily special (something along the lines of lamb and pickled onions and…) falling into the 12-15 dollar range, which makes this the most realistic place for an actual weekday lunch.
Rush fully deserves its current standing as the best restaurant in town. I am so often disappointed by newly hyped restaurants that I wasn’t sure I’d be impressed, but I was.
The apple and celery root soup was sublime – a creamy dreamy bowl of goodness with flakes of smoked ham hock that actually made us silent for a moment.
The braised short rib was not only fork tender and possessing a rich savoury flavor, but served over creamy polenta and the best braised greens I’ve ever had, it was a study in umami and comfort. It was a seriously solid dish, so rich and good that it made you reevaluate an ingredient you thought you knew. Dishes that make you do that deserve the highest praise in my books.
The dessert was a letdown, but mainly because I fell victim to my expectations. See when I hear the words lemon tart, my mind trained like Pavlov’s dog, automatically thinks of A Ladybug Bakery’s lemon tart. It’s a reflex that I can’t help, and frankly don’t want to, since it’s the best lemon tart on the planet and probably in the universe. So to get a lemon SQUARE (a very different animal) on my plate trying to sail under false pretenses was cause for intense disappointment and longing for the real deal. See when a town has a lemon tart THAT good, you might as well give up and either serve theirs, or carefully try and skirt the competition altogether. Anyhow, the lemon square was kind of boring though the raspberry gelato was intensely flavored and sweet. It was the weakest dessert out of the three restaurants, but I’ll totally forgive them due to their mindblowing food.
If your town has a dining week I totally urge you to partake and experience all those places you’re not sure are worth the money.
I’m going to go bond with P90X DVD now.