I got into Ottawa at around 8:30, and we were able to walk to the restaurant that we’d made reservations to within 20 minutes. It was a painfully cold evening, and we were more than ecstatic to get into the restaurant and be seated right away. Although the waiter was slow, we understood that he was also swamped with all the patrons in the cramped restaurant, making it incredibly difficult to efficiently move around. Continue reading “Town – Centertown”
Tzin and wine is a fabulous little restaurant in the heart of down town and makes for a great night out either with friends or with a date. The restaurant holds about 20 guests and has a very artistic vibe to it. The restaurant’s main website will illustrate that quite well. The staff are very friendly, knowledgeable, and have excellent recommendations for wines and food.
Karen and I ordered the mushroom tart and the seafood paella for two. The mushroom tart was phenomenal. Sauteed mushrooms and truffle were made to be paired together, but add a warm crumbly tart, melted Gruyere cheese, and a bed of crunchy spinach and you have heaven on a plate. You have to try this.
The seafood paella was loaded. Lots of huge tiger shrimps, scallops, and perfectly done mussels. However the rice itself was not that impressive. There was too much sauce making the rice overly soaked and wet. The rice in a good paella should not be this saucy and this mushy. We were a definitely a little disappointed with the paella. Unfortunately we did not order any other tapas, but seeing what other guests ordered looked delicious.
This is a great little Wine and Tapas restaurant with great service, friendly staff, and very decent food. I will certainly be back again to give the other tapas a try and to pick out a few interesting wines that Tzin offers.
Atmosphere: cozy, artsy, lively
Price: $30-40 (food only)
I’m going to start off by saying that if you live in Calgary, you must book this place for Sunday Supper at once. I don’t think I’ve been so pleased with a meal in a long time! I say this because not only was the food mind-blowing, the price extremely reasonable, but it was so much food we had to pack some home! This is a true mark of an excellent restaurant. Not to mention all the other things that make a restaurant, like impeccable service and interesting decor.
So this was actually our last stop in Calgary. We had planned it so that we’d make it to Sunday Supper, which was recommended by the reviews that tfung had found. Everytime we mentioned Model Milk to someone around the Alberta area, they responded with “My friend went there and they thought it was fantastic!”. We didn’t really think much of the menu at first because it really didn’t appeal to us. But we were sure glad we took the plunge in the end. He had already made a reservation, which I highly recommend, and the doors really didn’t open until 5:00pm. At 5:00pm sharp, we walked in, and were promptly seated. We were situated in a cozy corner, where we got a good view of the whole place. There were two sort of mezzanines between the bottom and the top floor (which were both for seating). The lower mezzanine was the bulk of the tables, and was where we sat. The higher mezzanine was where the kitchen was. You were able to somewhat see their quick yet controlled bustle around the kitchen to get our orders out. Sunday Supper is a set menu for everyone that night. It changes every week, which is a great marketing idea. Firstly, a new menu every week is enticing to foodies that reside in Calgary. Secondly, the fixed menu for everyone makes it easy for them to streamline production and serve in a timely and orderly fashion. Thirdly, it allows for a slightly reduced cost due to the purchase in bulk, and the streamlined labour and preparation. Absolutely brilliant.
For us, our starter was a Smoked trout potato salad and a Smorgasbord of wonderful things. The smoked trout was nice and pink, done very well, so that it has the full texture of the trout, with just a hint of smokiness. It was great for me, especially because I am not a huge fan of the smokey flavour, but do appreciate a small amount of it. The potato salad was out of this world! They had perfected the salad dressing and the firmness of the potato completely. The julienned onion made it more visually appealing, and actually made for a longer crunchy break between bites of the potato. Obviously the green onion was a must as well. As for the amazing Smorgasbord, which was served on a fitting milk bottle-design plate, it housed a fairly extensive variety of food. There were devilled eggs, with the yolk whipped quite nicely, with a bit of bread crumb to add crunch. They also served beets and cauliflower in a tiny mason jar, which was incredibly cute. There was 4 small “grilled cheese” stacked. They are not real grilled cheese, as they substituted bread for brioche, and the cheese is Jarlsberg cheese. Adding some meat on the plate, there was bison charcuterie, served with a mustard seed mixture, which was very tender and flavourful. To finish it all off, there was some sort of cracker that I forgot the name of. It tastes like a perfected version of fortune cookies. Everything on the plate was done extremely well, and completely balanced in every way. And the beauty of this is, there is no “front” or “back”, making sharing amazing! Every time you turn the plate, it’s a new visual experience! Moving onto the main, there were two dishes:
They steamed the cod with clams and butter sauce in a parchment paper package, which we’ve seen once before in a Japanese omakase restaurant. The parchment paper retains the white colour of the fish, and retains the hydration of the fish. Coupled with the flavour of the clams and rich butter sauce, it was quite enjoyable. Unfortunately it was overshadowed in flavour and power by the Swedish meatballs.
First off, there were 4 gigantic meatballs on the plate, which we split evenly. The meatballs were delicious. Fully loaded with big flavour. Secondly, though we’re used to the flavour of nappa cabbage, we’ve rarely seen it fermented in such a way leaving a sour, acidic taste (it tastes like kimchi without the spiciness). Thirdly, the garlic mashed potatoes. Holy cow, these were amazing! I have nothing but good things to say about this dish. The meatballs were fat, meaty and juicy.
What I believe is meant to accompany the steamed fish is a beautiful pilaf that was served separately in a rice bowl. Unfortunately we have no picture of it, but let me tell you, it was hella delicious! It was the fluffiest, airiest rice I have ever had (and the two of us has had a lot of rice…)! We’re not sure of the specific broth they used, but they did it with such balance along with the herbs, we couldn’t resist packing this home (as we were unable to finish it). From this amazing experience, we will soon be experimenting with making pilafs, though we’re unsure whether we’d ever get it to taste like this…
To end the meal, they presented a very simple apple fool in a small mason jar, with cinnamon sprinkled on the top. The apples were baked to a consistency that agreed with me; not too mushy, retaining a slight bite and even crunch to it. The cream part of it was done very smoothly, with a bit of flavour, and paired with the apple, it made for a (seemingly) light dessert to end the meal, without it being too bland.
The whole choreography of the meal was absolutely amazing. Some things that would have been labeled as sides did not take a muted presence. Instead, these “sides” were just as interesting as the “main” ingredient of the dish. I love that every bite was something to be excited about. I truly haven’t been so excited to eat since San Francisco!
Although they used a lot of potatoes in the entirety of the meal, it was done in a way where each time we had it, the potatoes were done differently, so that the texture and flavour was not similar. That is the true mark of an excellent meal. It’s all about the contrast in flavour, texture, colour and presentation. I will not hesitate to make another reservation as soon as I know I am back in Calgary, because Model Milk is PHENOMENAL!
Atmosphere: industrial, open, bustling
Price: $35 for sunday supper
I called up a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time and we decided to come to Dolcetto. I had wanted to try this place on several occasions, having passed by it several times.
This restaurant does Italian-style tapas, which was something I hadn’t really tried before. I’m all for spanish tapas but was a little weary about Italian tapas…I do love my pastas!
As a result of my craving for pasta, we ordered the Homemade Gnocchi with Truffle Cream. I have to say the look of this was not very good. It came in a dish of about 15-20 gnocchi’s , drenched in a thin truffle cream. It was very plain-looking and didn’t appeal too much to me. However, as soon as I bit into it, it was absolutely delicious! The gnocchi was of a soft, chewy, sticky consistency, and the potato mixture inside was surprisingly flavourful. The truffle cream provided that extra bit of flavour, and the fact that it was of a thin, almost soupy consistency made balance with the thick texture of the gnocchi. The spiciness of the pepper just peaked through and I kept wanting more.
We also ordered the dish of the night, which is the Arancini with portobello mushrooms inside, topped with parmesan cheese and served with a tomato-based thin sauce that had a taste of tabasco sauce. Arancini are Italian-styled rice balls, and these were massive. I didn’t enjoy these very much, mostly because I didn’t like the sauce, but the arancini was too dry to eat by itself. The portabello mushrooms also didn’t add any significant amount of flavour to the dish, which was extremely disappointing.
One of the main categories of dishes there was pizzas, so we ordered one. We went with the Bianca style pizza with squash, pancetta and mozzarella. Bianca pizzas are those without tomato sauce, just the pizza crust and cheese on top. The squash was sliced very thinly and seasoned with herbs. The pancetta is a type of bacon, adding just the right amount of meaty goodness to the pizza. The mozzarella was of a melted, creamier consistency. I thought this was quite well done. The portion size was perfect, and the mix of ingredients was also good. I like that they kept it simple, minimizing the number of ingredients they put onto each pizza, so I’d definitely recommend getting at least one of these!
Finally, we had the veal cheek braised in red wine, which was coincidentally served with mashed squash. We were a little sad that we had squash in two dishes, but since both dishes were quite good, we enjoyed it. The veal cheek was tender, but was a little difficult to cut as they didn’t give us very good knives, and the piece was quite thick. There was some soft cartilage that was in there, which was a little annoying. Overall, I thought this dish was okay, but perhaps my expectations had been a little high. The flavour and texture is good, but it didn’t wow me.
I do have to say that their service is quite casual. As I walked in, the Hostess had wanted to leave the area even though she saw me coming, but since I had made eye contact with her, she had to stop half way and come back to greet me. I could totally see her thought process, where for a step and a half through her walk, she contemplated not greeting me right away. Furthermore, when I told her we had made reservations, she told me to just sit at “that middle table there”. There were two “middle tables”. She just pointed and then left to do something that I guessed was far more important.
Finally, I didn’t get any menus for at least 10 minutes. A little disappointed at that, but perhaps it’s because they want a more casual atmosphere. But in my opinion you can be casual without being cold and uncaring.
My friends and I wanted to get together and we found Tapeo and decided it was worth a try. Tapeo is a spanish tapas place that had opened for about half a year. It had gotten extremely excellent reviews on Urbanspoon. We barely got a reservation, but managed to grab a last one at 8pm at the bar. As a result, people who normally would sit at the bar to wait for their seats were left standing at the foyer. It was pretty packed at the beginning of our night and I was a little annoyed due to the fact that the guy standing behind me would elbow me every 2 minutes. I told the hostess about it because I didn’t feel like confronting 5 huge guys, and she was an absolutely sweetheart about it.
Soon everyone who was waiting behind me got seated which was a great relief. So we started off the night just chatting and then deciding quite lightheartedly on a couple dishes we wanted to try.
I ended up starting the night with the Rosé Sangria. It was a little stronger in alcohol taste as I would have liked. It wasn’t really very sweet nor sour but a touch of bitterness. It was good nonetheless. We were also served some salmon tartare amuse bouche, which were mixed in with basil. This had such an interesting, refreshing taste we considered ordering it as a dish.
We started off with the Grilled Octopus dish. This was served with roasted potatoes and herbs, topped with tomato sauce. I really thought this was a good dish to start off with. The octopus chunks were of a good size, not like those tiny pathetic tentacles you often get at restaurants. The texture had a crunch when you initially bite into it and was chewy to the extent that it required a few more chews, but definitely didn’t become tough. There was a slight smokiness to the octopus since it was grilled which isn’t a flavour I particularly enjoy, but it worked well with all the flavours combined here.
The hostess had also suggested that we order cod fritters with the octopus as they would go very well together. And that it did.
The consistency of the cod fritters reminded my friend of crabcakes, as it was fried on the outside and had bits of fish on the inside. It was really really delicious and had really kick started our appetite for the night. It was served with a side of tartar sauce, which obviously went very well with it. The crust of the fritters were just crunchy enough, but not so much that it became hard. It was easy to split this in half to eat it with some finesse, and really did go amazingly well with the octopus.
For a need for some vegetables, we ordered the vine tomatoes with mozzarella cheese, pesto and basil leaves. This was extremely delicious. The tomatoes were of excellent quality and had that amazing tomato flavour I am in love with. The mozzarella added an extra punch with the pesto, providing for a difference in texture. The basil leaves gave an even more fragrant addition to the dish. Although it was a little bit more pricey, I really liked this and wouldn’t be something I’d make often at home (just because of the ingredients).
I was the most excited about the Paella. When it came, it was jam packed with seafood which is always a bonus. The rice was to a consistency I liked with paella; not TOO mushy but definitely not too hard. The sauce was quite creamy, which isn’t the most traditional. The seafood was quite good, although I did see a large difference in quality between the enormous shrimp and the tiny mussels. But everything still tasted fresh, so I overlooked that. Also with the dish came scallops, squid and chorizo. Of course, it was flavoured with saffron and other herbs, giving a fragrant taste to the rice. I did find this dish to be a little on the expensive side ($40) but it was M.P on the menu.
Finally we had the Iberian Pork “Secreto” which is a type of pork I’d never tried before. It is supposed to be similar to the “black pork” that some of you may have heard of. The dish was presented as thin slices of pork dressed with a pesto-oil mixture, and garnished with some greens. The pork was grilled and retained a smokey flavour, while the middle of the slices were still pink. Honestly, it tasted like eating a steak in terms of texture and the type of flavour. You can taste that it is pork, but the juicy, meaty taste of eating a piece of steak was there. The meat also contained a good amount of fat which made it taste even better, and at $20, it was definitely a good try.
The waitress definitely tempted us with the desserts and we couldn’t resist trying the churros, which she raved about. We got it and were so relieved it didn’t come with cinnamon since both me and one of my friends hate it (I know.). The churros were topped with sugar and was served with a decadent chocolate fondue sauce. It was evident that the chocolate sauce came out of a heated bowl filled with pieces of chocolate. The churros had a doughy, eggy flavour and texture with the slight crunch outside. The sugar also gave it an interesting crunch where the chocolate sauce gave it an extra oomph of sweetness. Sometimes I ate it without the chocolate sauce. It was an excellent finish to spanish tapas and really showcased the talents of the chefs using such traditional and “simple” dishes.
They don’t really pay attention to the presentation of the dishes, but in my opinion, tapas don’t need good presentation. As long as the food is amazing.
My friends also ordered some Mojitos which were amazing. Had just the right balance of sourness, sweetness and herb-iness. Tapeo is apparently quite well known for their mojitos.
Another great thing about this restaurant is the fact that I left without smelling like anything. No smokiness, no food smells. Their ventilation system is phenomenal!
Needless to say, their service is quite good. At least the waitress I had. I do believe that it may be different if you’re not seated at the bar, since it may be so busy that you would feel a little neglected. But nonetheless I think that all the waitresses and waiters would have a pleasant personality and approach when they do come to tend you.
I highly recommend trying this place if you’re ready to dish out a couple dollars. It’s not cheap, but I had a blast here. The food was absolutely incredible, the ambiance was so engaging and the service excellent. I would advise you to call in early to make a reservation, as Tapeo gets incredibly booked up on the weekend.
Atmosphere: modern, bistro
Three Boars is a small two storied restaurant located on a busy street in Garneau. You could honestly walk by and not even notice this restaurant and the interesting tapas they serve inside. Outside, there is a nice patio for the summer where you can enjoy the beautiful weather while dining here.
When you first enter, you see the bar immediately to your right and a small open kitchen behind it. It is definitely a nice area to have a drink and chat with some friends and enjoy some tapas. I really like their open concept area on the main floor and on the patio.
The upstairs, is quite different. It is much more closed and gives you a cabin homely sort of feel with its wooden walls and table tops. The decor is simple, inviting, and comfortable.
Now, onto the food. Everything is tapas style and so the food comes one at a time and everything is meant to be shared. We started with the Sauteed Mushrooms on Toast and Pork and Chicken Liver Bomb. The Sauteed mushrooms came served on a small piece of french toast served with a raw egg yolk on top. The presentation was nice but the sauteed mushrooms were not that flavourful and did not stand out to me. On top of that, the egg yolk didn’t really add anything special in terms of flavour or complexity to the dish and was just more for decoration. The Pork and chicken liver bomb was good but lacked any liver taste. Inside was shredded chicken and pork mixed with a light mayo and celery bits, which reminded me of chicken salad sandwich.
Here is the star of the night. The Oyster Braised Beef Chuck. The begin, the presentation was wonderful. The colours from the beef, cilantro puree, and congee just go really well together in this dish. The beef itself was very tender and juicy and had a very deep and rich flavour. The congee was rich and creamy which complemented the beef well. Combined with the cilantro puree, which added a very refreshing taste, this dish was perfect. On the other hand, we have the pulled pork poutine, which lacked the elegance of the last dish. The fries were large potato wedges and on top was the pulled pork slobbered all over. There were two distinct sauces in this dish, which contradicted each other. One was a rich beef flavour and the other a light bbq porky flavour. The sauces drowned the potato wedges which resulted in a “soggy” poutine. My biggest pet peeve about poutines is the use of regular mozzarella cheese instead of cheese curds. Unfortunately, the cheese melted immediately, and I was unable to hear any squeaks while eating this poutine.
Our last 2 dishes arrived. They were the Lamb Sirloin and the Blue Crab and Potato Salad. The lamb sirloin was complimented with a Peppercorn Hibiscus Gastrique dressing, which had flavours of rose and fruit. It was more of a salad than anything else and so it was fitting that it was served cold. At first, you expect the lamb to be tender because it is quite soft when you “forkit”. But once you bite into it, the meat was quite tough to chew. I would compare it to a blue raw steak. Although the lamb had good flavour, I would not recommend this dish. Finally, we had the Blue Crab and Potato salad. There was not much crab in the dish at all. The smoked mayo had a flavour like tuna salad sandwich, which did not really work for me. All in all, this dish was not too impressive even though it looked great.
After the 6 dishes between the 4 of us, we left still hungry and unsatisfied. Although three boars has very intricate dishes with a lot of attention to detail, the only dish that impressed our palates was the Oyster Braised Beef Chuck. The rest of their dishes did not taste special to me. In addition, their service and decor was average. Apart from a few beautifully presented dishes, three boars is an average tapas restaurant with nothing special to boast.
Atmosphere: simple, wood, comfortable, open concept