Delicious discoveries: Chef’s tasting menus in Calgary

“You’ve got to be open minded with chef’s tasting menus,” says Culinaire magazine publisher and Vine and Dine host Linda Garson. These curated meals about discovering tastes and techniques. Also be aware that they’re fine-dining affairs and may have minimum party sizes. Some require reservations, and substitutions are often not possible. Below, Linda recommends some of the city’s most exciting multi-course meals.

Workshop Kitchen + Culture

1
608 1 Street SW, Calgary, AB T2P 1M6

The “improv menu” created by chef Kenny Kaechele at Workshop Kitchen + Culture outside Theatre Junction in the historic Lougheed Building changes daily. This is a no-holds-barred menu where you expect the unexpected, and trust the chef. He’s going to surprise you! The fun, five-course contemporary Canadian meal features local ingredients served with optional beverage pairings that may include house-made sodas and cocktails. Allergies will be accommodated.

Yellow Door Bistro

2
119 12 Ave SW, Calgary, AB T2R 0G8

The chef’s menu at Yellow Door Bistro in Hotel Arts is eclectic and surprisingly inexpensive. And you can stay overnight if you eat too much! Elegantly comfortable with funky, quirky decor (including an almost-life-sized horse sculpture at the entrance), its food is well presented. Three-course and five-course Euro-bistro meals with optional wine pairings are available seven nights a week. Ask to sit in one of the big, high-back chairs.

Rouge

3
1240 8 Ave SE, Calgary, AB T2G 0M7

It doesn’t get much better than the highly acclaimed Rouge in Inglewood. You’re going to have sturgeon that’s smoked in-house and elk carpaccio. It’s adventurous, organic and locally grown, much of it freshly picked to order from their back garden. The food is beautifully presented in the converted heritage home’s small rooms, and service is exemplary. The six-course tasting meal is available with standard and premium wine pairings.

River Cafe

4
25 Prince's Island Pk, Calgary, AB T2P 0R1

River Cafe is gourmet and gorgeous. The Prince’s Island Park hideaway serves local, meat such as elk and bison and organic produce as well as Ocean Wise approved sustainable seafood. Its always-amazing dishes are special in a rustic and unpretentious way. Chef Andrew Winfield is doing everything right, literally making everything himself. His exceptional tasting meals are available in October, November and February through April. Six- to seven-course meals are available with optional wine pairings.

Q Haute Cuisine

5
100 La Caille Pl SW, Calgary, AB T2P 5E2

It’s hugely creative, and really quite jaw-dropping! Tasting menus that often involve magical molecular gastronomy techniques are the only evening meals served at Q Haute Cuisine. It’s a journey, and you don’t know where it’s going to take you. You may be served veggies made to look like sweet pastries, for example. Tuesday to Thursday, enjoy four courses with optional wine pairings. Friday and Saturday, indulge in a seven-course meal with optional sommelier-selected wines. This exceptional, high-end dining is priced accordingly.

Ox Bar De Tapas

6
528 17 Ave SW, Calgary, AB T2S 0B1

The nicely priced Spanish tapas chef’s meal at Ox & Angela on 17th Avenue Southwest features 10 dishes served over three courses, with a minimum of two guests per party. It’s fun and lively, very relaxed and casual. The flavours are big and robust. It’s a very, very tasty exploration of Spanish food — meat, fish, salad, veggies.

The Living Room Restaurant

7
514-17 Ave SW, Calgary, AB T2S 0B1

This very cozy restaurant on the 17th Avenue Southwest promenade presents Canadian ingredients prepared with French and Italian flair. It’s very much about sharing as well as great wine and excellent service. Three-, four- and five-course meals are served with optional wine pairings seven days a week. Reserve a table on its walled patio when in season, and you’ll feel like you’re in your own little environment.

Teatro

8
200 8 Ave SE, Calgary, AB T2G 0K7

An Italian fine-dining landmark in the posh Dominion Bank building on Stephen Avenue Walk, Teatro is very prestigious. The rest of the world doesn’t exist when you’re in there; it’s a beautiful environment. Available seven days a week, the tasting menu features eight courses plus an amuse bouche, and is likely the most expensive in the city. Wine pairings are optional and full-table participation is required.

Vero Bistro Moderne

9
209 10 St NW, Calgary, AB T2N 1V5

No-menu Tuesdays at small-and-sexy Vero Bistro Moderne in Kensington feature modestly priced three-course chef’s tasting meals with optional wine pairings. The care and attention that goes into those dishes is fantastic. The unexpected Chinese touches in chef Jenny Chan’s Italianesque cuisine are surprisingly spot-on delicious. She’s a phenomenal, humble chef.

“We’re lucky here,” says wine and food writer, educator and commentator Linda Garson, referring to the exciting wine menus on Calgary’s fine-dining scene. Several of the city’s high-end restaurants maintain wine lists that are as big a draw as their food. “I call them the big guns, because they go in blazing,” says Linda, who shares her insights on these vino giants here.
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