I have been spending some time in Calgary, and took the opportunity to visit three restaurants that people think well of here.
Catch is a restaurant that specializes mostly in fish. It's located in an older stone building on Centre Street and 8th Avenue, on the well-preserved Stephens Street Mall. There's an "oyster bar" -- really a pub -- downstairs and an attractive restaurant upstairs. The restaurant is a very pleasant room and fun to eat in.
We had the tasting menu. It started with a risotto cake on caramelized onions. This dish didn't work. The cakes were nice and crisp on the outside, but the risotto itself was a disaster -- tasteless and mushy, it had all the culinary pizazz of porridge for babies. This was followed by an indifferent ravioli with spot prawns -- it's a bit early for spot prawns, I think, and maybe these were frozen last year. Anyway, they didn't have much flavour -- and when has one ever said that about a freshly caught spot prawn? The third dish was excellent -- a beautifully prepared broiled "silk" snapper. The broiler worked perfectly on this one -- though the server told us that most of his customers scrape off the skin.
The Osteria de Medici is an expensive restaurant that people like to be seen at -- George W. Bush was taken there, and recently the Edmonton Oilers had a dispute there when they drank themselves silly and then balked at the $20,000 bill. I was flattered that the Philosophy Department chose this after my talk. The food, however, was a disaster. A limp bruschetta as an amuse bouche, followed by mushy tortellini in a brodo that showed its tomato origins in an slick of pink oil. Then a spongy grilled chicken breast on undressed vegetables. Bad cooking, a server who would have been ok at a much less expensive place. No redeeming virtue.
The River Cafe is a rustic stone building on Prince's Island. My daughter and I went there for a lazy lunch on my birthday. They seated us in a sunbeam by a large window, and we basked for two hours. I had beautifully prepared pork belly -- slowly cooked so that a rich, almost winey, flavour suffused the whole piece, which was topped by crisp crackling, scored to create a striking pattern. Accompanied by a small bean and spinach. Drank a lovely Sicilian Planeta, which complemented the pork perfectly. Premala ate scallops, for which she expressed great satisfaction.