11.01.2008

double dinner date

It's not what you think. I mean really. I am married you know. Two Calgary restaurants in one night. I hope that explains it. Jeff and I joined a couple friends for a night out. Although, we couldn't just eat at one restaurant. Oh no, that would just be too simple. No, we had to eat at two restaurants. Looking back, it was twice the fun, really. First we went to Alloy for drinks and appetizers, and then we were off to Parker House, for the mains. To start, we were served these fabulous martini's with red wine tequila at Alloy. They looked beautiful, but were also an addiction for the taste buds. I am not usually all that fond of overly sweet drinks, and generally shy away from martini's. Luckily, these just hinted at sweetness, with a whisper of coconut. Just as there were visual layers, there were layers of taste as well, finishing with margarita as you worked towards the bottom. Photobucket Jeff ordered the duck spring rolls. He certainly must have enjoyed them, as they disappeared before I could say boo. Photobucket The tempura lobster was beautifully presented, and I was almost worried...sometimes food this pretty doesn't taste as desirable as it looks. I am more than excited to report that the food at Alloy does not fall into this category; it is delicious. I will definitely crave the lobster sometime next week. It was just the right consistency, and even buttery in flavour. I also enjoyed the slaw plated underneath as it had a nicely tangy, but not overpowering, dressing. It also added an additional memorable crunch. Photobucket Of course, somehow my absolute favourite dish did not get photographed. I was too absorbed in devouring it and savouring every last bite. I implore you to go to Alloy and try the steak frites. It was my favourite dish of the evening. We all expected the dish to be just fries, but it was more than that. The mini fries were so very cute, over top of capers and the most tender pieces of steak; a successful combination of salty, sweet, tender, and crunchy. There were many flavours involved in saucing the steak, but just imagine whatever it is that makes your mouth water, because that is the only way to really describe it. When I eat out, I want to be blown away. In the least, I want to be inspired. I need to be satisfied for sure, but I know the food is extra good when I also yearn for more. This dish of ahi tuna tartar with chimichurri soy and wonton crisps, is everything I want to eat when I eat out. The deeply flavourful and buttery tuna, was a match made in heaven when spooned onto the crunchy wonton crisps. The best part is not even in the menu description; it's the extra creaminess of the accompanying avocado that made me swoon. Photobucket Then, we were on to Parker House Grill. It officially opened on October 22, so we weren't sure what to expect. It feels very spacious. Immediately, I felt that gobs of cash must have been thrown at it, to create a feeling of luxury. It also feels very metropolitan, aimed at the downtown business lunch, expense account crowd. Photobucket The menu. I understood that Parker House Grill was aiming at comfort food, and indeed this was on the menu with lobster mac and cheese, and a few pizzas. However, I honestly, could not decide what to order. I always try to order what I think is good, not necessarily what I want to eat. I want to order something that the chef can do well, and is possible to do well under the circumstances. But, I was torn, and confused. Did a chef actually create this menu? Or someone who flashes the cash for the decor? The menu is all over the map, and I couldn't decide what could be good. What is the specialty? There was no focus. A part of me was a little intrigued, since I had heard that the restaurant was very good, but I couldn't possibly see how every dish on the menu could be good. Roast chicken pizza on a restaurant menu terrifies me. So does a BLT salad with iceberg lettuce. Scary, very scary. Very Calgary. The wine menu was equally frustrating. There are extensive choices. Fine. However, the list had to be read in order from front to back, or it was trickier to tell which type of wine was featured on the page. A couple times, I just flipped to a random page, and then had to flip back several pages to ensure I was still looking at red wines, since there was no heading which indicated I was still looking at reds. Fortunately, another in the party decided upon a Rioja. The server also passed a wine question test with flying colours, when asked to describe the wine for us. We were impressed. Despite the menu frustrations, I was still curious about the food. We received a little amuse-bouche, oooh! I was tickled pink to have a taste of foie-gras. It was beautifully cooked, and paired well with a fruity combination. Although, it just didn't bowl me over in any enormous capacity. It was nice. Photobucket I should probably mention that before the main courses arrived, we received some of the strangest buns I have ever seen in a restaurant. Not only were they excessively salty, but I could easily have broken any of the windows by simply tossing them in the general direction. Rocks. And I should mention that I don't have a good throwing arm. Another blip in the picture we hoped. Then the bison osso-buco with risotto Milanese arrived. It looked good. Immediately, I grabbed my fork and lunged at the meat to check if I needed my knife. Thank goodness I did not, I just daintily applied a bit of pressure with the fork. Then, I tasted it. I let the flavours linger. I had a sip of wine. I tried water. Sadly, nothing worked. No flavour. There was just no substance there. If the risotto was made with saffron threads and arborio rice, as opposed to saffron powder and shards of broken rice, it might have had some substance. For $40, I expected a bit more quality, even if the portion size had to be smaller to compensate. Photobucket Jeff ordered the "Crystal" rib-eye, aged for 40+ days, with the funghi risotto du jour. He didn't like it. The risotto had the same problem as the milanese, and the steak was nothing special. Photobucket I do wish that some restaurants in Calgary would spend less attention to creating bling-bling decor, and more attention to food quality. Start with quality ingredients, and make something great - not just something that sounds good on paper. I could have done without the foie-gras amuse, if it meant that the risotto or bread would be better than terrible. All in all, it was an adventure with some good, some great, and some bad. Fun, none the less. I can't wait to go back to Alloy for drinks, appetizers, and dessert. That would make for a great night out. Alloy 220 42 Avenue SE Calgary, AB
(403) 287-9255
Parker House Grill & Wine Bar 131 6 Avenue SW Calgary, AB T2P 0P8 (403) 237-9585

17 comments:

Chef E said...

I can only hope to strive the perfection in your review and pictures in this blog...

kang said...

wow, what great pictures :P

Vanessa said...

uh, yum! I have had lunch twice a couple of times, but I think I need to take on your double-double challenge!

BaL said...

Omg what a dinner table! I'd love to have a seat arond it :D Great work!

Sharon said...

Wow, looks delicious! And amazing pictures!

Veronica said...

beautiful pictures!

I'm a bit turned off to ordering risotto in restaurants now. The last risotto I had was more like a rice soup. Quite disappointing.

Jessie said...

Oh wow! Gorgeous photography! Hooray for dinner dates!

+Jessie
a.k.a. The Hungry Mouse

gail said...

veronica - I hear you. I don't know why I keep falling for it over and over. Call me a sucker!

Liz said...

Yay! You tried Alloy..sorry about Parker House, I won't be rushing there by the sounds of it. I recommend you try dinner at Alloy..and dessert...ooo my gosh dessert!

Freya said...

It is so disappointing when a meal doesnt live up to expectations! And it all looks so delicious too!!

FoodJunkie said...

What a great idea, but it is very dissapointing not to eat well in the end. We have the same problem in Greece: too much bling, not very good food...

gail said...

foodjunkie - yep, and then I'm always trying to find the little ma & pa places.... except in Calgary there are also lots of chain restaurants... and not so much ma & pa. EXCEPT the restaurants of new immigrants to Canada! There are lots of delicious meals of a terrific value. So... that is good ;)

Foong said...

Pictures are great! It is very disappointing when the food does not taste as good as the decor looks, but at least you had some great appetizer at Allow.

imadedinner said...

What a beautiful dinner! If I'm ever in Calgary, I'll have to go there...

lisa from dandysugar said...

I can taste that martini....it's so gorgeous.

gail said...

sigh......I could use one of those right now!

Romeo said...

I would love to have this setup on my next dinner date...

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