Thursday, 21 June 2007

Escape from the city

Posted by Bonita

One of the good things about travelling is the fact that you can try new food. One of the worst things about travelling is the fact that you’re eating out pretty much all the time.

With Calgary expanding like there’s no tomorrow these past few years, it’s no surprise that there will be a few dozen upscale restaurants to choose from. After sifting through a few guide books and online guides and reading reviews, we decided to try The River Café when we were in Calgary last week, a quaint little restaurant located in Prince’s Island Park and features Canadian regional cuisine.

To get to the restaurant, you have to park your car back in the city, and then cross a bridge over to Prince’s Island Park. After a short walk, you’ll find the restaurant tucked away in a corner, surrounded by beautiful pine trees. The interior of the restaurant is nicely decorated, giving off a cozy, homey, cottage-like feel, featuring lots of woodwork and natural décor. The River Café was already packed when we got there, and even though we had already booked our table the day before, we still had to wait a bit at the bar for our table to be ready. But once seated and given our menus, all was forgotten as we lost ourselves in the very impressive menu choices, as well as their daily specials.

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As a starter, Andrew and I shared the Fish and Game Platter, featuring Native Candied Trout, Rabbit Rillettes, Salt Cured Bison, Pork & Game Terrine with Brassica Mustard and Crabapple Jelly, Smoked Rainbow Trout, Grilled Apple Turnip Relish and Red Onion Marmalade, all served with House Made Crackers. The platter looked beautiful, but the food was even better! The crackers were very yummy. My personal favourites were the Smoked Rainbow Trout, the Pork & Game Terrine and the Native Candied Trout (my favourite of all!!!). The sweetness of the jelly and the saltiness of the grainy mustard really enhanced the flavour of the terrine, while the sweetness of the candied trout was just right, not too sweet and the smokiness of the trout was absolutely beautiful. And while I did originally cringe when eating the Rabbit Rillettes (for personal reasons), I have to admit that it did taste good. Although it’ll probably my one and only time I’ll ever eat rabbit!

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My main course was the Wild Pacific Spring Salmon, cooked to perfection (medium heat) and served over a bed of barley and spring vegetables, including bitter greens and fiddleheads, and topped with tomato and feta chutney. The fish was absolutely delicious, and the chutney complimented the fish very well. A really nice, light summer dish!

For dessert, I had the Chocolate Beet Cake, served with a White Chocolate & Toasted Cocoa Nib Ice Cream and Apple Cider Sabayon. The cake was rich and decadent, and the ice cream balanced the chocolate cake very nicely. It was definitely one of the nicest meals I’ve had in a while.

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What I loved about this restaurant was that it features fresh Canadian ingredients, many of them organic. The atmosphere is great too, making you feel like you’re in the wilderness. The restaurant really celebrates what nature has to offer to us, both regionally and seasonally, and I think that’s a great philosophy. Service was great too! Just be sure to book a table, as this place was packed and a continuous stream of customers kept on coming in, even by the time we left (9:30 pm!). This is certainly a gem of a restaurant, which changes its menu every month, and is a great place to escape the chaos of the city without actually leaving the city.

Name: The River Café
Address: Prince's Island Park
Cuisine: Seasonal Canadian
Price Range: Dinner $60-80
Accessible: Yes

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