Some kids love new toys, or mini-golf, or roller coasters; eating out at a fancy restaurant was one of my favourite childhood activities. It was something my parents (who weren’t really mini-golf, roller-coaster people) could do with me and my sister with their undivided attention, and it was always such a special occasion.
I loved poring over the oversized menus, rolling my tongue over unfamiliar words, and sipping my Shirley Temple with its oh-so-sophisticated paper umbrella.
It’s no wonder that my sister’s favourite childhood food was shrimp cocktail and mine was filet mignon. Man, we were strange kids.
Chef’s Table inside the Kensington Riverside Inn transported me back to that time, when a visit to a restaurant made you feel special.
The dining room is actually two rooms, one in front of the open kitchen where you can watch Chef Jeff Park and his team work, and one in front of a big fireplace. I see diners wearing jeans and cowboy boots, rubbing elbows with ladies in cocktail dresses.
To every guest, Ich Diocee, the maitre d’hôtel, and the staff are gracious without being snooty, welcoming without being gum-choppingly casual. (If you leave your seat, they swoop in and refold your napkin. I love attention to details like that.)
While you can order separate items off the menu, the jewel at Chef’s Table is the five-course tasting menu ($90 per person), which changes with the seasons.
Seared Albacore tuna is drizzled with a tastebud-pleasing mix of sun-dried tomato, pine nuts, and niçoise olives. Tongue is further teased with micro coriander cress and a dash of Japanese togarashi spice.
A rich wild mushroom risotto, crowned with shaved burgundy truffle, is even-handed on marscapone and grada padano without bogging down the creamy grains.
— From my review in Metro Calgary
The only misstep was a palate-cleansing sorbet in honeydew, which was quite jarring.
Everything got back on track with a perfectly rare rack of lamb, served with crispy blue cheese polenta, purple artichoke, green beans, cipollini onion and fennel pollen.
The pollen, sprinkled in a corner of the plate, was quite intriguing: kind of sweet and savoury at the same time.
Jason is always leery of high-end places that leave you hungry. Chef’s Table does not have that problem. Impeccably timed and portioned, each dish builds on each other, giving you just enough without feeling gluttonous. He was happy.
We opted for wine pairings ($45 per person) to go with each of our courses, and the sommelier did a great job, coming out with wines we would have never tried.
A California viognier came with the seared tuna; a pinot noir from Burgundy with the risotto; a California chardonnay with the scallops; a Greek mavrodaphne wine with the lamb; and a Tuscany dessert wine to cap everything off.
Dessert was a smooth white chocolate crème brulée. Personally, I loved the simplicity of it as the end to a fabulous meal.
Chef’s Table, Kensington Riverside Inn, 1126 Memorial Dr. NW, Calgary, (403) 228-4442. Closed on Sundays and public holidays.