UPDATE – Summer 2011: Artisan Bistro is now closed.

Artisan Bistro is one of those quaint independent places that I really want to love. It’s a quiet European bistro with a decidedly civilized setting. It recently stopped serving dinner to focus on all-day brunch with a Spanish/French menu.

First the pros. There is lots of choice on the menu from breakfasty to brunch to lunch items, and from vegetarian to meat options. Service is warm and very baby-friendly. The atmosphere is unhurried.

Artisan’s strength is in its house-made items especially the chorizo sausage.

I was excited about the empanada de pino ($15), a Latin specialty rarely served in Calgary restaurants. Like a refined pizza pocket, the slightly sweet bread is stuffed with beef, onions, black olives, and hard-boiled egg. The empanada came with a lovely, homemade cilantro salsa.

The quinoa salad ($16.50) was a refreshing plate of greens topped with a moist, baked salmon filet. The mixed-in asparagus was lovely but the tomatoes were bland.

Now the cons. For the price point, portions are on the small side, even if many come with a soup or salad. It took a while for our dishes to come out and service felt stilted, like she wasn’t sure when to take our orders or our finished plates.

Artisan Bistro, 809-1st Ave. NE, Calgary, (403) 263-3727. Open Wednesday to Saturday 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

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