On a Monday night a few weeks ago:
Me: Do you want to go for dinner tomorrow night?
Mack: What’s the occasion?
Me: No occasion. We just haven’t been out for a while. [pause] Okay, you got me. I have a coupon that expires tomorrow.
So goes how occasion has been dictating our decisions to dine out lately, since we’ve been enjoying the simple pleasure of preparing meals at home.
But after receiving a $25 coupon from Book a Table (curiously, from the name, one would assume the website is similar to Open Table, but the group is actually comparable to Original Fare – an assembly of local restaurants that seek to benefit from collective advertising power), it was an offer too good to pass up.
Skinny Legs and Cowgirls edged out Guru by just a smidgen due to transit accessibility, and the remembering from my previous visit that their prices were on the high side. A coupon would help take the edge off.
In December 2009, the restaurant moved from its tiny storefront in River Valley Kinnaird to a larger building in Oliver. Funny that we were only taking the time to visit it now; we used to live just a block away.
Walking in, it was love at first sight. It’s probably one of my new favourite dining rooms in the city, intimate with dim lighting, chic with a pressed tin ceiling, but comforting with warm fall shades of orange and red. Seated next to the fireplace, a single rose on the table, it instantly felt like a date night.
The menu hadn’t changed much since my last visit, somewhat surprising given the length of time that has passed. That said, our server did inform us of a most attractive special of the day, which we ended up ordering. We added a Nova Scotia scallop ($25) dish – scallops are one of Mack’s absolute favourite things.
While waiting for our appetizer, we gushed over the warm(!) bread and soft(!) butter. We were dying to know if it was house-made, or if not, from which bakery it had come from. The server candidly admitted it was from Costco.
Given the price, I wasn’t sure how many scallops to expect, but the serving was much larger than I anticipated. The scallops were perfectly cooked, nicely browned and with that telltale spring still intact. In a creamy leek and bacon dressing (that would also be fantastic tossed with pasta), Mack was in absolute heaven.
Scallops in a leek and bacon dressing
There were only three other parties in the restaurant when we arrived, two of them who were towards the end of their meal. For that reason, it was curious why our food took so long to arrive – over twenty minutes for the appetizer, and another twenty for our entrée. Given the restaurant’s penchant for organic, hearty dishes, I know diners should be patient for well-prepared “slow food”, but it made me wonder how the kitchen would do with a full house.
Thankfully, our main made up for the wait. Everything at Skinny Legs is served family-style; it was great to be reminded how disarming it can be to share food from the same plate. It’s been a while since we’ve eaten anything family-style (individual plates and bowls are always dished out from the stove before reaching our dining table at home, and the restaurants we’ve visited recently aren’t communal in nature), so it was refreshing to enjoy a meal that seemed that much more personal.
Of course, it helped too that the braised lamb shank ($54) was lovingly prepared – meat falling off the bone tender, swathed in a rich jus. We loved the accompaniments just as much – roasted baby vegetables, sweet potato puree, and a risotto that rounded out the dish texturally. There more than enough to satisfy both of us, with a price point that was more than reasonable, given the quality (and quantity) of the food.
Braised lamb shank
I was still curious about their affiliation with Book a Table, given that for the philosophy behind Skinny Legs and Cowgirls, Original Fare seemed like a better fit. I asked our server about it after we paid for our meal, and though he answered my question (essentially, that Book a Table was cheaper), it seemed to us that he couldn’t get away fast enough. A shame – because throughout the meal, he was quite conversant; it tainted our experience ever so slightly to end on such a note.
Complimentary chocolate truffles
As a whole, however, I would recommend Skinny Legs and Cowgirls – this meal was certainly more memorable than my previous visit, and probably more closely aligned with the experiences that have helped them build a loyal clientele. Not only was it good value for our dollar, it ended up being a great excuse to get out on a Monday night – we’ll be back.
Skinny Legs and Cowgirls
12202 Jasper Avenue