Some time ago, Bruce and Sarah recommended that Mack and I try Taste, the next time we were in Calgary. Located in the same building as Hotel Arts (which we stayed at the last time we were in Calgary), we were sorry to have missed it, but vowed not to make the same mistake again.
It was just a short walk from our hotel, just south of the Fairmont, but because of their subtle signage, we really had to know what to look for. The dining space was probably slightly larger than Corso 32 in Edmonton, but had a similar vibe, intimate and laid-back. There were a mix of table options: high, bar-height arrangements, most of them open for communal dining; banquet seating against the window; and where we ultimately decided to sit – at the bar.
Similar to our experience at The Slanted Door, our choice was affirmed by the friendly and knowledgeable bartender (it was also neat to get a peek behind the counter – where the Flames game was being live-streamed on a laptop). The bartender filled us in on the monthly overhaul of the wine list, changed to keep things fresh – it could be based around a region or type of grape, for example.
The menu at Taste is built upon the idea of small plates meant to be shared, a concept that might be a dime a dozen at the moment. What sets Taste apart, however, is the fact that their kitchen (if one could call it that) consists of a few hot plates, and nothing more. Perched at the bar, we had a great view of the kitchen masters, churning out dish after dish, unhampered – and unfazed – by their cubbyhole workspace and its lack of standard appliances.
The kitchen (my apologies for the terrible/lack of photos – we were playing with Mack’s new camera, which you would think would result in better photos, but this was the outcome of a combination of poor lighting and setting unfamiliarity)
The duck meatballs ($15) were served with crispy spaghetti – their version of spaghetti and meatballs. It was our favourite dish of the night, fatty and flavourful, with just the right amount of whimsy. We thought the duck would also make a great slider patty, sandwiched between a tiny brioche bun.
Mack also really enjoyed the mac n’ cheese ($10) with aged cheddar and parmesan. It wasn’t as rich as some we’ve had in recent memory, but we liked the crunchy topping.
The mini beef tacos ($15) were a great idea in theory, but just didn’t work for me. The crispy wonton shells shattered into pieces at first bite, and though the beef tataki was well seasoned, the texture, combined with the carrot slaw and the crumbled wonton skins, wasn’t appealing. Mack didn’t mind these so much.
Mini beef tacos
The gnocchi ($10) were nice and light, perfect little bites that convinced me that pasta actually could work well in small portions. But though I loved the fragrant top notes of the truffle oil, it completely overwhelmed the wild mushrooms.
We sprung for the most adorable dessert – three different creme brulees served in three tiny ramekins. Between the lemon, lime and blueberry, with nicely caramelized tops, we both preferred the lime custard.
The menu changed on March 7, and has been reviewed by a slew of Calgary food bloggers, who were invited for a, erm, taste (they also have photos that you can actually discern). In addition, they offer fun weekly events such as a discounted menu on Tuesdays, and sausage party Thursdays – how can one pass that up?
1210 1st Street SW