Oftentimes people feel awkward and uncomfortable walking into a fine dining establishment. The staff take food and hospitality very seriously and one can feel out of place, and even seem contrived. Our server, Thomas, explained his goal to break down those barriers and make it a comfortable environment to ask questions and enjoy the meal. He jokes and says he may comment on things throughout the night, and if by chance he offends use, he instructs us to laugh. With that, we begin the meal - now with a more, 'don't take yourself too seriously' undertone. But don't underestimate; the staff at Teatro know their food and wine.
Teatro has long been a part of Calgary's fine dining experience. We have seen fine dining establishments come and go, but this one has withstood the test of time; which, in my mind establishes it as one of the City's classics. I can remember back to my childhood when my parents would celebrate their milestones here, and I have many memories of my own. It is a favourite date-spot and the traditional pre and post theatre hang out right on the Olympic Plaza Square. The classic ambiance, high ceilings, large lofty windows and characteristic bank features (a vault!?) are evident. They have updated the classy open brass kitchen with an enomatic wine system. The style, down to the food and wine selections have always been classic and timeless.
On this occasion, we've opted in for the 8-course tasting menu. Tasting menus are often an adventure and journey into the chef's world of food. It's the restaurant's chance to show their flare and flex their culinary muscle. The Teatro tasting was no exception. Chef John Michael McNiel (@zeolobsterboy) and Teatro's team of sommellier, service, and kitchen staff enticed every sense of my dining being. Make no mistake, no meal is entirely complete and well-rounded without wine- Sommelier, Toshi Korino ensures we are well on our way.
Thomas explained that the key to making it through the tasting menu without overdoing yourself, is to restrain from too much bread. However, in this culture, who can live without bread? Bread was served with the soup because, as Thomas says it, "Soup without bread is like a day without sunshine".
I - Course: Soup- Cauliflower Velouté served with a crispy brioche topped with shaved foie gras and apple thyme purée
Wine: Moet Chandon - Champagne, France
Tasting notes: The soup had hints of celery, creamy full mouthfeel, richness which could be cut by the off dry champagne. Cleans your palate for the next slurp of soup.
II - Course: Salad- Beautifully plated marinated beet salad. Encapsulated Orange yogurt topped with microgreens
Wine: 2005 Chåteau Carbonnieux - Bordeaux, France
Tasting: Starting with a more feminine wine, less offensive, slightly mineral. This psychedelic dish was sweet, pickled, and light. The orange yogurt could be compared to the Japanese probiotic drink, Yakult. An unconventional blend of flavours, yet beautiful.
III - Course: Carpaccio of Prime Beef, gerkins, asian pear, micro greens, focacia crisps, grainy Dijon and black pepper, decorated with a thermal cooked egg yolk
Wine: Barberra D'Alba is Italy's Pinot Noir
Tasting: This earthy wine had lighter texture, some spice, and less complexity. The tannins and spice paired with the carpaccio which was somewhat flatter. The crunchy gerkins and asian pairs reminded me of vietnamese pickled vegetables. The thermal cooked egg was a beautiful pop of bright colour, but did not add flavour.
IV - Course: Squid Ink Tortellini stuffed with calamari, proscuitto, squid ink vinagrette, topped with saffron foam
Wine: Barbaresco, Italy
Tasting: The aroma in the fish-bowl-esque presentation wafted saffron and calamari to the oncoming diner. It was a playful presentation, where we were told to fish for the calamari tortellini. Don't be alarmed, the vinagrette and pasta's dark black colour comes from squid ink. Teatro was my first exposure to squid ink linguini and I have been craving it ever since I first tried it. Tantalizing aromas in this dish!
V - Course: A Texture Mosaic of Pickeral crusted with white and red quinoa, mandarin and mandarin beurre blanc, marinated chive, micro greens on a fried rice paper
Wine: Jean-Louis Chavy Montrachet, 2009 Premiere Cru
Tasting: This wine had more restraint/finesse, acidity & minerality was a bit more relaxed. With flavours of sweetness and savoury working together, the quinoa nuttyness was pleasant with the surprise puckering tartness of the marinated chives. A fusion of cultural influences from rice paper to quinoa. Perfect pairing.
VI - Course: Sous Vide Duck breast
Wine: Calon Ségur, Saint-Estephe France
Tasting: Medium tannins,velvety mouthfeel, and cassis notes were emphatic of the Cherries used in the Amerone reduction. Garnished with pickled beech mushroom poussin jus.
The wine paired very well with the smooth creamy texture of white bean puree.
VII - Course: Panko crusted Fairwinds Goat cheese encapsulated pomegranate jus (no photo)
Wine: Tokai Aszú, Hungary, 2007
Tasting:This muscat/sauturne-like wine is filled with fruit, pineapple, and finishes with a slight acidity. Thick and syrupy mouthfeel can be attributed to the Botrytis cinera mould which grows in the grapes to concentrate the sugar content, giving it a sweet saccharine taste. It is a white Hungarian dessert wine drank by the Royals in history- Queen of England would get a case for her coronation.
This sweet syrup revealed itself through the pasty goat cheese to bring a nice roundness to the dish. Encapsulated in sodium alginate, the Fairway Winds goat cheese was crusted with Panko which had a nutty crunch.
VIII - Course: Dessert- Duo of Salted Caramel Nitro Ice cream with Black Lava Sea Salt finished with Coffee Mocha Espuma
Wine: 20 year Tawny Taylor Fladgate Port (no photo)
Tasting: tawny is a slightly oxidized flavour, has caramel nutty note as opposed to the deeper stewed stone fruit notes of a LBV port or vintage port.
This desert was more than divine, these are the moments I live for - buttery smooth mouthfeel, this ice cream was unreal! There was zero crystallization or sandyness; something every ice cream maker fights. As the texture was so smooth, there was nothing to detract from the flavour of melted salt caramel. My mind was torn between taking in the flavours and the mouthfeel. The liquid nitrogen was added to the ice cream base in the mixer, which immediately froze the ice cream at -160 degrees before your eyes. This is a visually impressive presentation!
Finally, The Coffee mocha foamed mousse was plated on a bed of espresso beans, espresso placed in the base while dry ice was poured to bring out the aroma at the table.- I am now satisfied.
Meticulously executed, I was just perfectly satisfied. Thanks, @teatrocalgary.
(see also Chomp says, Calgary Restaurants & Dining Guide)
Service: hospitality is held to a high standard, knowledgeable staff made each course a full presentation. They have a deeper understanding of food and wine than many of the best.
Likelihood to return: 5/5
Food/Coffee: Food was close to a 5, Coffee a very bitter and astringent shot of expresso 2/5
Chillness: 5 chill chairs
Highlights: Hands down, Quinoa crusted Pickeral & Caramel Nitro Ice cream