There have been many fantastic restaurants I have tried in Calgary over the last few months, as well as, of course, some less fantastic ones. Over the next few weeks, I will be playing a bit of catch up and rating these restaurants.
Not going to lie, ever since Wildwood closed its doors and rumours began swirling that the new venture was to be backed by the people behind Bison and Mercato, I was more than a little impatient to see what goes into this sizable space. It turned out to be Wurst, a German inspired restaurant / beer hall, though of course you cannot take that seriously – the stein lockers, the boots, the eagle logo bearing a sausage and a beer mug – it’s a little bit over the top… For one thing, Wurst is far too nicely decorated to be a beer hall (though long tables help with the ambiance). What amazes me is how popular this place has been – I mean, there are regular lines, and Wurst, in its essence, is a pub / restaurant! I am impressed.
Onto the food: Wurst offers a variety of German & Austrian inspired dishes – from schnitzels (which are actually quite decent) to giant hunks of meat (you should see the roast pork knuckle, Schweinshaxen) to, of course, a plethora of its namesake, wurst, served with sauerkraut (I am yet to try sauerkraut that’s better than my mom’s, so can’t really judge this particular version fairly), braised red cabbage (always a good choice) or even on its own. Meat is all well and good, of course (and true to its German roots Wurst favours pork – though there are plenty of other options) – but I knew why I was here: spätzle. Note on pronunciation: where I was in Germany, it was pronounced [shpets-leh], not [shpe-tsel]. Still drives me up a wall when I hear it differently! Pronunciation, of course, has nothing to do with taste, and spätzle at Wurst was passable, especially for North America. The rest of the food was quite good, and this marked the first time I consumed beer with a somewhat up market dinner – I love me some Weiss! I am glad more and more places in Calgary are serving it (though I think it will be a while before anyone here dares to mix it with banana nectar – a surprisingly tasty combination!).
Lastly, dessert. We ordered the black forest cake, and let me tell you, I have eaten a lot of black forest cake. I love black forest cake. I have a bottle of kirsch at my house for sole purpose of baking black forest. However, when I took a bite, all I could taste was kirsch – and by that point I had been drinking for a couple hours! Now, this was when Wurst just opened, so I am hoping they tweaked the recipe – it was actually difficult to eat (we powered through it of course).
The verdict: I enjoy Wurst: the food is tasty and the atmosphere is lively – it is a bit too loud for a nice dinner out though. To be very selfish, as much as I love to see it doing it well, I hope the popularity goes down a bit so that it is possible to get in on a whim.
I cannot describe how much it saddens me to give Petite only a three-star rating. Petite deserves better (or maybe, my expectations were so high I got disappointed). I had been to Petite back when it was, well, petite (I promise, this is the first and last petite pun). I loved it all – the cramped kitchen, the tiny tables, the chairs stacked over the entrance, the food – most memorable, for some reason, being the charcuterie platter. Then, of course, Petite had the fire, and ended up closing down before I got a chance to go again, so I was pretty excited to see that it was opening just a few blocks away, on the corner of 4th Street and 17th Avenue! I watched as the construction went on, and was getting progressively more impatient (to be fair – Petite ended up opening pretty close to the original announced date, unlike some other restaurants – I am looking at you, Boxwood. And you, Fuze. RIP Fuze).
We got in probably a week or so after opening, which coincided nicely with my birthday – thank you Petite for thinking of me when you chose your opening date! I had some concerns with how they could possibly make such a large space feel cozy, and those concerns weren’t unfounded – while I am sure a lot of thought was put into the décor, the glass separators on top of the booths give the room a decidedly Denny’s flavour. The kitchen is still open, but you can’t really see it from most tables, which of course is the whole point. In short – the interior gets a weak pass.
But how’s the food? The food is still tasty – you can’t go wrong with the tartare, and the tenderloin is always excellent. What I also like about Petite’s menu is there’s always a fish on it that I like, be it char or cod or something else entirely. One note: we did have to wait. and wait. and wait for the mains though. In the end, it was worth the wait, and they were still working out the opening kinks at the time (though I’ve heard similar concerns since).
What I really like about new Petite, though, is the set menu Sundays. I do love cooking on Sundays – it’s nice and uninterrupted for the most part, but once in a while it’s just too much work, and it’s great to have this option. The set menu is 3 courses for only $40, and you would think that it would be some small portions of things no one wanted, but no – the one time we went they had veal cheeks as a starter, and the portions are more than healthy (I couldn’t even finish my second course… not if I wanted room for dessert anyway). Plus, there are two options for each course which means if there’s two of you (and your dining companion is willing to share) you can try everything! Yet another plus side – Sundays just aren’t as popular and service issues were completely absent this time.
As giddy as I am about Sundays at Petite though, it just isn’t what it used to be and has lost some of its charm in that fire, so I am forced to give it only a three-star review. There are just too many restaurants now that I would go to before Petite, on both 4th & 17th.