Calgary is located in the heart of cattle country of Alberta and is best known for vast prairies, the Rocky Mountains and of course, Alberta beef. So you would think a steakhouse would be the first thing to try when visiting Calgary. We hope this “Top 5” list will change your mind.
The French bistro concepts of no-nonsense cooking, quality ingredients and good value all served up in a convivial atmosphere has taken root and flourished in Calgary in the last decade. Calgarians have been flocking to these restaurants in search of accessible French cuisine that is hearty, no-frills, yet refined to fuel various outdoor adventures, such as skiing in the winter or hiking in the summer. Here are five Calgary restaurants that best embody the French bistro experience, where you can also get your fill of Alberta beef.
1. Avec Bistro
Avec Bistro is an excellent choice for those who enjoy French fare paired with a nice glass of wine. The owners come from a knowledgeable wine background and evidently also know French bistro food well. The food at Avec Bistro has a fresh modern twist without being pretentious, keeping a consistent blend of refined flavours, presentation and generous portions. Highlights include updated French bistro favourites, like their excellent steak frites. The steak at Avec Bistro is of the highest quality, very tender, moist and cooked to perfection. If you were to try Alberta beef at a French bistro, this would be the place to do it.
Cassis Bistro is located within Casel Marché, an upscale European inspired neighbourhood market that features local and organic ingredients. This highly acclaimed (listed in Maclean’s Magazine as one of Canada’s Top 50 Restaurants in 2012), cozy French bistro makes good use of the high quality ingredients at hand. Cassis Bistro reflects the owner’s Southern French roots and focuses on French bistro classics that are done exceptionally well. Not to be missed is the Niçoise salad, steak frites and duck breast. They also feature the classic French beer Kronenberg on tap- need we say more?
3. Bistro 2210
Bistro 2210 is located in the heart of Calgary’s Mission district, making it the perfect place to eat after a day of shopping. It is also the most romantic of the French bistro options on our list. The ambient lighting, decor and spacing of tables allows for an enjoyable intimate dinner. The food is French inspired which allows more flexibility in their menu to stray from the rigid classics. Our recommendations include their version of poutine, a French-Canadian classic, and their house burger. Their poutine is always being reinvented and has featured decadent toppings like duck confit. Their delicious brisket and chuck ‘Burger Maison’ is served on a brioche bun and extremely satisfying if you’re in the mood for a good burger.
4. Bistro Rouge
Bistro Rouge is located in the suburbs and is a good example of the great food options that can be found all over the city not just downtown or in trendy neighbourhoods. The cooking techniques are quite refined but the prices still are accessible. An example would be their charcuterie platter, which was overflowing with a diverse selection of traditional and local cured meats all for a very reasonable price. A unique element that we quite enjoy is the velouté, which is presented here as a creamy soup. You can customize your velouté by choosing your own ingredients and flavours from a set list that includes confit garlic, spinach and mushrooms that will guarantee a delicious combination.
If you can’t decide between Asian or European and are looking for the comfort food of the bistro experience, Carino Bistro is the restaurant you want to check out. At Carino, the best of French, Japanese and Italian cuisines are combined seamlessly with a comfort food approach. Their take on duck (called “Duck! Duck!! Duck!!!”) uses traditional French ingredients like duck confit and foie gras and transforms them using Japanese techniques to create a wonderful fusion dish. Their Wagu burger is another great example, with fried rice cakes in lieu of buns and a wasabi mayo adding the perfect spicy Japanese touch to an other wise typical, mundane dish. Touted as the number six best new restaurant in enRoute magazine in 2013, why wouldn’t you give Carino a try?
About Chrissy & Darrin Leung
Darrin and Chrissy are a married couple enjoying the ever-growing diverse food scene Calgary has to offer. Their blog, “ For the Love of…“, features their foodie adventures in cooking, eating and traveling.