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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Calgary's Best Restaurant - Right Now

Over the years and during the pre-recession oil boom that left its mark on Calgary's dining scene there have been a number of great restaurants that have risen to culinary prominence.  From "newcomers" like Alloy, Rasoi, Capo and the Parkerhouse Grill & Wine Bar to standbys like Cilantro, Il Sogno, Brava Bistro and the Catch Dining Room, Calgary now has a host of restaurants that offer meals and experiences previously reserved for dining centres like New York or San Francisco, or to a lesser and Canadian extent, Vancouver and Toronto and really offers a decent selection of genres, menus and styles.  So where among this collection of stellar restaurants can you find Calgary's best meal right now? The answer is Blink Restaurant & Bar downtown on Stephen Avenue.

Blink opened in 2007 to much critical acclaim and was recognized as one of Canada's Top 10 New Restaurants by En Route Magazine.  Despite recognition from critics, there was precious little buzz on the street about Blink and it seemed to be lost among its better-known competitors, many of which are referenced above.  This shunnery however, is most undeserved.

After deciding to give Blink a try for lunch one day, I have been a devotee ever since and have honestly, never had a bad meal or a bad service experience since.  The dining room is tasteful, the staff professional and the prices, while not those of "cheap and cheerful" fare as would be expected of a restaurant of this caliber, are reasonable.

Recently I stopped by for lunch with my favorite dining companion.  I ordered the peaches and cream corn soup to start and had the halibut with crusty cake as my entree.  Both were simply fantastic.  Great presentation, and subtle yet delicious flavours that provided ample kick, but were not overwhelming.  My lunch-mate had the asian-influenced albacore tuna tartar as her starter and then enjoyed the "pot roast" chicken, which upon reading the menu I pictured as a heavy, beastly dish that hardly seemed appropriate for lunch.  It was the opposite however, and was outstanding.  Again, subtle yet hearty flavours that would please even the fussiest palate.  Lunch was washed down with a couple of glasses (each) of the 2007 Cline Viognier, which is a star among many others on Blink's stand out wine list.  As an aside, and as crazy as this sounds, Blink has the best bread and butter that I have ever eaten.  Even my previous favorite bread and butter establishment, the Post Hotel in Lake Louise, Alberta, has been unseated.

One word of warning - the menu changes frequently, based on Chef Andrew Richardson's commitment to using local, organic produce and ingredients where possible.  Hence, if you look at Blink's on-line menus and have your heart set on a particular item, don't be surprised if you get to the restaurant and it is not offered.  This, in Knox's view, is a good thing and reflects true commitment to quality and innovation, as opposed to adherence to a tired menu that we see from too many run-of-the-mill restaurants.

Anyway, give it a whirl.  You have Knox's famous "Five Star Golden Guarantee" that it will knock your socks off.

Posted by Knox Harrington on July 30, 2009 | Permalink


There are no good restaurants in Calgary. Never were, probably never will be. If I worked in downtown Calgary, I'd brown bag PBJ sandwiches, rather than endure the slop they serve down there.

Posted by: dp | 2009-07-30 10:04:47 PM

Remember the golden days of Western Standard where they'd rate restaurants by their usefulness for shady deals? I worked at "Cilantro" for nearly a year. The place runs beautifully, good food, infrared employee relations, good capitalism. Although not so useful for shady deals, it has been the site of some interesting transactions, and many good meals. Send Chris my anonyantarctic regards. I'd not be surprised if the honest naturalist anticipated the source.

Posted by: Timothy | 2009-08-02 12:17:50 AM

dp, In the interests of completely objective and inherently balanced perspective, fuck you. Delete or not, it had to be said. If you're homeless in Calgary, look me up. I'll find you room n board. If not, I do not yearn for your presence.
Gentlest regards,
Tim C.S. (Calgary Stampede)

Posted by: Timothy | 2009-08-02 12:23:40 AM

Easy Dictionary. Man, them were some big words. I agree with your assessment of Cilantro, as it has long been one of my stand-by favorites. In fact, I bet I remember you - bit of a resemblance to Jeff Goldblum, often donning thick-rimmed glasses and packing a keen wit that made dining at Cilantro entertaining. When did you get so angry sir? Oh, who the hell is "Chris"?

Posted by: Knox Harrington | 2009-08-02 7:35:48 AM

Tim- I don't give a shit what you yearn for. I wouldn't spend one dime in any of your establishments, unless a client forces me to pay for some greasy slop.

I was only going to comment on your low class restaurants, but now that you've opened the door, your entire low class city disgusts me. I'm actually glad it's being taken over by Islamists. It'll keep them out of my town for a few more years.

Posted by: dp | 2009-08-02 9:53:35 AM

As a relative newcomer to Calgary I have to say that on average, and relatively speaking, the restaurants are not great. I imagine that at the fringes, there are some good one's.

Posted by: Dave S | 2009-08-03 2:11:54 PM

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