Before I moved from Vancouver, a friend scared me by recalling his first dining experience in Calgary. T was with his teammates after a hockey tournament in the late 1990s. He asked the server for something vegetarian. The server was taken aback and asked, “What do you mean by ‘vegetarian’?” He clarified that he wanted to eat something that didn’t contain meat. She responded, “We have salad and bread.” Just as a precaution, he thought it wise to ask if the salad had bacon bits. She looked at him like he was crazy and responded, “Yes, of course!”. Well, I’m happy to see that times have changed in Calgary (if it was ever as bad as my friend described), and nowhere was it more evident than at Q Haute.
Last week I took L out for dinner. I bought a Costco gift certificate for a 4 course meal for two, which included a glass of prosecco and wine for $80.00 at Q Haute. I don’t normally buy gift certificates or coupons, but this was one hell of a deal. Upon arrival, our jackets were removed and we were ushered into an elegant room. With the exception of the hard wood floor and chairs, the rest of the room was a blanket of white. Our table was by the window, a spot that offered a scenic view of the Bow River.
I thought our server, Bri (not spelled like the cheese) was fantastic. She was personable and took the time to explain each component of the dishes. We received a total of four amuse-bouches: a stuffed dehydrated turnip; a marshmallow creation; a rectangle of sweet goat cheese sandwiched between two crispy, crimson wafers; and a still warm mushroom madeleine. The amuse-bouches was fun to eat, each was different in terms of taste and texture.
The chef really laid down the appetizer. Our first course was prosciutto and Sylvan Star goat cheese with cubed, poached pears and grapes. The plate was dotted with 2-year old balsamic vinegar and crème fraiche that was piped into stars. The goat cheese was sweetened and light, it melted in my mouth. The combination of the prosciutto, fruit and cheese was a marriage made in foodie heaven.
Second up was my favourite dish, the lobster ravioli. Three plump large pieces were generously stuffed with lobster. I really liked the pieces of lobster arranged alongside the ravioli. The meat was slightly chilled but covered in a light, warm, saffron sauce. The crowning glory was the carrot top, it was delicate and crispy. I liked how all the flavours of this dish were subtle.
The third course was duck confit with a sweet potato cake, spinach and turnips. Surprisingly, it was also L’s favourite dish. Considering he doesn’t like duck, this was quite the compliment. Bri informed us the sauce underneath the duck was a reduced for 5 days and was made with an abundance of wine. The outside was roasted to a crispy brown, but the meat was so tender it fell apart under my fork. The sweet potato cake was amazing, I could detect a bit of cheese between the multilayers. When I cut into the cake with my fork, you could see the layers and layers of sweet potato. The turnips were intensely sweet – a lovely contrast to the decadent taste of duck.
After our third course, we were comfortably full. But our night was far from over. We enjoyed an Earl Grey tea marshmallow shooter, which was appropriate considering we started the gala with a marshmallow amuse bouche. We also sampled a cool, dark chocolate truffle snowball and a sticky maple macaron. The main dessert consisted of a doughnut filled with a tart raspberry jam, French toast mascarpone cake, figs and grapes. The mascarpone was light, smooth, and it had a custard like consistency. The delicate almond crust added just a bit of a crunch. I love the natural sweetness of the figs.
A meal at Q Haute is an experience. Food was served at a very leisurely pace; and the service aims to pamper guests. It was clear from our meal that the presentation was as important as the taste of food, as each dish was a sensory delight. Food was imaginative and it is obvious that the chef pays great attention to detail. If you don’t appreciate subtlety, you won’t ‘get’ the food (sorry for the double negative). If you are trying to impress out of town guests, I can’t think of a better place.