New Years Eve, December 31, 2015.
I scrolled through the many options for a multi-course dinner in Calgary for NYE and the prices ranged from $65 to $110 pp. We went out for a fancy dinner for my birthday/work Christmas party just a month ago and last NYE we had a huge multi-course dinner that we couldn’t even finish. My goal was to find a place that wasn’t a tonne of money and wasn’t a tonne of food. I happened to find Cerezo’s NYE dinner through the Open Table website. For $75 pp it was an 8 course Chef’s menu, including a welcome drink. When I made the reservation the menu wasn’t yet posted on the website so they were nice enough to email the menu to me so we could confirm that we were happy with it.
At dinner we were presented the option of a wine pairing for $30 pp. Many of the drinks were sake, which I’m not a huge fan of, but we both gave it a shot. We counted how many ounces were included and for $30, 15 ounces of wine and sake was a great deal.
Cerezo is in a cute little house on Edmonton Trail. It has a handful of parking spots in back and some street parking nearby. The house is older, with character. The kitchen is in the basement and there’s a very large bar/dishwashing area in the centre of the dining room. We noticed the ceiling fan above the bar was very wobbly… Yikes! Service was quite good and very polite. I think all the staff are Japanese, and the 2 ladies that served us were very friendly and explained the food as they delivered it, albeit with a thick accent. We were provided a nice bubbly drink once were were seated and then a different drink (or two) with each course. The first 3 courses came pretty quickly, and with the accompanying drinks of 2-3 ounces it was sometimes hard to keep up. Once the restaurant got more people in it the food and drink delivery slowed a bit and we were better able to enjoy it all. We quite enjoyed every dish.
The fresh bread was really good and they gave us a big pile of it. It was nice to have it throughout the meal to soak up any remaining sauces on our plates. The herbed butter was light and fluffy and well-flavoured. It was better than many butters I’ve had at other fancy restaurants in town. I typically dislike black olives; black olives and liver are pretty much the only things that make me cringe. However, I tried one of these black olives and actually enjoyed it! They were warm and delicious.
I do not normally buy foie gras off a menu. I dislike the fact that the birds are force-fed via a tube, simply to fatten them up just so people can selfishly eat it. Not cool. But, since this dish was a part of the Chef’s menu, I didn’t want to cause a fuss so I ate it. There was a small amount of the foie gras stuffed into the lotus root cavities. The lotus root was nice and crispy and the whole dish was a pleasure to eat. The presentation was beautiful.
The salad was awesome. Seriously. One of my favourite salads of the last two years. The buffalo mozzarella was soft and yummy and the tomatoes were hand peeled. The dressing wasn’t too sweet or too oily – it was just right.
The slushy ginger beer was a good palate cleanser. Jay enjoyed eating the slush with the spoon, while I stirred it around and drank it from the little sake cup.
We were served a good portion of beef brisket for the main course. It was very tasty, but a little dry, likely because it was thinly sliced. The potatoes were perfectly braised and there was even a taro root ‘potato’ that Jay thought was awesome. He’d never had taro before and was pleasantly surprised. I’m not a huge fan of it. It turns out konnyaku is a traditional Japanese potato noodle – it was neatly tied in a knot and an interesting texture. The core was cut out of the carrot, making a neat presentation. The au jus was really good and Jay used the leftover bread to clean his plate. This dish was overall quite enjoyable, with a hefty serving of meat. The Delinea Pinot Noir served with this dish was quite nice, with a subtle hint of strawberry. Being from Oregon I’m sure I’ll be able to find it around so I can add it to my wine collection.
I’d never had buckwheat soba noodles before. They have a heavy texture, but were still light and enjoyable. The broth was really good – not too salty. The duck had a thick layer of fat on top which I wasn’t a fan of and I didn’t like the chewy green onion, but the flavours in the dish were good.
Apparently I should have looked closer at the photo I took of the cheese dish… it’s way too blurry – my apologies. We were served 2 small slices of bread each, with a fair sized serving of gorgonzola mousse. The mousse was light and fluffy, but the goose berry jam was the best part. The parmesan crisp on top was perfectly cooked too. The Takasago plum sake served with this dish was delicious. I seriously have to hunt this stuff down – it was the best drink of the evening and it was sweet and flavourful and yummy!
The dessert was amazing. The adzuki bean gave the sauce a bit of a mealy texture, but everything else was so perfectly smooth, the little bit of texture on the tongue was pleasant. The crepe, mascarpone mousse, cream and strawberries along with the sauce were all perfectly balanced. I think this dessert has taken 1st place in my heart for desserts I’ve had in Calgary. The little flecks of gold added a nice touch for NYE. Our only issue was that the rose champagne that was served with the dessert was too bitter. After taking a sip of the champagne, the subtleties of the dessert were lost. You had to take a couple bites of the dessert to get the flavour of it back in your mouth.
In summary, both of us were really happy with the dinner, the service and the location. The Chef put together a creative menu that embraced the traditional Japanese roots but didn’t go all the way. I can’t wait to try Cerezo’s breakfast and also to return for supper and eat from their regular menu. I’ve seen other reviews call Cerezo a hidden gem, and I agree. Although we think the name is odd for a Japanese inspired restaurant (Cerezo means cherry blossom in Spanish), according to Wikipedia the cherry blossom is the official flower of Osaka city (Japan). Until next time… Cheers!