I love March in Calgary – only because The Big Taste takes over the restaurant scene! It’s a great opportunity to try new restaurants at a good price, and favourites that you know and love! There are still so many restaurants on my wishlist, including the new Deane House, just west of Inglewood. I thought the $65 gourmet menu, with 5 courses was a great deal. We also went with the $35 BC VQA Wine Pairing for 4 of the courses.
There is a small parking lot NE of the building, but it was packed full when we arrived. There was a lot of road construction in the neighbourhood and many ‘no parking’ signs about, but we were able to find a parking spot within a block; be prepared to walk a bit. The property is gorgeous, even in winter. The pathways were clear and brightly lit and the house gives a great first impression. But, we walked in to find a distracted host – we practically had to wave our hands in her face to get her attention. She took our jackets and gave us a ticket, then we were given the option of two tables – one inside a dining room up a against a wall, or a table on the closed-in patio full of windows, so we chose the patio. With a great view of the stream that runs along the property and downtown – who wouldn’t want to sit out there!
Service was very friendly. We didn’t have many questions because we were going with The Big Taste menu. Where we were seated on the patio was a little squishy – the slim servers had to shimmy their way between the wall and people’s chairs because there just wasn’t much room. The table beside us got loud sometimes and Jay had to shelter his ears and focus really hard on what I was saying. The restaurant could probably stand to get rid of one table of two and give all the tables in the patio an extra few inches of privacy to talk. Throughout the evening many different staff members came and checked on us – delivering food, clearing dishes, and ensuring we were happy; it was almost too much. Typically one gentleman described the main dishes – it was really nice that we were told what we were about to eat. The first 2 courses came out quickly and we didn’t quite have time to finish our wine pairing before the next was being served. Then things got slower and slower, and it took a long time for our main to come, and even longer for the dessert. Jay started getting restless…
Unfortunately it was kind of dark in the restaurant so my photos aren’t great quality.
The Moroccan spiced lentil soup was awesome. Sprinkled with goat feta, crunchy crumbles of lamb sausage and herb gremolata, it was a tad salty but full of flavour. The flavour reminded us of a perfect bowl of chili. The 2015 Culmina Gruner Veltliner was awesome with the soup. According to the menu, the sourdough bread was supposed to be served with the soup, and that’s what we would have preferred. It would have been great to soak up the last bits of soup in the bowl since we were trying not to make a lot of noise scraping our spoons across the bowl to get the last of the soup!
The sourdough bread came with the 2nd course, the corn grits and carrots. The bread is made in house, as is the cultured butter I believe. I really have to learn to make bread this good… The corn grits were tasty, and with lots of texture they weren’t smooth like polenta. The grits were chewy, cheesy, creamy and they carried a spicy kick. The fermented carrots were good – something different, but the dish didn’t jump out at me as memorable. We were offered more bread and butter after we ate our first two pieces and I welcomed more. I ate three pieces of bread and butter with my meal it was so good!
The salted red cabbage with chicken liver mousse was tasty too, although I think there could have been more or a thicker piece of crostini to wipe up the tasty mousse. It was a little messy to get the shredded cabbage into my mouth because I found some of the shreds to be longish and not very flexible. There were a lot of flavours and textures in this dish – I could tell a lot of thought was put into its design.
Jay chose to have the poached Arctic char because I was having the flat iron steak. He should have stuck with the beef since he’s really a meat lover. The char was very lightly flavoured and lightly cooked, served with a stock poured by the server. Jay didn’t love that he now had a bowl of ‘soup’ surrounding what he thought was ‘boring’ fish. I thought the flat iron steak was awesome – the herb gremolata really made the flavours pop, although I thought the hazelnuts on the side were rather unnecessary. The braised beef cheek ravioli was tasty, but we both thought it wasn’t as good as the braised deer ravioli that I made myself at home. I found it a bit dry, but it was nice to have a fair serving of meat in the one ravioli. Jay was served the Syrah with his fish and I was served the Pinot Noir with my steak. I thought that was backwards and mentioned it to her, but I didn’t think to check the menu at the time. In looking at the menu now, it was backwards. It turned out that the Pinot Noir went quite nicely with my steak though!
We waited a long time for our dessert to come. The table beside us placed their order for dessert way after we were done our main, and they got their dessert order long before we got ours. At least the dessert was worth the long wait! The carrot cake is apparently an old family recipe of the pastry chef. It was dense, like a sticky toffee pudding. I had to laugh when the server said ‘this carrot cake is made with real carrots’… what the heck other kind of carrots would it be made of? LOL. I’ve never heard of anyone ever faking carrots (since they’re as cheap as dirt)…
I was impressed with the food and the ambience was really pretty (minus the really loud talkers and squishy quarters). Creative and tasty, the meal was excellent value for $65 during The Big Taste. There are some things the restaurant could improve upon, including ensuring our water was regularly filled and fixing the cadence of the food delivery. On a regular day, I think The Dean House is on the pricy side, like many trendy places in Calgary. But, if they can keep up with the quality, creativity, and service, they’ll definitely have a long future in this city.