Reader. Writer. Romantic.

Restaurant Review: Cilantro

Location: 338 – 17 Ave SW
Website: http://cilantrocalgary.com/

My initial contact with the staff at the restaurant left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I had called to make a reservation and they asked me how to spell my name, halfway through, the lady on the phone interrupted me and said “Okay, I got.” It irritated me that she had asked me to spell my name, but had the gall to just cut me off mid-sentence. After that, on the day I was supposed to go I got a call from them, but missed it, so I called back just to make sure everything was alright and the girl who answered the phone this time was equally rude, asking me “what do you want?” At this point, I hoped that the food would speak for itself and that it would be good enough to erase all the rudeness I had experienced thus far.

We arrived about 20 minutes early for our reservation and decided to try the door. Surprisingly it was open, so we went on in. The lady who greeted us pretty much said, “We’re not open. We don’t open until five. Can you guys just wait outside for 20 minutes?” There really wasn’t much we could say to that other than yes, so we waited until they were officially open before heading back in.

We were seated on the second floor facing a stone pizza oven. The lighting was incredibly dim that at another table, one of the customers had to use the flashlight function on their cellphone to read the menu. Thankfully I looked at the menu before hand and already decided on what it was that I wanted. We decided not to go with an appetizer because based on the descriptions they sounded like single portion dishes and at $9-$18 for an appetizer for one single person, it was a bit pricey. I ordered the Lemon Conchigliette while Julia had the Pulled Elk Pizza Flatbread. The Lemon Conchigliette had chorizo , scallops, lobster, snap peas, poblano in a basil-chèvre parmesan cream. The chorizo was more like Italian sausage, there were two scallops, I needed a microscope to find the lobster, for dish claiming to contain poblano there wasn’t a hint of heat, I couldn’t taste the lemon, and the cheese cream sauce had me reaching for my water more times than I could count. Despite all that, I loved this dish. Though the portion size looked so small, it was more than filling, making me especially glad that we did not order an appetizer. The Pulled Elk Pizza Flatbread was a huge, but pleasant surprise for me. As I expressed in my previous review on Vero, I can’t stand the gaminess of bison, elk, and the like, but like the bison from Vero, the gaminess was undetectable, perhaps masked by the creamy, sweet and savoury taste of caramelized onions. The flatbread consisted of poblanos, caramelized onion, blueberry ancho pesto, red pepper cheddar, and asiago. In the dark, it was very hard to distinguish exactly what everything was and should have heightened our senses, but I eat with my eyes as much as I eat with my nose and mouth, so being able to see what I was eating would have been nice. Plus, in the dark, I feel as though the chef’s plating techniques would have gone to waste as no one could see anyways. The flatbread rivaled some of the pizzas I had in Italy, they were that good. From our table, mostly from Julia’s perspective, we could see them making the flatbread and putting in the stone pizza oven behind us.

For dessert I had the Vanilla Bean Crème Brulée and Julia had the Lemon Rosemary Coffee Cake. The sugar atop my Crème Brulée was well caramelized…in some areas, a little too well, but I didn’t mind. Once I had a taste of that creamy vanilla-y excellence it was like I had died and gone to heaven. I didn’t really care for the garnishes, though I did eat them, they didn’t really do much to complement the Crème Brulée in anyway. The Lemon Rosemary Coffee Cake…not something I would have ever ordered in my wildest imagination. In my mind, weirdest combination ever for a dessert. Rosemary is one of the most savoury herbs I know, to put it in a dessert is just odd. The cake was paired with a raspberry sorbet, not sure if that really did much to help it, but all I know was that it was more like frozen solid fruit juice because watching Julia slice it was painful. The lemon when added to the cake sweetened it, but it still tasted like a specialty bread to be had with a meal rather than a dessert. However, she thoroughly enjoyed it and that’s pretty much all that matters.

I felt that the service here was lacking. The only person who I felt kinda measured up to the level of service I was expecting was our waiter. Everyone else pretty much pretended they didn’t see us or were quite rude (the aforementioned phone incidents). At the prices we were paying, I had expected a little bit better service. For service I’d rate them 1.5/5. For food, I’d give them a 3.5/5. Overall, 2/5 for this restaurant.

*My apologies for the quality of some of the pictures. The restaurant, as I mentioned was very dark and that made it hard to capture good pictures. The pizza turned out black when we took a picture inside the restaurant and since Julia couldn’t finish it, I got her to snap a picture of it after, just so we have a general idea of what it looked like and consisted of.

Cilantro Interior

Cilantro Interior

Lemon Conchigliette

Lemon Conchigliette

Pulled Elk Pizza Flatbread

Pulled Elk Pizza Flatbread

Vanilla Bean Crème Brulée

Vanilla Bean Crème Brulée

Lemon Rosemary Coffee Cake

Lemon Rosemary Coffee Cake

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