Location: 624 8 Ave SW
I first heard about Escoba as it was the place chosen to sorta host our welcome lunch for our articling students (a mentors, principals, and articling students lunch). As you may well know, Italian flavours are very attractive to me. While they do have other items on their menu that wouldn’t fall under Italian and they do classify themselves as a Mediterranean restaurant, they have some quintessentially Italian offerings such as arancini and panzanella salad.
Originally, Carmen and I were planning on going to Teatro, but as we were unable to procure a reservation, this became our next restaurant of choice. I love how convenient it is to make and cancel reservations through OpenTable and I’m glad to say that this is one of the places that does accept reservations through that app.
For the starter, we chose to go with the Appetizer Taster, which allowed us to try three appetizers for $18 (or $9 per additional person). For the Appetizer Taster, we could choose from the top five items on the appetizer menu: Escoba Spring Rolls, Prawn & Crab Cakes, Italian Meatballs, Wild Mushroom and Oka Arancini, and the Mediterranean Black Bean Croquettes. As Carmen has a plethora of sensitivities and allergies, it ruled out all but three of the options. Through inquiries, we found out that the restaurant doesn’t deep fry anything, everything is oven baked using olive oil. We ordered the Prawn & Crab Cakes, Italian Meatballs and Wild Mushroom and Oka Arancini. The Italian Meatballs and Arancini could be enjoyed as is while the Prawn & Crab cakes had to be enjoyed with the aioli on the side, as the mayonnaise used in the aioli contained an oil that Carmen couldn’t have. We both started with the Arancini. I was slightly disappointed as I couldn’t find the wild mushrooms or Oka as advertised in its name. I love mushrooms and really would have loved to have been able to taste it. I will admit that the balsamic drizzle on the Arancini was very nice and the truffle crème fraîche was quite nice. Though I’m not sure whether it was white or black truffle, I’m pretty certain it was white, but it wasn’t overpowering as is often the case with white truffle oil. The pepperiness of the arugula was a nice contrast to the creamy crème fraîche and Arancini. Next we tried the Italian Meatball that had a lovely warm tomato sauce, pesto, and Parmesan accompaniment. The Meatballs were served on top of watercrest. I originally thought that it was arugula, but Carmen noticed the difference in the leaf shape and corrected me. Watercrest tastes remarkably similar to arugula that I didn’t notice they were different. Next time, I’ll have to pay closer attention. The final component to our trio was the Prawn & Crab Cakes, which was the one I was most excited for. While it was difficult to discern prawn from crab, the lemon-caper aioli was the best thing I have ever tasted. That aioli was the make and break point of this component. Carmen noted that usually crab cakes are among one of her favourite, she did not enjoy it as it was “quite fishy.” I believe that the aioli, had she been able to eat it, would have counteracted that quite nicely. I was also surprised at myself as I usually don’t like capers, but I loved it in this application.
For our mains, Carmen ordered the Tiger Rose and I had the Alberta Beef Tenderloin. While I don’t drink, I like that the menu recommends wine pairing for each of their dishes for people who do drink and aren’t sommeliers (and are too shy to ask about wine pairings, but also, this makes things easier on servers). The Tiger Rose contains pan-seared tiger prawns, asparagus & sundried tomatoes tossed in a tomato Dijon cream sauce with linguine. I have to admit, I was eying this, but as I frequently get pasta, I decided to go for the tenderloin. I suppose I could have gone with the best of both worlds and chosen the beef tenderloin fettuccini. I only shied away from the Tiger Rose because I wasn’t sure I was feeling in the mood for a Dijon cream sauce. Thinking about it now, it sounds intriguing and I would definitely give it a try. I was actually debating whether to go with the tenderloin or salmon, but ultimately went with the tenderloin. The tenderloin was an 6 oz AAA tenderloin, served with Gorgonzola smashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables, bordelaise sauce and a foie gras butter. Like the Dijon, I was a little apprehensive about the Gorgonzola as I was worried that it would be overpoweringly strong, as is often the case with blue cheeses, but I knew that Gorgonzola went really well with beef and the server gave me one last push by saying that her favourite thing to do when she ordered the tenderloin was to take a bite of potato with the steak. Intrigued, I ordered it. Unfortunately, the Gorgonzola was undetectable, which was disappointing. I may not like how strong it is at times, but if I ordered it, I want to be able to at least taste it. In recent years, I’ve grown to really love red peppers and I always find that it pairs really well with beef. I was, at one point really excited because I thought I had gotten two pieces of red pepper, turns out the other was a slice of tomato…
Of course, what is a meal without dessert. The dessert menu had so many amazing options, but again, it was the server’s suggestion that cemented my decision. I ordered the Cookies and Cream which was amazing! It was essentially caramel sauce sandwiched between two fluffy chocolate cakes with spiced rum, topped with vanilla ice cream and more caramel and a raspberry coulis and more caramel sauce drizzled on the plate. The only weird thing on the plate were the microgreens under the ramekin. A better choice here would have been mint. If I wasn’t already so full and happy with my main, I probably would have gotten another dessert.
The food and service at Escoba was exceptional! Our server not only wanted to know what Carmen was allergic to based on what she could think of by looking at the ingredients listed on the menu, but wanted to know all her allergies and sensitivities in case they weren’t listed and in case there was any cross-contamination. I got to learn a lot about processes and ingredients and I really like to be able to learn about my dining experience, especially as a restaurant reviewer.
I would definitely come back here. It’s a great date night spot. Based on my experience here, I would rate this place a 4.5/5.