Location: 308 4 Ave SW (Jamieson Place)
I had, have and always will consider myself a foodie, but I have to admit, my list of restaurants, cafes, eateries, pubs, etc. is very limited compared to some of the other foodies out there. Heck, the places I’ve tried compared to the ones I follow on instagram don’t even compare. Recently, the additions to my list have been informed by the numerous places I’ve booked my lawyers in for lunch at in and around downtown Calgary. I always take a peek at the menus of the places I’m booking in for and I would say that our tastes in restaurants are pretty similar.
A couple restaurants that I’ve recently added to my list include Cucina, Workshop Kitchen, Bridgette Bar, Cardinale, Hy’s, and, of course, Owens Landing. The ultimate restaurant on my list that I really hope that I can go to one day is Hy’s Steakhouse. Sure, it’s on the high end, but I think that it would be an experience of a lifetime and completely worth every cent and when I do finally get to go, you can be sure that I will be writing a full analysis of my experience.
Of the recently added restaurants, I’ve only tried Cucina and Owens Landing, which I am currently reviewing. Cucina is owned by the Teatro group and I’ve always had a good experience with them. In fact, I will be returning here on Friday. Over the course of the next couple of months, I will be checking off at least four more restaurants from my list. I can’t wait to share them all with you.
Originally, I had planned on booking in the reservation at 5 pm since I got off at 4 pm. However, at my friend’s request, we decided on 5:30 pm. I am very glad that we ended up on deciding to push the time back because I ended up having to work late and didn’t get out of the office until almost 5 pm. Owens Landing isn’t that far from my work, so it only took about 10 minutes for me to walk, making me extremely early for the reservation. As it was a Monday, the restaurant wasn’t packed and the hostess ended up seating me instead of making me wait in the lobby until my reservation.
I wasn’t seated long before our server approached me for a drink order and I indicated that I would wait until my friend’s arrival before ordering one, if that was in fact what I wanted. Our server came back an additional two times to check and make sure that I hadn’t changed my mind. While I appreciated that she was checking in frequently, I was a little more annoyed that she kept checking in so frequently. As soon as my friend arrived, barely with her coat off, the server approached again. My first thought was, “Could you not let her get settled first before you come to ambush us?” It took a few minutes for my friend to get settled before the server returned yet again. She had barely even had a chance to look at the menu, so my friend ordered a hot water with lemon and asked a few more minutes for the menu. The server acquiesced and walked away. The next time she returned was with my friend’s drink, less than a minute later and again she asked if we were ready. Again, we were not and she left for a more reasonable amount of time before returning for our order.
Since we had made it before 6pm, we still could order from the Happy Hour menu. For Happy Hour, select appetizers are only $10. We decided to only go with one, the Tuna Poke. We had previously asked our server if the items on the Happy Hour appetizer menu were of shareable size and she had indicated that the Tuna Poke was quite small and that we could each probably have our own. We decided, given the amount of food we had planned to order, that one Poke was enough.
We rounded out our meal with two entrees, the Naan Chicken Club, which I had been eyeing for a very long time, and their signature dish, a Fish and Chips. Since the Fish and Chips already came with fries, we opted for sweet potato fries for the Chicken Club.
We requested that the appetizers and mains be brought out at the same time since we were sharing everything. As we were busy catching up, I didn’t feel like the amount of time it took for our food to arrive was especially long. The Poke was not what I had expected, visually. It was be a while longer when I tried it that I realized that it was not what I expected gustatorily either.
I started with the Fish and Chips as they were right in front of me. The fish had a good crunch, the batter to fish ratio was balanced, and well cooked. However, I was not impressed that when I bit into it, a little bit of oil gushed out and dribbled down my chin. The dish was presented with a grilled lemon, which I squeezed over the fish, but as that wasn’t enough, I supplemented with malt vinegar. It was also accompanied by a tartar sauce, but the sauce was a disappointment. Growing up in a household where your dad was a chef at one point and made my favourite version of a tartar sauce, this one didn’t even come close to comparison. The best way I could describe it is that it’s simply mayonnaise. My friend went so far as to say that she preferred the tartar sauce that is served on McDonald’s Filet O’ Fish and that’s saying something. I found that the fries were over-salted and the oil used tasted like gone bad or like stale or was like reused old oil. It was more apparent with some of the fries than others. The only thing I liked were that some of the fries had really crisped up, which I like. My friend hadn’t started with the Fish and Chips and said that by the time she had, the batter on the fish was no longer crisp and was rather soggy. In fact, when she removed the fish from the bed of fries it was sitting on, I could see puddles of grease, some of which had been soaked into the fries below. That was unpleasant. For those who know me, I’m obsessed with coleslaw. This could not be called a coleslaw. It was carrots and cabbage in a bowl. The dressing was practically negligible and completely flavourless. If this was their signature dish, the best on their menu, I was honestly scared of what was to come.
I decided that I would dig into the Tuna Poke. I was confused at first. The menu described the dish as being sushi grade tuna, cucumber, scallions, pickled ginger, chilies and avocado crema. In my experience, the avocado crema has been drizzled over or a thin layer spread across the bottom of the plate. Often times I find that I am left craving more. That was not the case here. It looked more like a dip more than anything. The wonton chip did not have the strength or integrity to be able to pick up the tuna let alone the crema. Besides that, the wontons were extremely oily. I did not detect any ginger or chilies in the dish and the tuna could’ve used with some seasoning from something like soy sauce (although there might’ve been some of that…at least that’s what we figured the pooling brown stuff was, but it didn’t have much flavour so we weren’t sure). The crema had a strange aftertaste and really tasted more like a smoothie than anything else. To top it all off, we found a hair in the dish. Neither of us are really that queasy so we just removed it and kinda just ate around it. I mean, I’m not usually the type to complain, so I don’t know if I would’ve said anything in the first place, but this was the first time I actually considered mentioning it to our server. The only other reason we decided not to say anything was that our server was nowhere to be found.
The last dish, the Naan Chicken Club, was the one I was most excited about. I’ve always been the type to save the best for last. Unfortunately, this was not the case. The chicken was overcooked, dry, and underseasoned. The raita did very little to help the situation. Most of it had settled to the bottom of the sandwich (the folded part of the naan). Since we had fries with the fish and chips, we opted to go with sweet potato fries. Like the fries in the fish and chips, the sweet potato fries were also oversalted. However, it was a little less noticeable as the sweetness helped to counteract the saltiness and provide a nice sweet-savoury balance. The chipotle dipping sauce was as you might expect anywhere. There was nothing special about it and tasted like every chipotle aioli out there (so it was most likely commercially purchased rather than made in house).
As I hadn’t seen this friend in a while and I knew I was doing a review, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to do dessert as well. I always say I’ll just look, but when I’m doing a review, I like to have the full experience. We chose the Chocolate Lava Cake, which was another one of their signature dishes. I am so used to lava cakes being served with ice cream or a sour fruit compote of some sort. This was not that, so I was pretty excited about it. Given my love for cherries, I was actually looking forward to this despite my earlier disappointments. Unfortunately, the cassis spiced cherries weren’t exactly what I had expected. They didn’t have the “spice” as promised and the cherries, having been soaked in the cassis had lost much of its integrity and natural cherry flavour. When eaten with the lava cake, it didn’t provide the contrast of flavour that I had expected from it. It simply got lost on the plate and made me wonder if it even had a point of being there at all. I am also the sort of person who enjoys an espresso or macchiato with my desserts. The bitterness is often a great contrast to the sweetness of the dessert, providing a balance when there isn’t an acidic element on the plate to provide that contrast. The lava cake itself left me feeling divided. On the one hand, I was glad that it did not have crispy edges, but I would’ve liked the cake to be more lava-y than it was. I suppose there are worse things than a flatter and bigger than usual lava cake not oozing enough chocolate from the centre.
As our server had disappeared, the other servers picked up the slack and helped to clear away our dishes and fill up our glasses. This last server even helped to take our dessert order. However, as soon as we had ordered the dessert, she walked away in the middle of me about to order an espresso. We had to get her attention again and have her come back, which I must say, leaves me less than impressed.
I came here because my lawyer had been here on more than one occasion so I figured that it couldn’t be all that bad if he kept coming back. Perhaps it was simply who he was that resulted in a different experience. This is why I like going to restaurants as me rather than as a food blogger or restaurant reviewer. I don’t want that special treatment because I don’t get a real experience of what the restaurant is like. Nothing is worse than me saying how great a restaurant is only to have someone go in and have the worst experience in the world because the restaurant decided that I was a marketing opportunity and therefore, they had to make a better impression on me.
I always give restaurants more than one chance, but I think it will have to be some time before I ever return here. I was very disappointed by the food and the service. Don’t get me wrong, there were some redeeming qualities about this place (sorta): the atmosphere, the fact that the food was edible, and the restaurant interior was beautiful, but truth be told, if I’m going to spend my hard earned money eating out, you better make it worth my while. Based on this experience, I’d give this place a 2/5.