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Posts tagged ‘Van Gogh’s’

Restaurants Revisited

Based on some recent experiences, I thought I’d do something different and review restaurants I’ve already reviewed and gone back to. Sometimes the experience has improved, but more often than not, most of these places have somewhat slipped.

Vendome Cafe
Vendome is still among one of my favourite cafes; however, in recent years, I’ve notice a decline in food quality. What was once flavourful and inspired me to start restaurant and cafe reviews has fallen to the wayside. Their most well-known dish is their duck confit. It used to be the reason I always wanted to spend time in Kensington. The two or three times I’ve gone, the texture of the meat hasn’t been quite right (the only way I can think of describing it is that it’s kind of grainy or has a powder like texture in my mouth). Besides that, the meat was way over-salty, to the point that I had blisters on my tongue and lip.

Van Gogh’s
The tzatziki sauce is still one of the most amazing I’ve ever had, but now service is lacking, prices are incredibly high, and portion sizes have shrunk. Since the restaurant used to be busier, there used to be more servers and as a result, there was a higher standard. Though I know I shouldn’t eat too much and smaller portion sizes and higher prices will help to discourage me from over-eating, I’d still want to get my monies worth.  I will still come here because I love the tzatziki until this place closes down.And I don’t think that this restaurant will last much longer. I mean, considering how “isolated” our community is, I’m not surprised that the only traffic this place usually sees is from its residents. And with no other restaurants around, there isn’t all that much competition which would drive it to maintain better standards.

Empress Palace Restaurant
I go back and forth with this place. When we first visited this place with my family, it had just been open for a few weeks and it was horrible, the second time (when I wrote my review) it wasn’t all that bad. However, just recently I returned there and they served pringles with my chicken. Why? I wanted the shrimp chips that the fried chicken is normally served with, not salt and pepper pringles. They were just so out of place and weird. Other than that slight transgression, this place, for the most part, is getting much better.

It’s hard to believe that I once sang praises of this place. I’m not sure if the time I had affects anything, but the first review was written was during dinner service, while this second visit was during lunch. For one thing, when I recommend a restaurant to someone,  it reflects favourably or negatively on me depending on their experience. When we walked in, it was about 1pm and there was only one family waiting in front of us. Once they seated that large party, I approached the desk where the host typically stands and the host never returns. After about ten minutes I decided to take a seat and wait for someone to come out. It took nearly another twenty minutes before someone acknowledged us and another five before we were seated. Once seated it took fifteen minutes before our waitress came over to take our drink order. The restaurant was empty, I didn’t understand why it would take so long for the waitress to come and do that. It took her another ten minutes to bring the drinks and take our order. Food came out relatively timely, but as we were eating, my boyfriend finished his drink and was looking for our waitress to get another. From his vantage point at our table, he could see her standing in the kitchen just chatting. We tried getting her attention and she either ignored us or just didn’t see us (because she wasn’t paying attention). We finished our meal and took another fifteen minutes. By this point I was furious particularly because I had suggested going here and my boyfriend was pretty hungry. When she finally brought the bill, I didn’t want to go through the hassle of waiting longer because she had to go get the machine. I actually was angry enough that I didn’t want to even tip her. However, my boyfriend made me so I tipped about 10% which I feel was overly generous. This was about two weeks ago and I am still so angry about it. I won’t go as far as saying I’ll never go back because the food’s pretty good, but the likelihood of me returning to that location is fairly low. I might give it another chance, but that will be in a few years.

The Fine Diner
Sometimes restaurants have a rocky start when they first open, so I usually give it a second chance unless my first impression/experience was horrible enough to keep me away for good. I came to here again for brunch with my cousin to introduce my boyfriend to the family, a few people at a time. Although we made reservations and ended up getting there a bit late (maybe 15-30 mins late), my cousin and her boyfriend who arrived on time hadn’t even been brought their drinks. I understand that it was very busy (as I’ve said on numerous occasions, brunch is very quickly becoming the thing to do on weekends) and that they were understaffed, but something as simple as a drink should not take 15-30 minutes. And though in my last review of this place I said I wouldn’t be coming back, I most certainly will not be coming back after this experience. The only good that came out of this visit was that the waitress was cheerful despite being completely overwhelmed and overworked and she didn’t look like she hated everyone there like the last waiter we had here.

I’ve never had any problems with the Crowfoot location, but on our six month anniversary/boyfriend’s birthday, we discovered an amazing appetizer platter that he’s come to love. I think from now on, every time I go I’ll have to get it. (For reference, it’s called the Antipasto Italian Platter).

I returned to this place when my best friend visited from Vancouver back in July, to give it a second chance. I had the calamari to start and I ordered their mushroom pizza. Oh. My. God. Amazing. The mix of chili peppers with the calamari was a very delicious combination. And as I found out later, they’re actually best known for their pizza and honestly, their pizza is to die for. I also found out what a cannoli was. From now on, if I come back to this place, it’ll be for the pizza and the calamari.


Restaurant Review: Van Gogh’s

Location: 308B 11245 Valley Ridge Dr. NW Calgary, Alberta


I lived in this community for seven years before I even stepped foot into this restaurant. It was the best decision of my life. When I first came here, the portion sizes were enormous. So large that it was impossible for me to finish, so I’m partially glad that they’ve cut down portion sizes instead of wasting so much food.

Usually when I go, I have the lunch special: beef souvlaki wrap with fries and caesar salad. This time I had a steak sandwich.

The beef souvlaki pita wrap is often hard to eat because the beef is so chewy and when you bite into it, everything comes out into your mouth and all over your clothes. Honestly the messiest, but most delicious thing ever! These wraps only have four things in them: onions, tomatoes, tzatziki sauce and meat, in this case beef. The tzatziki sauce is a bit on the garlicky side, but I love garlic and onions, so, I thought it was fine, although I wouldn’t suggest eating if you’re about to go into a meeting or having lunch with your boss.

Then there’s the steak sandwich. The garlic bread was fine, the caesar salad was fine (my only complaint is that it looks like they douse it in oil before serving it to us), the fries were fine, the ketchup wouldn’t come out of the bottle and the there was the actual piece of steak. Steak…seriously what is wrong with people and getting the temperature on steaks wrong all the time. I like mine more well done than rare, so I usually ask for medium or medium well because it will come out perfectly well done. I did this this and what do I get? A piece of wood. Mmm, I love eating charred wood.  I am very disappointed. Not only that, it was chewy and hard to swallow. I won’t be getting this again. Going back to my souvlaki wraps.

In terms of appetizers, I’ve sampled the lounge platter, tempura shrimp, calamari, platter appetizer for 2, and the sweet potato fries. The lounge platter consists of cafe ribs, battered zucchini sticks and mushrooms, and wings. I found the cafe ribs hard to bite through and the meat was completely dry and kept getting stuck in my teeth, which was annoying. The mushrooms were a bit soggy since they released all the water in them while cooking and it wasn’t so crunch after that. The zucchini sticks were the highlight of the platter as I found the honey garlic overwhelmed with the amount of sauce spread on them. The tempura shrimp were average. It was pretty standard, like the kind all restaurants buy frozen and in bulk. The calamari by far is my favourite appetizer. It too is served with tzatziki sauce and is pretty filling on its own. I like that the batter is light and that you don’t taste a piece of squid saturated with batter and oil. However, a friend of mine has mentioned that she dislikes the powdery consistency of the batter and prefers it to be a bit more crunchy. The platter for two is by far one of the worst things I’ve had here, I’m sorry to say, worse than charred wooden steak. It has calamari, which is the only edible thing to me, dolmades, marinated onions, tomatoes and feta cheese, and pita bread. Maybe it’s just me, but the taste of dolmades is off putting and it is because of these I avoid ordering this platter. Even though the name of this dish indicates it is for two people, there is seriously enough food for four. Well, at least if you intend on eating your main course. And lastly, the sweet potato fries, like the tempura shrimp, are average. I mean, they’re sweet potato fries, what more do you expect? They are pretty much going to be the same no matter where you go.

For Mother’s Day one year, my mom had the Spinach Salmon Salad. Actually, now that I think about it, that’s all she has when she goes. I can understand because it’s actually not bad. The salmon is really moist and flaky and the dressing isn’t overwhelming. Other entrees I’ve had from here are the chicken parmesan, platter classic for two, Van Gogh cheeseburger, and spinach tortellini. The chicken parmesan was decent, but the spaghetti it came with wasn’t so good. I really like my pasta al dente, so I was a bit annoyed at really tender pasta drenched in sauce, but it is what it is. This isn’t an Italian restaurant, so I wasn’t expecting much anyways. The sauce itself wasn’t very flavourful, mostly just tomato taste, barely any seasoning. The platter classic for two is like the souvlaki lunch special for dinner with a few additions. This dish unfortunately also has dolmades, which I just avoided, but it also has spanakopita, meatballs, rice and a psilocomeni salad. The meatballs were weird. I can’t explain exactly what was weird about it, but when I put it in my mouth there was just this weird flavour/texture, not to mention they were like giant meatballs. Anyways, I have no recollection of eating the salad, probably because I didn’t and only ate the pita wrap, leaving everything for the other person I was sharing it with to eat. Well, I did they the spanakopita, it was the first time having it and I haven’t had any since, so I don’t really have anything to compare it to, but I’m assuming that the pastry ought to be flaky and that’s all I know. I have no idea how the inside is supposed to taste, but I don’t like spinach that much, so I found it edible, but not my favourite thing (at least more edible than those dolmades).  My experience of the Van Gogh cheeseburger and spinach tortellini isn’t very extensive; I only sampled a bite of each. From what I got from my friend who ordered the cheeseburger: “I don’t like it. I don’t remember much about eating it, but I know it didn’t taste good. Also, who puts iceberg lettuce in a burger!” The spinach tortellini sauce was nice, creamy. Didn’t actually get to eat the tortellini and when asked, the friend who ordered merely said, “It’s good.”

All in all, I really enjoy this place. The service is good, though sometimes they forget to bring you the bill and you have to walk up to the counter to pay. The prices aren’t bad, especially for the lunch specials. And considering how much food they give you for the appetizers, I’d say the price was reasonable (let me give you a hint, I could pack it away and have it for my lunch for the next day and it filled me up until dinner). Taking into account everything, I would give this restaurant a 4.25/5.


Calamari Appetizer

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Back: Beef Souvlaki Pita Wrap with Lemon Potatoes and House Salad Front: Steak Sandwich with Caesar Salad and Fries


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Steak Sandwich with House Salad*

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Van Gogh Cheeseburger*

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Spinach Tortellini*

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Chicken Parmesan with Spaghetti*

*(starred photos) Photo credit goes to Yulin Fong

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