1240 8th Avenue SE
Coming in at #60 in the S. Pellegrino World's best restaurants in 2010, Rouge is the first Canadian entry this year and a first ever for the city of Calgary. Rouge, opened back in 2001, under the name The Cross House Restaurant at the former home of one of Calgary's Big Four: A.E. Cross. The house, built in 1891, is nested in the community of Inglewood near the Bow River. A number of different areas within the house, such as the Gallery, Atrium and Dining Room each offer a unique dining experience. Upon arriving, we were seated at the Gallery on the second floor. The window overlooks the Stanley Park Lawn Bowling Club (who knew there was a club for lawn bowling?). Despite having a fantastic view of the field, it did not offer a glimpse of competitive lawn bowling action (quite unfortunate). For the longest time we were the only table on the second floor. The setting felt very private. Probably a good thing, with our random yammering and what not.
First up was a complimentary bread roll with a berry vinaigrette and extra virgin olive oil dip. The vinaigrette was very light with a hint of berry sweetness. It turned the ordinary crusty bread roll into a delicious piece of awesomeness. I know, I'm like super descriptive. This was quickly followed by an edamame bean Hors d'œuvre. Each perfectly deformed spoon contained 4 or 5 edamame beans over a goat cheese dressing and sprinkled with various spices and things to "excite your palate". Well consider it excited because it was delish!
In the spirit of trying out new things. I had Kermit the Frog's legs (Don't hate till you try). The legs were dipped in a batter and deep fried like chicken fingers. And interestingly enough, they actually taste kind of like chicken. The texture was a little tougher than that of chicken wings and the flavour was quite mild. A mustard foam dip was available to add more flavour. Out of all the appetizers, this was probably the most time consuming one to eat with the bones and stuff but totally worth it.
Next up was the duck consommé with lobster and truffle mousse. The lobster mousse was served separate from the broth with the consommé along with various herbs in a French press. This was done, as the server explained, to prevent the flavour of the herbs from overpowering the taste of everything else. As a result, the consommé was very light and complimented the lobster mousse very well.
As the only person out of the group to order an appetizer, soup and salad, I was the only one to still be eating away while all my friends patiently watched. A slightly awkward experience to say the least.
Next up was the mushroom salad. Exotic mushrooms, like morchella were used. I believe there were a couple other types but I don't remember what they were called. The marinated mushrooms were topped with freshly picked arugula leaves (from-their-garden-in-the-back-fresh) and some red pepper(?) shavings. A fennel vinaigrette can be drizzled on top to add some additional flavour. I thought the mushrooms were quite flavourful already so I never used it. Despite the bitter than normal taste, the arugula was pretty good. Crunchy and fresh.
After quickly wolfing down the salad, the entree's arrived shortly after. I had the "candy apple" duck breast. The duck meat was likely prepared by lathering it in a "candy apple" sauce (probably a syrup or something) so that when cooked, the sugar would caramelize over the meat to give it an unique sweetness. It complimented the duck quite well since it wasn't overwhelmingly sweet like cake icing. There was a thin layer of fat between the crispy caramelized skin and the meat but it didn't taste at all fatty (Definitely a good thing). Thinly sliced sweet potatoes were layered on each other and pressed into cake form accompanied the duck. The pavé was topped with a spicy apple chutney and a dried apple slice.
Service was top notch at Rouge. Upon bringing out each dish to us, our server would explain what each plate consist of and how each is prepared. The timing between the dishes was short (For me anyway. Because I ordered all four items. Everyone else had to wait). Plates were quickly removed when we finished and the next dish was promptly brought out. 10 stars out of 10. Despite the pricey menu (which if you think about it, is not too bad considering it's top 100 in the world), I highly recommend it. You could drop a Mackenzie King and the Queen if you choose wisely or a Sir Robert Borden or two if you want to go all out. But you know what? You only live once. I say go for it!