Cross-Posted from Calgary is Awesome.
Dine Out Calgary has officially come to a close, and I hope my Calgarian readers have had a chance to take advantage of the "ten tastiest days of the year" and try a couple of the fantastic restaurants our city has to offer.
I had a chance to try two of them myself - B. and I first went for the $25 dinner at Maurya in Kensington. It was a lot of food for that amount of money, but I wasn't blown away by it. The beef in the Beef Masala was tough (though the Lamb Masala was good), and the spices just seemed off; some dishes were too spicy, some too sour, some too salty (popping preserved lemons in your mouth when you think they are potatoes or zucchini is not a pleasant surprise), etc.
I'd missed B.'s birthday as I was away on a conference so I promised that I would take him somewhere when I got back. After scrolling through a few of the Dine Out menus, B. chose Laurier Lounge, which simply stated it was offering a "Beef Fondue Experience" for $35. It took a bit of digging, but we quickly found out that this "experience" meant a cheese fondue appetizer, beef broth fondue (or Fondue Chinoise) as the main course, and chocolate fondue for dessert, which usually costs $45/person. (For Dine Out Calgary, Laurier Lounge also featured the same menu with wine pairings as its $85 Gourmet offering.)
Our reservation was for a late, 8 pm seating but the restaurant was still packed when we arrived. The hostess wasn't at her spot at the entrance either, so we stood awkwardly for a minute or two while waitresses carrying hot plates of food tried to navigate around us. The hostess felt compelled to scramble around to find menus for us despite the fact that we must've told at least two people that we were there for the Dine Out Calgary menu, and I'd also made note of it when I made the reservation. However, after the initial lapse in communication, our service throughout the evening was friendly and not rushed.
You can definitely tell that the Laurier Lounge is a converted house (the Stanley House, to be exact) as the space is very cozy, to say the least. I'm sure during the day the windows let in a lot of beautiful sunlight, but we were relegated to a darker part of the restaurant for the evening. More romantic? Perhaps. Good for photos? Not so much.
The cheese fondue is made from a blend of Swiss and Emmentaler cheeses, flavoured with garlic and white wine. The waiter came around and ground fresh black pepper on our plates, which was a nice touch. I thought the white wine overpowered the cheese a little bit and you will hardly ever hear me say this but I thought at first the fondue could use a little more salt. As we got near the bottom though (and unable to drown our bread with cheese), the natural saltiness of the cubed baguette helped to balance some of the flavours out.
Some online reviews have complained that the fondue at Laurier Lounge is a broth fondue as opposed to an oil fondue. I personally appreciated the fact that there wasn't a cloud of oil covering anything. The broth was very rich and flavourful, with mounds of caramelized onions swimming in the bottom. I'd say it was exactly like French onion soup, except without the gratin on top. The beef was sliced just to the right thickness so that it cooked quickly, but stayed moist and tender.
I was quite impressed by the fact that the dinner came with a large salad, roasted tomato, baked potato and some raw zucchini and mushroom for cooking in the broth. The salad was dressed in a light vinaigrette while the potato was hot and slathered in butter. I'm usually a fan of roasted tomato as well, but this one was cold.
The fondue also came with three dipping sauces - cocktail sauce, dijon/honey mustard and aioli. Both B. and I agreed that the aioli was our favourite.
The chocolate fondue came with a nice assortment of fresh fruit, including pineapple, honeydew, cantaloupe, strawberry and orange. There was also some very sweet banana bread. The table next to us got bananas, so I joked that we would've gotten bananas too if they hadn't been making banana bread with it! I found the fondue to be a little too sweet as I prefer dark chocolate and we struggled to finish. The pineapple was both our favourites as it provided a tart foil to the cloyingly sweet chocolate.
Aside from the Beef Fondue Experience, Laurier Lounge has an extensive menu that ranges from classic French entrées to tapas, sandwiches and poutine. They also have an impressive wine list, so I'm sure many of the groups that were dining at such a late hour were just there for a few after-dinner drinks and snacks. Lunch is served during the day (except Mondays), and brunch on weekends from 10-2. Unfortunately, I don't think either my wallet or my figure can afford another Beef Fondue Experience, but I'm looking forward to going back for brunch and/or some Duck Confit Poutine!
1111 7 St SW
Calgary AB T2R 1A1
Open Mon 5 PM-11 PM. Tues-Fri 11 AM-11 PM. Sat-Sun 9 AM-11 PM. Reservations recommended.