Saturday, October 04, 2008

Vero Bistro Moderne, Calgary

Originally uploaded by Suzi Edwards
The moral of this story? Never order the chicken.

It has always been one of my rules in a restaurant. Don’t order the chicken. Don’t annoy the waiter. I can make chicken at home and annoy my friends. At home I know that I’m eating a happy, organic chicken that lived a lovely life pecking at grubs and my friends won’t do anything indecent to my food.

I don’t go to restaurants to eat what I can cook at home.

That said, I have made two exceptions to this rule. There was a poularde en demi-deuil at Manresa, in Los Gatos, California that I crossed an ocean for and a roast chicken with bread sauce at Glebe Point Diner in Sydney that are worthy exceptions and worth seeking out. Chef David Kinch’s chicken in half mourning (as the translation goes; the name comes from the slices of black truffle that are stuffed under the skin before it’s poached) was specially prepared for us, and served with these slightly scronchy fingerling potatoes. Glebe Point Diner roasts their chicken and serves it with a solitary roast potato, nutmegy bread sauce and, when I have eaten there, some fabulous corn. Like Hoover for vacuum cleaner and Kleenex for tissue, when I see chicken on a menu, my mind leaps back to these two dishes. They are the quintessence of chicken for me.

So Vero was going to have a few problems from the get go. Because when they announced a special of poached chicken with black truffle, polenta and a lemon sauce, my mind went into munching mode and I was hopeful of a dish that had elements of my two favourite chicken dishes in the world. In Calgary. I’m nothing if not an endlessly hopeful girl. Things weren’t helped by the rest of the menu being all basic proteins plus some sort of culinary anachronism. Raspberry coulis? Is it still 1989 here?

Starters came and went, with the standout a Dungeness crab-cake that I wished I’d ordered rather than the sub-TGI Friday boneless-ribs. There was a nice touch and a nod to their tapas menu, with an amuse bouche of a single, glossy and fat Puglian olive and some small chunks of Parmesan Reggiano. But this was served after we’d started our appetizers. Along with the bread. And the heart shaped butter flavoured with sun dried tomato. And the wine.

The service here is sweet and well-meaning, but it needs some help. We were really rushed towards the end, with desert menus and coffee being offered before one of us had even finished our main. Which is no problem, just tell us if you’re doing a second seating and you need the table back (and generally speaking, I’ll go somewhere else. Because I like to decide how long my supper is going to take me to eat, thank you very much) but don’t rush us because the poached chicken special was running with blood and you have to send it out again.

They did everything they could to put it right. Apologies, comped the chicken, sent a glass of delicious wine (the name of which I never did find out) and offered us free deserts. I was half hoping for a snog from the chef, but this never materialized.

So I hate to be negative, and I really should go back for late-night tapas. God knows Calgary needs something chic and chi-chi for late nights. Perhaps Vero will be great for that. Just beware the chicken.

Vero Bistro Moderne is at 209 10 Street NW AB Calgary 403-283-8988
Manresa is at 320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 408- 354-4330
Glebe Point Diner is at 407 Glebe Point Rd Glebe, Sydney +61 2 9660 2646

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