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Tag Archives: top brunch restaurants

SO Much Tequila, Thanks NAFTA! An Intimate Review of Anejo, Calgary’s Newest Mexican Restaurant

Summary: An upscale casual Mexican-themed restaurant in Mission serving up delicious food along side Canada’s largest tequila menu. Prepare to be impressed.

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When I heard the newest kid on the restaurant block was a Mexican-themed restaurant from the owners of The Living Room, I was immediately intrigued. Calgary doesn’t have too many (good) Mexican restaurants in the first place, much less upscale casual ones, so I had to check it out. And it was worth it.

DSC01496Kent and I showed up on a bustling Friday night (Richard bitched out at a work xmas party) to their newly opened Mission location. Even though it was miserable weather, it was pretty hard to miss the only restaurant on the street, nay Calgary, with a huge flower-adorned skull next to the restaurant name.

We had to line up for about 10-15 min. before getting seated as the place was packed, but the restaurant has a pretty wide indoor "staging area" so you don’t have to freeze your ass off in winter. The restaurant itself was a Anejo,  Mission, Calgary, Mexicobit too dimly lit for my liking but maybe they are going for the lounge effect. The wall immediately to the right is adorned with Mexican artwork and the wall on the far back with all kinds of awesome tequila. Overall, the feeling is that of an upscale restaurant for a classy dinner date or a lounge where you can hang out with your mates and get trashed on expensive tequila. Either way, it works.

Kent & I decided to start off with the guacamole and tortilla chips while figuring out what to order from Anejo’s extensive tequila menu, which according to the server, is the largest in Canada (that’s when you know you have kinda made it as a city). The food menu, which was quite extensive, offers a more contemporary twist on traditional Mexican cuisines while still retaining some of the authentic flavours and customs. For instance, the guacamole was served in a lava-rock mortar and prepared table-side as we were watching. It’s also got the only restaurant in Calgary (maybe Western Canada?) that serves cactus in a salad. Awesome.

Anejo, Mexican, Mission, CalgaryWhile waiting for our appetizer, we went through the pretty massive tequila menu. For those who don’t know much about tequila other than the Jose Cuervo crap you shot as a university student, there’s five distinct types: blanco,  joven, reposado, and anejo. Blanco is the clear tequila that most people are familiar with; joven is a mixture of blanco and reposado,  reposado is any tequila that’s been aged for a minimum of 2 months, but less than 12 months in any oak barrel; and anejo is tequila that has been aged for a minimum of one year, but maximum of three in small oak barrels. There’s also the extra-anejo which is aged for a minimum of three years in oak barrels, but that tends to be not as common…and way more expensive.

Anejo, Mexican, Living Room, Mission, Calgary The guac is the best we have ever eaten. Made fresh at the table in a lava-rock mortar, the only way to top this is for the staff to fly you to an avocado farm and hand feed it to you. Its fresh.  Never has there been guacamole this good in Calgary – flavoured with nothing but serrano/jalapeno salt, onions, and tomatoes, and lime juice, this was nothing if not finger-licking good. Seriously. I was literally scraping the last bits of guacamole in the mortar with my finger and licking it dry – it was that good! My only complaint was that there wasn’t enough dip for the amount of chips given.

Kiran’s Judgement

Anejo, Tequila, Reposado, Blanco, Mission, Calgary, MexicanAnejo offers three 1 oz. drink flights. I ordered a "Vertical Flight" which means I got to sample one type of tequila (resposado) from three different distilleries (Asombroso, Excellia, and Baluarte). The cost of a flight is the total of each drink minus a $4 discount, so depending on the drinks in your flight, it can get expensive pretty quick.

I loved my flights. My favourite was definitely the Excellia which had a hint of sweetness and went down real smooth. My palate isn’t developed enough to pick up other aromas and flavours, but I am working on it (while writing this article ;D). It’s too bad Excellia isn’t sold at my local Co-op otherwise I would have bought it by now!

For the main course, I went with veggie tacos and chills rellenos. The former came with six, SIX different types of salsas and hot sauces. I was too wasted by the time the food came out to remember the names…all I remember is I couldn’t have enough of the hot sauces and the salsas. I rolled my eyes when the server was emphatic about the salsas packing a punch, but I take it back. I was pretty impressed by the amount of heat AND flavour each salsa or hot sauce packed. If that wasn’t enough, Anejo’s Executive Chef also has a house GHOST PEPPER hot sauce which I was super-impressed with – it wasn’t crazy hot like the store-bought ones and at the same time, packed lots of flavour. Hats off, sir.

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The chills rellenos was also pretty fantastic. I have never had one with rice before, so it was an interesting take on it. The rice had too much bite for my liking, but apart from that, it was a tasty and well-made dish. I have now had chills rellenos from every Mexican restaurant I have been too, and this one, IMHO, is the best out there. Well done.

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Kent’s 2 Cents

I’m not much of a tequila drinker and was hesitant to try their high-end selection. I tried the "Horizontal Flight" where I got to try blanco, reposado, and anejo varieties from one distillery (Centinella). Although I couldn’t tell much of a difference between reposado and anejo, I can definitely confirm that its better tasting than the nightclub tequila shots, which I’m pretty sure is just low-octane gasoline. I’m moving up in the world.

I was very impressed with the selection of sauces for the tacos – all made in house and there was something for everyone. A few forgiving ones, but mostly very hot and enjoyable. The ghost pepper sauce was incredibly spicy, but in a way that still had flavor and didn’t burn your digestive tract.

The tequila mac & cheese came out in a very large portion. I unfortunately was not hungry anymore after having the guacamole and tacos. The cheese was rich and creamy, but it was a bit salty for my taste. The panko sprinkled on the top was a nice touch, I think it should be used on everything. I wanted to finish it, but just couldn’t by this point.

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Summary

I think I have my new favourite restaurant in town. From classy drinks to good comfort food, Anejo has it all. Even though it was a packed house, the service was top notch and on par with the food. The fact that they are doing something different from other typical ethnic eateries always excites me. Anejo is going to do to Mexican what Mango Shiva did to Indian – upscale, trendy, and the place to be. A definite must-see!

-Kiran

RANKING

Kiran

Kent

Ambiance 4/5 5/5
Service 5/5 4.5/5
Taste 4.5/5 4.5/5
Originality 4/5 4.5/5
Value 3.5/5 3.5/5
TOTAL 21/25 = 84% 22/25 = 88%

Anejo Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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[Hidden Gems] Vendome Cafe: Not Your Average Hipster Breakfast

Summary: Situated in the historic Vendome Block in Sunnyside, this deceptively spacious cafe is a visual feast on the inside and the outside. Oh, and the food is fucking delicious too.

The past two months have been a process of “discovering” some of the best hidden gems Calgary has to offer. Whilst Vendome might not necessarily be unknown, it is definitely “hidden.” For one, when I showed up at 10 am to meet Shane and his soon bride-to-be, Tara, there was hardly a line-up. We were through ordering our food within 7 min. of getting there and were seated within 10 min. This was refreshing compared to the epic wait times one experiences at the more well-known joints in Bridgeland like OEB, Blue Star, or Diner Deluxe that are over-crowded with dirty hipsters. It could also be that we went on the May-long weekend, but I am choosing to believe otherwise.

Walking in, you are immediately greeted with a long spacious hallway that serves as the kitchen and the ordering area. There’s also tons of space to line up so you aren’t standing out in the cold if it is a busy weekend. The large blackboard is neatly broken down into four different categories depending on the mood you are in. You pay for your food right after ordering, which is brilliant, cause then you aren’t stuck in another line after your meal or waiting for your extremely busy server to take payment.

The exterior of the building was restored to its historic appearance in 1989 and I loved the contrast between the old and the new. It is also much more spacious than it looks from outside. There wasn’t a table for 4 in the main hallway, but there was plenty of room around the corner with a table for 4 just waiting for us. This section of the cafe was even cooler as it had the look and feel of a contemporary modern art gallery with large mirrors and paintings on the white facade. There was also plenty of natural light let in by the large windows that further enhanced the bright and airy feel of the place. I later found out that Teatro and Vendome have the same management and that this wing was added at a later stage – which helps explain the “contemporary” feel to this side of the cafe.

I ordered the vegetarian eggs benny which came on a toasted ciabatta (or sourdough, I can’t remember) bun with olives, red peppers, zucchini, and tomatoes, served with a side of home-style potatoes. The presentation was absolutely gorgeous, and if we still had the “Plating” category, this would have gotten 4.5/5.

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I also ordered an additional side of toast that came with mango chutney:

Shane ordered the gorgeous-looking French toast with caramelized bananas and cream:

And Tara ordered eggs sunny side up:

To say that I was blown away with the first bite I took would be an understatement. The combination of the roasted veggies with the hollandaise sauce and eggs was mind-blowing. I love it when all the flavours come together in your mouth to create this indescribable (for me anyways) cornucopia of tastes and flavours. Amazing. The hollandaise sauce was light and airy, but I could have used a bit more tang: it wasn’t necessarily as memorable on its own. The home-style fries, however, didn’t deliver the same impact as the main dish. While not bad, there was nothing really memorable about them that stuck in my head.

The side of toast with mango chutney was interesting. It was sweet yet tangy and reminded of mango nectar boiled down to a thicker consistency. I didn’t ask Shane and Tara to type up what they thought of their food, but I am pretty sure they enjoyed their food just as much as I did.

Summary

I had a great time at Vendome. Of all the breakfast/brunch places I have checked out, this my favourite of them all. You can’t beat/find ambiance like this elsewhere in Calgary and the combination of delicious food and quick service put it ahead of the rest of the pack. A definite MUST try!

Ranking

Kiran

Ambiance 5/5
Service 4.5/5
Taste 4/5
Originality 4.5/5
Value 4/5
Overall 22/25 = 88%

Vendome Cafe on Urbanspoon

Starting the Day at the End of the Line

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Nothing starts my day off with a bang like a solid breakfast. It’s the one meal that that rules them all so I have a hard time understanding how people are ok with skipping it. I go pretty nuts if I don’t get myself some brekky first thing in the morning!

I am still jet-lagged from my Aus./Nz trip, so I was up all night drinking Zubrowka and apple juice. At 7 am, that shit didn’t cut it no more, so I went downstairs to the End of the Line Cafe to grab some breakfast. This was a historic occasion as I have lived in DT yyc for a total of SIX years a stone’s throw away from this place but never actually managed/had the time to check it out. The best thing about EoL is it’s super-nice patio and 4$ domestic beers, but from what I had heard, they also serve up a decent breakfast.

The interior is nothing pretty to look at, but gets the job done. There’s a mish-mash of furniture overlooking the large windows that let plenty of natural light in. The view isn’t anything spectacular – the cafe overlooks the 10th St station – and it’s even worse now that the downtown line is being extended past the 10th St station westwards. EoL’s most common patrons (from my personal observation) are typically blue-collar workers working at nearby construction sites. They are open pretty much all day (6 am – 10 pm M-F) so it’s a perfect place for a weary soul to grab a decent meal before heading home.IMG-20120420-00118

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There’s a large menu selection that covers the gamut from breakfast bagels to Vietnamese subs. They also have 5$ vodka shots if you are so inclined. I decided to get the “Western Bagel” for $4.50: eggs with red/green pepper, tomatoes, mushrooms, and ham (for non-vegetarians) served on a toasted multi-grain bagel.

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Despite the soggy/rubber-y bagel, the sandwich was actually pretty delicious. The omelette was thick and fluffy and you could taste the sweetness of the red & green peppers through the eggs. I could have used onions and some bell peppers in there, but that’s more of a personal preference, and something that was easily solved with some Sri Racha hot sauce!

So, all in all, a pretty decent first experience with End of the Line. It is too bad the latter moniker won’t apply once the West LRT segment is up and running, but I am still really looking forward to spending some quality time on their patio once warmer weather comes around! Nothing better than $4 beer, a quite patio, and hot summer days.

Stay tuned for the detailed review!

-Kiran

End of the Line Cafe on Urbanspoon