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Tuesday 24 May 2011

Vendome Cafe Calgary - You had me sold at duck panini!

Rating 8.5/10
After taking over and renovating the space next to it, Vendome has doubled its seating area, its still as characteristically narrow and cozy enough you may be rubbing elbows with fellow customers. With its funky decor, this cafe inside a charismatic brick building is bustling and packed on Sunday morning. We wait in line with hopes they haven't sold out of their lump crab cake eggs Benedict and their duck paninis they're known for. From past experience, the duck panini's are divine, desserts are yummy (no brainer as they are provided by Teatro) while strangely, their coffee is awful. Service is efficient and polite - order, pay at the till, grab a numbered placard, weave your way between tables and hope there is a empty table with enough seats to accommodate your group.

the FOOD
French Toast
A pile of fluffy soft cubes of bread has a light crisp batter nestled amidst little soft peaks of whipped cream, and is sprinkled liberally with enough brown sugar and cinnamon to make any kid (or inner child) grin with glee.  Having the french toast cubed, it was sorely tempting to sneak a piece of the sticky sweets off my friend's plate.. or two.. or five.. heehee!

Duck Panini
I'm a sucker for duck - its flavorful, its moist and its thankfully showing up on more and more menus around the city.  The panini is grilled to a lovely golden brown that yields with a satisfying crunch without being too dry or hard.  Rich and sweet caramelized onions add a touch of moisture and mellows out the warm braised duck meat tucked inside.   Served with a creamy garlic alioli for dunking, the combination is almost too rich and heavy.  Thankfully they have a small housemade coleslaw to cut through the richness and cleanse the palate. 
A large portion (shown) is enough to share between two, but if you order the the smaller half sized portion, you end up craving more. 
The paninni gets quite compressed in the panini grill, so though it looks small, there is a surprising amount of meat compacted into the sandwich.  The duck meat is so tender Vendome should rename it a pulled duck panini.  Loosen it up a little bit with a fork as you eat it so you can fully taste all that delicious duck in all its yummy glory. Nom!

Lump Crab Eggs Benedict
Lump crab - a classic ingredient in the Southern states of the good old US of A, I was surprised to see it up on Vendome's blackboard menu. 
Only available in the mornings on weekends (and while they last, so head there earlier rather than later), it shows up as two good sized crabcakes encrusted with a crunchy layer of cornmeal, with the eggs benny siting atop of them.  The crabcakes are more crab than breadcrumbs (yah!), seasoned well and have a mild spicy kick to them - linked well with a touch of paprika on top of the eggs benny.  The eggs were poached to a semi-solid, but not quite runny, topped with a rich, heavy hollandaise sauce that was a bit lacking in tarragon or lemon.  However, the crabcake was seasoned well enough that as a whole, one didn't miss the under seasoning of the hollandaise sauce too much.

Overall, a great (if squishy.. err.. cozy) place to grab a satisfying brekkie/brunch with creative spins on breakfast classics without breaking the bank.  That said, if you start eying Teatro's artfully made desserts in the dessert display, you may be spending far more.  But Teatro's tiramisu is soooo worth it. Mmmmm.

Vendome Cafe
Address 940 2 Avenue Northwest, Calgary, AB
Phone (403) 453-1140
Hours Open daily for breakfast and lunch
Vendome Cafe on Urbanspoon


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