Monday, 31 March 2014

Briggs Kitchen and Bar Calgary, AB - tasty flatbread pizza, killer wings and Tomahawk ribeye baby!

Recently, for a family get together, we headed to Briggs Kitchen and Bar for a big group dinner after my boyfriend's cousins had loved the food at not a few brunches.  You're greeted by a chic-industrial look with exposed brick and airducts, leather, and wood table with flattened iron discs, silver shark jaws and an imposing black bull sculptures adorning its walls.  The dining area is flanked by a long glassed in kitchen, and a small glassed in private dining room, which was where we had booked knowing the regular seating area is quite noisy, and while we were a large group and tend to be loud as well, we wanted to be able to hear our own table's conversation :)  We had the Chef's tasting menu (whatever the chef wanted to cook and thought would feed us all) and we added on a few extra favorite dishes on top.  We didn't get a chance to have a second round of wine, desserts and coffee, but we'll get to why in a bit.  I left the Nikon SLR at home, so I borrowed my cousin's Canon SLR instead.. if the pics look funny or fuzzy its cuz I didn't know how to use the camera lol!

Our waitstaff were friendly, polite and informed us not only of the imported Josper coal stove the kitchen uses which gives many of its menu items cooked inside a wonderful flavor one can only get from cooking over top of glowing hot coals.  Our waiter also pointed out through our glass enclosure which of the three founding Chefs of Briggs was in the kitchen that night... Chef Xavier Lacaze was a blur in the kitchen alongside his kitchen team creating delicious dishes that filled the restaurant with tasty scents.

We started off with a couple of cocktails.  We had some Strawberry Pisco Sours made with Pisco, strawberry, lemon, egg white and orange bitters.  It was light, sweet and a tasty start to the evening.

We also tried the Oolong Lady made with Beefeater gin, vanilla Oolong tea, egg white, lemon, rosemary and grapefruit bitters, also a nice light and fun flavors shining through.

It wouldn't be right without having wine for those that preferred not to have cocktails, so we had glasses of red vino all around.  It had sweet notes of berries, with oak flavors coming through as the wine warmed up and was bodied enough to hold up well to all the various menu items on and off the Chef's sampler menu.

the SALADs
The Grilled Chicken Salad was was drizzled in a balsamic vinaigrette and sprinkled with orange, almonds, feta and a tasty, if slightly overcooked chicken breast.  It needed something to mesh all the individual elements together and make it more cohesive flavorwise.

We all loved the Cajun Prawn Salad with tomato relish, mango, pickled red onion and crowned with Cajun seasoned sauteed prawns.  Great balance of savory, sweet and tangy.

We also really enjoyed the Pacific Tuna Salad which was arugula adorned with a sundried tomato vinaigrette, black olives and thin slices of seared tuna.

the APPYs
The Crispy Humbolt Calamari was definitely one of the favorite appetizers of the night.  Its lightly battered, crispy and fried to a tender perfection.  Its served with fennel, tomato aioli, and lemon.

The Josper Smoked Chicken Wings were not part of the tasting menu, but we ordered them anyways cuz they are fantastic!  The meat practically melts in your mouth, filling it with a rich fatty, smokey, sweet and tomato chicken wings goodness. My boyfriend said it tasted like smoked ribs, but in wing form!  Its served with lemon salt and chili ketchup which we largely ignored.

The Traditional Poutine again isn't on the tasting menu, but we loved the soft Kennebec fries, and the rich indulgent sweet onion gravy and cheese curds that elevated this poutine.  Its not as indulgent as Charcut's duck fat fried truffle gravy poutine but its still a pretty damn good poutine.  Next time we'll have to try the lobster poutine version.

The Seared Pacific Scallops were seared beautifully in butter and served with charred leeks and a trace of vanilla oil.  Was sad each dish only came with 3 scallops

The Lobster Mac n’ Cheese was enjoyed by all - Lobster. Mac n'Cheese... what isn't there to love? A rich lobster cream envelopes al pente macaroni, sweet edamame beans, a few small lobster pieces and is topped with a dusting of crisp panko.  People dug into it before we had a chance to snap this pic...

I loved the Rustic Flatbread topped with goat cheese, honey, walnut and sour cream.  The crisp flatbread, warm mild goat cheese, earthy crunch of walnuts, creaminess of sour cream and just a hint of honey was a total winner!

The salty savory Hearty Flatbread with prosciutto, a soft runny fried egg and plenty swiss cheese was also a hit, though I found it to be a touch on the salty side.  You really can't go wrong with prosciutto, ooey gooey cheese and a runny egg yolk that acts as a wonderful dipping sauce.

the ENTREEs
The Whole Roasted Chicken is flattened and roasted in a cast iron pan inside the Josper oven.. so its essentially cooked over glowing hot coals.  Its served  with baby potatos, and a medley of vegetables that cook inside the same pan as the chicken, getting basted with flavor as it cooks.  The chicken was delectably moist, as I suspect they thoroughly brined the chicken prior to popping it into the oven, and was quickly devoured by all.  We asked twice for serving cutlery, but ended up squishing/tearing/pulling the chicken apart with the serving spoons from our appetizer dishes

The Tomahawk Rib-Eye was paraded out for us whole - clever as you get the visceral satisfaction of seeing this 48oz steak, and it gives the steak a bit of time to rest properly.  Interestingly, I was surprised the rib eye bone still had meat and fat on it as the bone is typically "frenched" and completely bare of well, meat and fat for presentation.  More for those that like to nibble/gnaw on the bone afterwards.

 I was also a bit surprised at the size.  No, I wasn't in awe of the size, rather, I was surprised it looked so small - I've seen and had tomahawk steaks south of the border, and perhaps its just the American portion sizes or how the rib was trimmed, but in comparison, this 48oz bone in rib eye looked much smaller than expected. I'm sure we'll see larger tomahawk rib eye steaks in more and more steakhouses in Canada in the future... especially in Alberta where we produce and love eating our amazing beef!


A little while later, the Tomahawk Rib-Eye was trotted out again, this time with the meat carved and sliced into sharable sizes.  Simply seasoned with salt and pepper, it was grilled to a medium rare.  Its an experience for sure, though a bit on the pricey side for something that usually serves as an entree for two.. or one if they love beef, keeping in mind the 48oz includes the weight of the rib bone.

The rib eye was served with a grilled lemon, sauteed mushrooms, a tasty head of grilled romaine and a bowl of salsa with crunchy roasted nuts..

the SIDEs
The ribeye and chicken were also brought out with a bunch of sides. The French Green Beans with garlic and sesame sauce were tasty, if a bit on the greasy side

The Potato Tic Tacs disappeared like magic and enjoyed by all as they were little orbs of mashed potato with a deep fried crust and you just drown it in an Asiago cheese sauce and aioli. Nom!

The Roasted Cauliflower with curry oil, super tart (pickled?) green apple slivers and sultan raisins while tasty, seemed like an odd side dish out - as the flavors came out of left field and was quite different from the rest of the dishes that worked better as a cohesive whole.  Still, the roasted cauliflower was tasty, though they may want to revisit different spices so that this dish won't seem like the wall flower amongst the others.

The Beets and Balsamic side dish had some feta crumbles, crunchy pumpkin seeds and a hint of mint.  This was hit and miss depending on who you asked around the table.  Some loved the sweet (roasted?) beets with the balsamic, while others found it coyingly sweet without enough salty feta to balance it out.

The Mashed Pomme or mashed potatos were pretty straight forward - just smooth mashed potatoes with black pepper and a trace of butter.  Wish they added some garlic or more butter as it was pretty run of the mill.

We enjoyed the Broccolini with smoked cheddar and mascarpone cheese.  The gentle bit of smokiness worked well with the slight sweetness of the melty soft mascarpone cheese.

the DESSERTS and COFFEE, or lack there of...
We were just about to order some more bottles of wine, and place orders for desserts and coffee, when a waitress came in and informed us it was just after 8pm, and the next table had arrived. When we had first made the reservation, they had called us back to let us know there was a sitting at 8pm after our 6pm sitting, but reassured the kitchen would be able to cook and serve our meal in time despite our large group - we even let the chefs dictate what they wanted us to eat by choosing the Chef's menu!  We were offered seats at the bar if we wanted dessert (empty offer as the bar was full - the beauty of having a glassed in room that has a full view of the restaurant).  She was polite, but it was clear she wanted us out... and as restaurants are a business and we understood turnover is important, we cut the festivities short, asked for the bill and cleared out quickly to have coffee, vino, dessert and continue the party at another venue.  Was a shame we weren't able to relax at the end of the meal with a few more drinks and try their desserts - but that's their loss.

the VERDICT
Overall, a tasty experience of foods cooked over coals - the Josper oven imparts a charcoal smokiness you can only achieve with cooking over hot coals.  Would request the later seating if you plan to go as a big group and want to have time to try their desserts and sit back and chat with drinks, as the kitchen isn't up to speed to encompass appetizers, entrees and desserts in under 2 hours for large groups.

Briggs Kitchen and Bar Calgary, AB
Address 317 10 Ave Southwest, CalgaryAB T2R0A5
Phone (587) 350-5015
Hours open daily for lunch and supper
Briggs Kitchen and Bar on Urbanspoon 
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