“Hell with it,” we thought last Thursday evening, “why not try some place new?”
So, the next day, we did.
E11even, not far from our place, is a newish restaurant that I keep forgetting about. It’s next to the Air Canada Centre, under the new Le Germain hotel and near Aria, but it never found its way on to my to-go list. But then I read Bruce Wallner’s review on Winefox, and it was still fresh in my head that evening when we booked in.
As soon as we walked in we could see there was a lot to like: the decor is great, the ceiling is a dark-stained wood which makes the whole room seem warm, and the bar at the front of the room looked pretty inviting. We also had a lot of fun playing with the iPad-based drinks list. I wanted one for home; my Google Spreadsheet wine inventory seems rather mundane now.
Our food was really terrific. Hot, tasty bread with herbed butter will never go uneaten at my table. Nellie had the crab cake starter, which we both found tasty…and I don’t even like crab cake. My prosciutto and buffalo mozzarella starter was great, but HUGE…I think it was meant for more than one person. We both ordered steaks from the grill: Nellie the petit filet and I the dry aged ribeye, both medium rare. I think they caught one corner of mine a little more than they meant to (it was medium to medium-well) but most of it was very tasty indeed. We did admit, though, that after having the Wagyu and Jacobs & Co a few weeks ago all other steaks seem to pale in comparison.
If we had one big complaint about the place it was the timing. We’d ordered a glass of wine (Carmenère for me, Prosecco for her) when we sat down, just while we settled in and perused the menu. Our starters (and accompaning glasses of wine) came out almost immediately after we ordered them, while we still had more than half our original drinks left. It’s hard to fault the kitchen for being speedy, but it made for a bit of glass-juggling. Speaking of wine, we’d asked the sommelier to suggest pairings for our starters (which he did: a Chablis for Nellie, a Pinot for me) and to pick a bottle of red to match our mains. He said he’d be back with options for the bottle of red. But we waited, and ate our starters, and waited again, and were still waiting when our steaks hit the table. No sign of our friend the sommelier. When our server returned he noticed the lack of red wine and flagged down the sommelier; who returned a few minutes later. The bottle he brought us — a 2009 Charles Melton Nine Popes GSM — wasn’t bad, but a) it hadn’t had any time to breathe and still tasted tight, and b) it was marginally over the upper limit of the price point I’d given him. It certainly seemed to us that he’d just forgotten about us and grabbed something quickly under pressure. So…not a huge deal, but when we’re spending over $100 on a bottle because we want it to match our food nicely, we were kind of expecting a little more care.
I mentioned our server, Shane — he really did save the evening. He was helpful, attentive, funny and apologetic when he noticed the sommelier’s oversight. Moreover, he quickly appeared with a decanter so our wine could open up faster. He gave us whisky suggestions at the end of the evening, which somehow led to discussions about Cape Breton and PEI and Alberta and how much better Calgary’s mayor is than ours.
So, not a great outing, but there was enough good there that it probably warrants another try. Maybe we’ll just sit at the bar. Or if we do have a full dinner, I’ll probably do something I’ve never done before, and ask to sit in a particular server’s section. You should too if you try it.