I recently had the pleasure to dine at Divino Wine & Cheese Bistro in the heart of Calgary on a unusually steamy evening. And in today’s article, I will share with you my impressions on this top spot that brings a piece of New York in Calgary.
On this particular night I was dining with two of my best friends, Laura and Jane, whom I haven’t seen in a while unfortunately. Needless to say, having two beautiful and intelligent women as companions for dinner was not a bad way to spend the evening and made the entire experience even more interesting and fun.
After arriving and greeting Laura, I took a quick tour of the dining room. Apparently the bathrooms are hard to find, that or I looked lost, because I was offered help by over half of the staff on how to find the facilities. After explaining to them I was just checking out the space, they smiled and nodded in a manner that showed pride in where they work – and with the space they’re working in, they should feel proud to work there.
After rejoining Laura and Jane at our table, we decided to act grown-up and responsible, so we went about deciding on our drinks and appetizers. I went with a dirty gin martini to start things off. A martini is a simple, but telling drink, and the bartenders passed this test brilliantly.
On to the food.
We ordered three appetizers to get started. The foie gras ravioli immediately caught both Jane and my eyes, and it ended up being Jane’s favorite dish out of the appetizers. I enjoyed the ravioli, but my favorite was the recommendation which Laura had made: tempura haricot vert. The tempura fried green beans presented like fries with a perfect mustard dipping sauce were something I would go back for on their own.
The final dish for our appetizers was the buffalo tartar. One of my favorite dishes from my personal favorite restaurant was their buffalo tartar, and so I was curious to see what Divino could do. This dish was made with great meat, and was raised by CRMR specifically for their restaurants. After trying both of the buffalo creations I would say that the vertical integration of raising their own meat is a huge success.
By the time we were ready to order our dinner I had finished the martini, and was ready to move on to Divino’s specialty drink: wine. There is an extensive list of wine by the glass at Divino, and each server is knowledgeable with the list and ready to help you make the best decision for your meal and mood. The attention to detail – such as specific wine glasses for each type of grape – is noticeable, and is one of those fine touches which makes a difference.
When we were deciding on a main, I found that the menu had a great selection of unique dishes. There was only one play on each type of meat or pasta, but there was a large selection of options to choose from. I normally like small menus, but this one had the best of both worlds; the variety of a large menu, but the precision in each dish of a small one.
I ended up going with the rack of lamb, which was a special that evening. Jane had the rouge duck breast, and Laura had the lamb sirloin. I was lucky enough to be dining with people not squeamish about sharing, so I had the chance to try a bit of each.
Laura’s lamb was cooked to medium rare perfection and plated in an artistic and colorful way. The food matched the plating. The lamb was tender and flavorful, with the surrounding sauces and veggies complementing the natural flavor of the meat.
Jane’s duck was a winning dish through and through. I love ordering duck when I go out, and this was one of the best versions of it I’ve tried. A forkful of gingered spaghetti squash with succulent duck breast covered in jus framboise was incredible. The sweetness of the au jus, crunchiness of the spaghetti squash, and tenderness of the duck were a flavor combination that delighted the taste-buds.
Last, and certainly not least, was my rack of lamb special. The lamb was plated with the racks interweaving over a pile of peas, beans, and potatoes with a large helping of tzatziki sauce underneath it all. I didn’t know how tzatziki would go with rack of lamb, which was part of the reason I was intrigued to order this dish. Needless to say, the chefs at Divino knew what they were doing when they put this dish together. Each bite got better and better as I became accustomed to the rare combination of the dilly freshness of the tzatziki with the hearty flavor of the lamb. What the tzatziki was able to do was make a traditional fall/winter dish into a great summer meal.
As if all of the above food and beverage wasn’t enough, we bravely moved on to the dessert course. (I know, martyrs really.)
Being a chocolate friend I naturally ordered the salted toffee chocolate pudding with cherry compote and vanilla bean ice cream. If all of that sounds delicious to you, you’d be right. Chocolate oozing out of chocolate toffee pudding wins every time. This of course was the first time I’ve tried this, but it still wins every time.
My friends went a bit lighter and ordered the homemade ice cream trio, and all I can say is that if you’re craving high quality ice cream, Divino has that covered.
From top to bottom my experience at Divino was fantastic. I think the only thing that I found annoying was that the only distinguishing factor between the men’s and the women’s washrooms was the door handle. I found this confusing, and didn’t think the vagueness was necessary. Considering my only complaint was the lack of signage on a washroom, I think you can safely say that Divino is a top quality dining experience and a highly deserved member of Calgary’s Best Restaurants.
Details about the place
113 8 Ave SW
Monday to Friday – 11:00 am to 10:00 pm
Saturday – 5:00 pm to 11:00 pm
Sunday – Closed
Please note: The featured photo at the top is just a generic photo because I did the unacceptable and absolutely forgot to take photos of this awesome place. This is what happens when real life takes over and great company, as well as amazing food, make you forget about technology and encourage you to just enjoy the moment.