I recently had the pleasure to dine at Divino Wine & Cheese Bistro in the heart of Calgary on a unusually steamy July eve.
On this particular night I was dining with Lauren Webb, Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts‘ marketing manager, and Jolene Stillinger, a new media marketer and web entrepreneur. Needless to say, having two beautiful and intelligent women as companions for dinner was not a bad way to spend the evening.
After arriving and greeting Lauren, 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 Lauren and Jolene at our table, 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 Jolene and my eyes, and it ended up being Jolene’s favourite dish out of the appetizers. I enjoyed the ravioli, but my favourite was the recommendation which Lauren 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 favourite dishes from my trip to CRMR’s Bar C was their buffalo tartar, and so I was curious to see what Divino could do. This dish was made with the same meat as Bar C’s, 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. The Bar C version is still my favourite, but Divino’s was not far off.
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. Jolene had the rougie duck breast, and Lauren 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.
Lauren’s lamb was cooked to medium rare perfection and plated in an artistic and colourful way. It was so beautiful that Lauren, the marketing manager for the restaurant, had to take a photo of it before digging in. The food matched the plating. The lamb was tender and flavourful, with the surrounding sauces and veggies complementing the natural flavour of the meat.
Jolene’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 spagetthi squash, and tenderness of the duck were a flavour 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 flavour 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 fiend 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.
Lauren, had the homemade ice cream trio, with the root beer ice cream substituting one of the other options. The root beer ice cream has quite a name for itself around Divino, with the server complimenting Lauren on her choice of substitution. 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.
Location:113 8 Ave SW Calgary, Alberta
Monday to Friday
11:00 am to 10:00 pm
5:00 pm to 11:00 pm