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Having a hard time choosing a restaurant to impress your date? Let me introduce to Calgary’s best kept secret – The Highwood.
Located on SAIT main campus, The Highwood is known for its exceptional food and outstanding service. For an exceptional value, you can enjoy a delicious meal prepared by students from SAIT’s hospitality and culinary programs, under the guidance of renowned chefs and service instructors. Whether you choose to drop by for lunch (Monday to Friday, prices vary) or dinner (Monday to Thursday, five-course set menu at $48 pp), both require reservations.
I first heard about this award-winning restaurant and live classroom 2 years ago when Kev and I just moved to Calgary, but nothing really motivated me to check it out. Until now. After our dinner that evening, the only thing I regret is not coming here earlier. After reading this post, I’m sure you would want to quickly snatch a table online and go experience it yourself! Before then, let me tell you about our evening.
The restaurant is on the 2nd floor of the John Ware Building, with a waiting area that is opulently filled with leather sofa and framed awards.
Low-level mood lighting, carpeted flooring and formal table setting continue the regal appearance. All of us dressed formally for a fabulous evening of culinary delights!
I started off the evening with a glass of gin-based cocktail, the Singapore sling ($6), while Kev enjoyed his featured mocktail ($3) that was mixed with lime and cranberry juice.
As we sipping our drinks, the server walked us through the dinner menu and introduced the daily features. With so many delicious options, it gave us a hard time to decide what to settle on. Luckily, there were enough of us to order almost everything on the menu 🙂
For appetizers, I opted for the octopus garden which was prepared with mussel, clam, green papaya, albacore tuna tartare, and tomato foam. My palate was filled with delicate ocean flavor and a very clean, briny finish. Each ingredients presented a different texture, from the ooey- gooey tartare, crunchy green papaya to chewy octopus.
Kev had the deconstructed french onion soup. A deconstructed dish takes the components of a dish apart, change their forms, and then match them back together in a new way. Instead of serving in a bowl, the “french onion soup” was presented on a charcuterie board with beef broth in gelatin form, gruyere cheese and slices of onion. A unique, exciting way to enjoy the classic!
Our friend’s duck croquette came in a rather small portion with slices of duck breast, poached rhubarb and buttermilk fluid gel.
If you order the raw carte, the dish will be prepared fresh from a remote food station in front of you. Mixing together raw scallops, salmon, greens and special dressing, the appetizer plate was assembled in no time!
Next up was the soup! While browsing the menu, the mushroom “pho” instantly caught my attention. In contrast to the traditional pho, the restaurant brought modern ingenuity to the fabled Vietnamese noodle and meat soup. It was even presented in an interesting way. The server brought a dry bowl of rice paper and mix mushrooms to the table. Then, poured out warm beef broth from a kettle.
The dark brown broth was deeply flavorful with a bit of a peppery kick.
For those who prefer something more intense, the thai coconut curry will thrill your taste buds with fragrant curry spices and creamy coconut milk.
It’s time for some salads! Serving together with a bed of watercress, grilled plum and yuzu vinaigrette, the miso braised pork was disappointingly dry and bland. We could barely taste the miso flavor.
The beet salad was surprisingly much better tasting. Usually, I try to avoid beets for its distinctive earthy taste. But the beets here released a fruity sweet flavor into my mouth! It complemented extremely well with the crushed hazelnut and horseradish sauce.
While we were waiting for the main course, we saw a remote liquor station. By ordering a flaming drink, we enjoyed a live, elaborate presentation while at the same time, giving the student server a chance to practice making the drink (which calls for half ounce of kahlua, half ounce of brandy, coffee and Irish cream).
Our main course had finally arrived! Served with mushroom, crepinette, seasonal vegetables and madeira jus, my medium rare Alberta beef striploin turned out beautifully juicy with excellent flavor. However, those of us who ordered the dish agreed that it didn’t really give us a “wow” moment.
The medium rare lamb rack, on the other hand, was absolutely amazing with its herby aroma and mouth-pleasing velvety texture.
For desserts, the server directed us to the lovely dessert bar with was loaded with a wide array of sweet temptations. I didn’t get to try everything but my favorite was the creme brulee 🙂
We also ordered the cherry jubilee from a dessert station. With the guidance of the instructor, the student gave us a live demonstration of how to make this refreshing dessert 🙂
We all had a fabulous evening at The Highwood. The students’ passion for excellence was reflected in the exceptional food and quality service. All the staff demonstrated professionalism even though some of them prepared the dishes for the very first time. It was a superb gastronomic experience for us and a great learning opportunity for the students!