...Q Haute Cuisine (Calgary)

Overall - 9.5/10
Food - 9.5/10
Service - 9.5/10
Ambiance - 9/10
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Nowadays our ability to undertake 2-3 hour dining experiences is severely hindered by our baby. However this past Friday we threw caution to the wind and booked a table at Q Haute Cuisine for their Chef's tasting menu. For those who have never been to Q Haute, the evening dinner service does not have any a la carte options but only a set tasting menu dictated by the seasons and Chef Michele Aurigemma. The meal we received that summer evening ranks among the best meals we have had to date in terms of sheer deliciousness and creativity.

The additional wine pairing by Q Haute's knowledgable and approachable sommelier Josh was out of this world. The selections were quite unique, ranging from wines of the Jura region of France to a delicious digestif made right in Turner Valley, Alberta. Josh's pairings opened our eyes to how much the choice of wine can actually serve to enhance flavours of each dish.

Our trio of amuse bouche's included an olive oil ice cream with black volcanic salt and pistachio crumble, a green egg yolk and pancetta sphere over brioche and a cured trout with hibiscus jelly. The pairing was a refreshing cocktail of Lillet (A French liqueur) infused with melon.
Started dinner with ice cream!
A play on green eggs and ham
The next course was a soup of mushroom and potato served with a chicken stock espuma, made to mimic a cappuccino. The rich and earthy soup paired perfectly with a warm Japanese Bancha tea.
Following the soup, foie gras was encapsulated in a sphere and served with a whole assortment of condiments including olive oil bread, balsamic maple jam and a dark chocolate powder. The foie gras was deliciously subtle but perhaps overwhelmed by the number of different elements on the plate. In particular, the pepper jelly, juniper and peppermint 'glass' seemed not to have much flavour or add to the dish in any way.  However, the presentation was very eye catching and creative.  The wine pairing was an off-dry Riesling from Germany's Mosul region that helped cut through the richness of the foie gras and highlighted the sweet balsamic maple jam at the same time.
The following dish of lightly poached cray fish had even more subtle accompaniments including a citrus barley, cauliflower puree and sea beans which allowed the delicate cray fish to shine. An equally delicate dry chardonnay from France's Jura region accompanied.
The fish course consisted of a sous vide arctic char which was crusted with olives and served over lentil ragout and wild berries. The savoury rosé wine from Spain's Navarra region was an excellent pairing, highlighting the briny olive flavour and tying the dish together.
The next dish was a potato filled ravioli served over a bed of crunchy faro salad and sauced with an intensely flavoured, eye-catching pink tomato foam sprinkled with chive flowers.  Taken together the dish reminded us of an elevated gnocchi with marinara. Our second wine from the Jura region that night was called Arbois and had flavours of apple and aroma cheese rinds.
To transition our palates to the main course we were served a carrot sorbet with brunoise cucumber and a green apple espuma (foam). The Spring Equinox, a unique distilled spirit made from prickly pear cactus in Turner Valley, was served over ice and equally refreshing and palate cleansing.
Our main course was perhaps the most classic dish of the entire menu. It was simply two generous portions of 72-hour braised beef short rib with seasonal vegetables, sweet potato puree and a rich Medeira wine sauce. We thought it was a brilliant idea to keep the main course simple and satisfying.  The Crozes Hermitage Sirah from France had aromas of wood and pine and matched well with the earthiness of the beef.
At this point, we were brought on a mini tour of the building, and shown into the kitchen where we were given two blueberry popsicles made on the anti-griddle and dipped in dark chocolate and coated in pistachio.  This reminded me of the Purdy's chocolate dipped ice cream bars which I am particularly fond of, so this one was a winner (how can it not).  In our excitement we unfortunately did not get photographic evidence.

The final three courses were on the sweet end of the spectrum and started with a Tonka Bean cheesecake served with a blueberry sphere, lemon tuille and an orange-star anise sauce. The Tonka bean imparted a strong vanilla flavour to the cheesecake and was quite delicious. Interestingly in the United States, Tonka Beans are considered illegal by the FDA so we were lucky to have sampled them on this evening. The aromas of vanilla from the Tonka beans paired very well with the fruitiness of the Kiuchi Umeshi dessert wine which is made from distilled white ale and infused with sour plum.
Our dessert was a play on smores and consisted of a rich chocolate cake (stuffed with preserved cherry), topped with a maple marshmallow. As with the main course, we felt it was a great idea to end the meal with familiar and satisfying flavours. The dessert was served with a 15 year old Domaine Pouderoux Maury dessert wine which to us seemed like a smoother version of port.
As if the smore was not enough, we were presented with a trio of petit fours including a pickled grape truffle of mascarpone cheese, a passionfruit sphere with gin-pomegranate caviar and a frozen blood orange bonbon. An espresso cup filled with whisky and espresso vodka capped off the evening perfectly.
As a whole the tasting menu was well worth the three hour time commitment. The Chef clearly has a good grasp of modern cooking techniques in molecular gastronomy, but didn't go overboard and managed to balance contemporary with familiar themes to produce creatively satisfying food.  We left thoroughly impressed by the amazing service and meticulously crafted food.


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