>> Monday, May 9, 2011
It’s really nice seeing the weather start to warm up outside and that it’s starting to rain instead of the “s” word. Almost makes me hopeful for camping weather in the next couple of weeks, possibly May long? Crossing my fingers! I’m always anxious to get out to the mountains for that first hike of the season or figuring out where we should go camping.
Many tourists fly half way around the world to experience the mountains that are our backyard, so I really hope the weather cooperates so we can all enjoy what is so close to our homes. Plus, while you’re there why not check out a few places for good eats, one being the Maple Leaf Grille located in Banff.
Atmosphere: A two tier restaurant and bar, with the elegant and woodsy dining area overseeing the lower more casual lounge below.
Price: Mid $10s - $40+
Food and Wine: Initially we were headed to Canmore for dinner after coming back from the mountains, but our rumbling stomachs couldn’t wait that long. A few searches on the internet and we found ourselves being seated at the Maple Leaf Grille. Not long after we were given the wine and food menu. Since we were all ravenous at the time, it didn’t take us long to decide what to order.
We started with Tier 1 of the Seafood Tower, which included mussels, prawns, scallops, smoked salmon, grilled squid and raw oysters. The seafood was all very fresh considering we’re talking about Alberta and not necessarily the closest area to a body of water. Everything but the oysters and salmon were cooked together in an amazingly light tomato sauce that brought out all the succulent flavours of the seafood. It was great scooping up the sauce with the mussels, would have been better if we had some bread to dip in as well. In addition to lemon I enjoy my oysters with lots of tobasco and I recommend it if you’ve never tried it a little extra spicy. A mignonette would have been a nice addition to the oysters as well.
For our entrees, both my husband and I decided to go with the ‘turf’ route to round out our meal. I ordered the Quebec Brome Lake Duck, which came with roasted asparagus, a wild mushroom risotto croquette, and topped with sasktoon berries. I thought I was used to seeing different restaurant servings, but I was wrong. I was surprised at how large this entrée was. The dish came with both duck breasts and a duck leg, they weren’t kidding when they wrote ‘duck’ on the menu. Since I don’t often get both the breast and leg in a dish, I managed to eat everything. I found the breast to be more tender and flavourful, which is a shocker coming from me, since I am a dark meat person through and through. The leg of the duck, even though it was served with the skin on, was a bit on the dry side and seemed a little overcooked. I wasn’t a huge fan of the accompaniments since the dark was obviously the star of this dish. The Saskatoon berries were a nice touch, giving the dish a bit of sweetness.
My husband decided on the Chef’s special of the day, which was a 7 oz Bison Tenderloin wrapped in Pork Belly with creamy mashed potatoes and roots vegetables. The tenderloin was juicy and cooked to a perfect medium rare. The pork belly gave the steak a perfect touch of salt and brought out the sweetness of the bison. I was amazed that the bison wasn’t dry since it’s a leaner meat, but I definitely wouldn’t order it anymore further than a medium rare. I really enjoyed the mashed potatoes and kept picking it off of his plate. It was fluffy yet creamy without being heavy, which could occur when too much butter is added to the mashed potatoes.
Our companions ordered the King Crab and the Braised Lamb Shank. I didn’t taste either of the dishes but the lamb smelled very gamey (I could smell it across the table) and my friend agreed that it definitely was more so then what she’s use to.
For dessert we ordered their famous Hot Chocolate Souffle, where they serve it at a piping hot 400 degrees with a nice side scoop of vanilla ice cream. You can never go wrong with hot melty oozy chocolate with cold ice cream. There is a bit of a wait due to the cooking of the soufflé but there is nothing I would change about the way it’s served, nice and hot straight from the kitchen. Our friends decided on the Tiramisu and said that it wasn’t passable, but would have ordered the soufflé if they had a chance at a redo.
As for the wine list, it read like a novel including a table of contents. We ended up with a Chianti, but with over 600 bottles of wine in their cellar I’m sure there will be something for everyone including the wine connoisseurs. Their wine list is updated every couple of weeks, so please contact them directly for a better listing of their wines.
My Picks: Seafood Tower, Chocolate Souffle
Overall: There is nothing better then heading out to enjoy the mountains aside from great weather and of course, great food. So if you’re ever in the Banff area, I highly recommend that you check out Maple Leaf Grille, if not for the delicious food or hot chocolate soufflé, then at least have a peek at their amazing wine list. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.
Maple Leaf Grille & Lounge
137 Banff Avenue