Restaurant Review: Cucina Market Bistro

>> Thursday, November 8, 2012

With the cold chilly weather outside, there is nothing I want more than to curl up on a warm comfy couch with a hot drink or a heart warming meal. Unless it’s a work day and you’re stuck..literally, either on the road or in the office because Deerfoot Trail is a parking lot. Why not aim to both avoid traffic and fill your stomach with a comforting meal, especially at the brand new Cucina Restaurant located right in downtown Calgary on Stephen Avenue.

Atmosphere: Eliciting the feeling of stepping in to an Italian kitchen on the Tuscan countryside, with antique styled tableware and seating it evokes the feeling of truly visiting somebody’s friendly home.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $30+

Food and Wine: After scanning the menu, I knew fairly quickly what I wanted to try. I love offal, any type of it. So our starters contained just that, beginning with the Chicken Liver Parfait served with a wonderful sour cherry balsamic cipollini jam (aka onion jam) and crunchy ciabatta crostini. The parfait itself was heavenly! Extremely light and mousse like in texture. I really enjoyed eating a bite of it without the jam and then another bite with the jam to contrast the flavours and almost reset my palate. Each bite ended up being sweet, unctuous, crunchy perfection. Note - you’ll probably want to ask for more crostini because there is more than enough liver parfait to go around.

The Beef Heart Tartare dish came with amazing homemade chips (I could eat a bag of these). First looking at the tartare you’ll see the chunkiness of it with bits of capers and pickles throughout and all blended together with creamy egg yolk and mustard. The consistency of the tartare it unlike what you’d expect due to the texture of the heart muscle, but that’s to be expected since its not made with regular beef. I enjoyed that it was different. However our table did find the mustard to be a bit overwhelming, which might be due to the garnish around the plate.

Since Cucina’s menu is market fresh, a lot of their dishes change on a daily basis. This was the case for both of the mains that we chose. The first being the Halibut Cheeks, slightly seared accompanied by broccolini, tomatoes and a velvety smooth cauliflower puree. The fish was very lightly seasoned to allow the flavours of the halibut shine through, but I found my favourite item on the plate to be the amazing cauliflower puree.

The featured Risotto that evening was a vegetarian dish made with Peppernada, which are roasted bell peppers, along with mascarpone. It was rich and creamy, full of cheesy mascarpone flavor. There was a good sized portion of the risotto, perfect for sharing amongst several people, especially since it felt like true comfort food while remaining refined and decadent.

We couldn’t leave without trying the dessert and stayed with the classics. The Tiramisu, said to be made with a traditional family recipe, was served in a charming martini glass. You definitely get all the characteristics of a time-honored tiramisu starting with the creamy mascarpone topping down to the coffee liqueur soaked cake. We all really enjoyed it! But we didn’t stop there, also ordering the Warm Apple Thyme Tart made with sweet and sour granny apples layered over a flaky buttery crust and served with cinnamon Chantilly cream. It was nice having the cream for that additional burst of flavour but ice cream would have definitely benefitted the tart even more. I can just imagine the cold ice cream slowly melting over top the warm tart, providing almost a sauce and that extra bit of sweetness. We tried ordering the daily gelato flavour to accompany it, but figured blood orange probably wouldn’t do the trick. Next time!

Keeping it light that evening I decided to have some of the Nino Franco Rustico Prosecco di Valdobiane from Veneto, Italy. I’ve always found Prosecco a great go to, if you’re not in the mood for wine. The bubbles along with the slight tang sip after sip is a great companion to a meal. This selection was clean and crisp, with hints of citrus and just enough sweetness as not to overwhelm the meal. A nice start or end to a meal (to accompany dessert..mmm).

My Picks: Chicken Liver Parfait, Risotto 

Overall: Hopefully enjoying a great meal at Cucina not only lowered your level of traffic stress after work (maybe you need another prosecco…) but allowed you to feel transported away from all the snow and in to a warm cozy kitchen on the Italian countryside. It’s always nice to see a restaurant using the traditional methods to create truly wonderful classical dishes, especially using market fresh ingredients! There really isn't anything else that’s more gratifying.

515 8th Avenue SW
Calgary, AB
(587) 353-6565

Cucina on Urbanspoon


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