Restaurant Review: Xocolat

>> Friday, May 17, 2013

Earlier this year I’ve started to take Spanish lessons and it’s been quite a blast. People have told me that learning Spanish is easier when you know French, but unfortunately for me, I stopped French classes after Grade 7 and that was a loooong time ago. What I have found is that knowing Mandarin and the pin yin system has actually helped because the pronunciation of the alphabet in Spanish is quite similar to pin yin. Who knew right? So it was quite interesting to find myself speaking Spanish at the new Mexican restaurant, Xocolat, where the waiter was very a great sounding board for my elementary Spanish.

Atmosphere: Elegant and posh interior highlighted by splashes of fushia to create an avant garde dining environment.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $30+

Food and Wine: I was extremely excited to try Xocolat ever since the attending their opening event. It’s nice to see a Mexican restaurant go beyond your typical burrito and highlight dishes that are more local and authentic. After being greeted by the owners (they try to stop by every table), he also suggested we try several of their popular dishes and so we did!

Starting with the Trio de Mariscos appetizer, there were three types of seafood which is cooked by using citrus, like a ceviche. The shrimp was served with a cucumber gelee formed using molecular gastronomy, the octopus was paired with a cilantro salsa and the scallop topped with pineapple. My favorite was the shrimp, it was sweet and the cucumber gelee added an interesting texture. Since Calgary is land locked, the seafood can just never quite compare to cities by the sea and unfortunately I think that really took away from the flavours in this appetizer, which had an interesting concept.

I was really excited about my entrée, the Mole de olla. It’s a braised short rib served with a pretty (the color just pops) carrot puree, guajillo sauce (chili peppers) and veggies. The short rib was extremely tender and had lots of flavour. I really enjoyed the creamy smooth carrot puree, adding just the right amount of sweetness to contrast the guajillo sauce which wasn’t spicy but more provided umami to the dish.

The hubby ordered the Puero Pibil, which had pork two ways, a pork belly and pork shoulder served over a black bean puree and garnished with a bit of green onion. The pork belly didn’t have the typical sear we expected but was served more in a braised form. It’s different but in this case it worked because the braised pork shoulder ended up being a bit on the drier side. So a bit of the belly and shoulder together balanced things out.

For dessert we decided to go with a decadent one, Churros with chocolate and a refreshing one, the Tequila mousse. The tequila dessert is quite a sight. The outer shell is formed using molecular gastronomy, which is filled with a light tequila mousse. You’re meant to break the shell and mix it in with the mousse to get a combination of flavours and textures making for a very interesting mix. As for the churros, they’re not quite the traditional churros but a bit doughier, which I enjoyed. They come with a silky chocolate sauce on the side so you can choose to dip your churros or not, but who doesn’t!

We decided on the La Crema Pinot Noir that evening, which is one of my favorite pinots. It’s light but still has a rich, smooth finish. The owner mentioned that it’s a great pairing for Mexican food because it doesn’t overwhelm the flavours nor does it get muted by the robustness of their cuisine. It is also a great wine just for sipping, if you weren’t enjoying it with a meal.

My Pick: Mole de Olla

Overall: It’s really nice to see a Mexican restaurant serving true Mexican food, yet it’s not so traditional that you’re just expecting plain mole on a plate. They’re changing things up with molecular gastronomy and different flavour combinations, using a bit of the old and a bit of the new to create dishes that are unique and exciting. Combine that with the distinctive dining environment and great cocktails, sounds like a great place for me to go practice my Spanish. Yo necessito practicar espanol!

816 11 Avenue SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 264-6555

Xocolat on Urbanspoon


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