Sunday, January 4, 2009

Christmas Party at Sage


It was that time of the year, the time when we got to go out for a nice dinner on the company's dime! My company party was out at the River Cree Casino's fine dining restaurant Sage. It is a beautiful restaurant, understated and with clean lines, as is the way of fine dining establishments these days. There were a number of Christmas parties being hosted that night, and the staff was extremely accommodating when we explained that the roads were going to result in our party of ten arriving up to an hour later than expected.

The two of us that arrived significantly earlier than the others perused the menu in advance. Another trend that I have seen cropping up these days is for restaurants to have a Table D'Hote menu with a fixed price for an appetizer, main, and dessert. Normally this would have appealed to me seeing as the appetizer choices were a meat dish and a salad, and the mains allowed for choice between fish and beef, but the dessert was rice pudding, which I am not a fan of. At $45 dollars, it did offer value for those that were interested.

The rest of the menu was a bit unusual. At the top is a list of about ten "small plates." The plates are smaller and less expensive than the appetizers (one for $4, three for $10 or six for $18), and the two of us that arrived early shared three of them: the smoked salmon, the daily ceviche, and the hummus and pita. The smoked salmon was divine. Served with crustini and mustard greens (the photo shows one third of the portion), the fish melts in your mouth. Smoked salmon is a personal favorite of mine, but all too often I find it sliced too thick, and slimy with a bit of an unappetizing sheen. Well done smoked salmon is a great treat. The ceviche of the day was scallops in a soy-lime sauce with cilantro and jalapeno. I found it a bit spicy, but I am a wimp when it comes to cilantro and jalapeno. Those that enjoy a bit of spice would have enjoyed the dish, and the scallops were lovely. Finally, the hummus and pita were also delicious. Really, you can get good hummus and pita in a lot of places, but the pita did taste smokey, as if it had been warmed over a flame, which I thought was a nice touch. All in all, these tastes made me very excited for the main meal.

The menu does have soups, salads, and full sized appetizers. The appetizers are very seafood focused, with the exception of the beef tartar. I skipped all three and went for one more small plate, the tuna tartar. It was delicious just like the others. The fish was of excellent quality, and was served with mustard greens and potato chips. The crunch was a perfect contrast to the fish that nearly melted as it hit your tongue.

For the main course, there were four entree choices, otherwise you could order a steak or seafood main, and then order side dishes a la carte. We ordered a number of sides for the entire table to share. Our table was split in ordering seafood and steaks. The seafood eaters raved. One of our party actually said she thought her fish was the best she had ever had in her life. The steak eaters were also pleased, but being from Alberta, there are a number of places where a person can get a very high quality steak for a better price. It is worth noting though that Kobe beef is available should you wish to try it, but it is pricey ($60). I had the scallops, and again, they were wonderful. Cooked perfectly to my taste, with a savory/sweet crust on top, and a slightly raw middle keeping it moist and tender. I would have liked them to have a crust on both sides, but not at the expense of the consistency, which was perfect just as it was. The entree choices were served with steamed veggies such as purple carrots and broccoli, and normal coloured asparagus.

The sides we ordered were the wild mushrooms, which were delicious, the asparagus, which were nicely cooked, the mashed potatoes, which were very smooth and silky, and the truffled french fries, which I didn't find as truffly and special as I had hoped. My favorite though was the truffled mac and cheese. It was smooth and creamy and comforting, but still seemed special. I am not sure what the cheese mixture was that they used, but I will certainly be trying to replicate it in my home kitchen.

After all of that, dessert might seem impossible to most, but we had taken our time, and were out to indulge. I went with the creme brule. It was topped with diced honeydew melon and pomegranate arils, which I thought was a nice use of seasonal items. The creme brule was simply vanilla - my favorite. The top was crunchy, and the custard was lovely and smooth. I could see the speckles of the actual vanilla seeds used for flavor, and was pleased.

Our servers were fantastic, very attentive, but not disruptive of our meal. All in all I would highly recommend Sage as a fine dining location.

Even if you wanted to have a fine dining experience without breaking the bank, you could go for an assortment of small plates and drinks, and then try your luck at the slots with the rest of the cash in your pockets.

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