|I was a little lost as I drove slowly through the semi-industrial area on Fairmount Drive that Tuesday evening, my eyes peeled for my destination. Once I consulted the map and turned into the parking lot for Cravings Market Restaurant, I wondered how I could have possibly missed it. The bright green sign, earthy rock designs on the building and huge mural on the side covering the brick advertised the restaurant in vibrant colours. Housed in the same building as owners the Great Events Group, is their event catering and rental business. They are best known as the exclusive caterers for Spruce Meadows since 1982.
Vivid mustard walls, concrete floors and exposed piping painted bright blue create a warm, inviting atmosphere at Cravings. From the copper and wooden tables to the wrought iron details and the tiling on the market stalls, all the elements of the décor enhanced the market-bistro style in the 90-seat restaurant.
Once seated, we were given a "shopping list," a card detailing each stop on the market tour. Each area was blank and would soon be filled in with stamps to mark our selections. This would provide a legend of sorts for our bill at the end of the evening. The waitress took our drink order, and we sat chatting for a few minutes before we remembered we actually had to get up and walk around to choose our food.
The market area featured a number of different stalls to stop and peruse the various menu items and even watch the chefs at work. The grill was available for hot entrées and appetizers, the bar for drinks, the café featured desserts and hot beverages, the deli offered up sandwiches, salads and soups, a pizza and pasta bar and a pan-Asian station with mixed bowls.
We started by ordering a hot appetizer from the grill, choosing the salmon bites with coriander ginger ($6.95). It would take a few minutes to prepare, so we wandered past the other stalls and settled on a salad sampler from the deli ($6.95). We chose three of the 10 or so available salads including the Greek village salad, citrus bean sprout and daily chefs feature, which included button mushrooms and tofu in a savoury dressing. The three salads were a little bit bland and with all three in one bowl, they quickly melted into one. The manager stopped by our table to clear away our plates and inquired about the half-eaten salads. We jokingly recommended a bowl with partitions to avoid the blending and she immediately took 30 per cent off the charge of the salad on our shopping list.
The three large salmon bites came on a long modern rectangular dish sitting atop the coriander ginger chutney. The drier texture of the fish mixed nicely with the tangy sauce. They seemed a little more of an upscale dish than the everyday mixed salads we started with.
For the main course, I ordered the Cravings lamb burger ($11.95) from the grill, which came topped with blue cheese aioli and curried onions on a sesame seed bun. I asked for mashed potatoes on the side instead of fries, and they easily accommodated me. The mashed potatoes were divine, and my dinner companion swears they must add cheese to get such a rich taste. She chose the linguine ($11.95) from the pasta bar, in a lemon-lime Alfredo sauce topped with chunks of salmon, tart capers and basil served with two hunks of garlic toast. Both entrées were okay, but not spectacular.
Dessert was a Florentine ($2.95) for my companion, a chocolate-dipped concoction. I enjoyed a piece of creamy New York cheesecake drizzled in raspberry sauce ($4.25). The desserts were fresh and well priced a great cap to the evening. During our evening, a wine tasting group settled into a reserved area with various wines and a special menu to complement the selections. It was quite charming to watch them while we ate.
With so many items and combinations to choose from at Cravings, I would return to either grab quick takeout or try something new. The food could use a little more fine-tuning, but theyve built a great friendly space with an interesting concept that is worth revisiting.
Cravings Market Restaurant is located at 7207 Fairmount Drive S.E.; phone, 252-2083.