|The soft glow of twilight illuminated the sky as a friend and I took in the quaint beauty of Cilantros bustling courtyard patio on a recent Thursday night. This spot has always been a favourite of mine, cozy and comforting in the winter and fresh and vibrant in the summer. Its the perfect place for a date, or a night out with friends. With an enclosed patio space that filters out the din of 17 Avenue S.W., the space beckons you to ignite intimate conversations and enjoy witty repartee.
On this particular occasion, we assigned ourselves the task of only sampling seasonal summer offerings from the menu. Our agenda was established with an order of refreshing white wine sangria. Cilantro mixes up a nice summer cocktail. I also recommend their mojito. It takes a special touch to get it right, and they have it.
Choosing our first course was tough because you really cant go wrong with any of the salads served at Cilantro. The feature for the evening was a Cajun salmon salad with cucumber, roma tomatoes and grilled asparagus on a bed of mixed greens, tossed with a caper-herb dressing ($17). We opted to split the dill mustard baked halibut salad ($17) instead. It was a marvelous choice, bursting with strawberries, tomatoes and bocconcini served on spinach leaves with a flavourful ginger-balsamic dressing. Tinted with pepper and complemented by the Dijon-topped halibut, it was a refreshing foray into the meal, and definitely was more than enough to feed the two of us.
Next up we had the coconut, caper and wasabi sautéed shrimp appetizer, served with grilled rice paper ($15). Another tasty dish, offering a rich, creamy sauce balanced with the crispness of rice paper and the sumptuous shrimp.
Foreshadowing our imminent full tummies, we chose to go with a pizza rather than ordering from the selection of the seasonal entrées, although the feature entrée looked delectable a porcini-crusted veal chop served with wild and basmati rice, leeks and pine nuts in a pineapple Hunan reduction ($36).
The summer pizza beef tenderloin, onions, tomato salsa and cream cheese on a pesto crust ($19) was a slight disappointment. The tenderloin was ground, and the pesto flavour was absent. It was tasty enough, but misleading in its description. If you feel like a taco, this may be your best bet.
Weeks earlier on the patio, I had tried another summer selection that was much better. The Cajun yellowfin tuna sandwich with a honey guajillo chili crust ($18). Combining avocado and habanero cheddar with a hearts of palm aioli, the sandwich was alive with flavour, truly speaking to the spirit of summer dining.
Lingering in conversation, we ordered the warm chocolate molten cake with a coffee anglaise sauce, vanilla bean ice cream and berry compote ($8). It was a soft and sweet end to a warm midsummers meal.
Be sure to take in a night this season at Cilantros inviting courtyard. Lush with trees and crawling greenery, it is a perfect getaway right in your own backyard, and never fails to satisfy.
Cilantro is located at 338-17 Avenue S.W.; phone, 229-1177.