Apologies if you find my recent focus on Calgary’s 17th Ave S.W. “strip” somewhat tiresome — the temptation to check out the latest additions to the area’s culinary ranks is hard to resist.
And, as the latest concept from Ernie Tsu, the man behind Classic Jack’s and 1410 World Bier Haus, 80th & Ivy comes with built-in 17th Avenue street cred. Walking in, our first impression is positive.
Visiting on a busy Friday night (reservations are recommended), we’re welcomed by our friendly hosts and led through a light and airy lounge into a stylish back dining room and seated at a remarkably comfortable banquette with a great view. The room’s feature walls display a mix of vintage photographs and culinary accoutrements on industrial steel shelves (designed by Amanda Hamilton Interior Design).
We start our evening with cocktails and wine. I go with a glass of Chenin Blanc ($9) and my companion gets an Old-Fashioned ($11). Like most spots popping up these days, 80th & Ivy has a good cocktail and wine list, providing both standard fare and unique concoctions, such as the Old Maid — a mix of Hendrick’s gin, cucumber, mint and lime ($10).
Choosing an appetizer is a bit tricky as there are a lot to choose from (great for large groups who want to try a bit of everything). Selections range from rotisserie chicken sliders to sirloin bites and charcuterie boards.
We decide on the Fairwind Farms cheese bundles ($13), a dish that serves phyllo-wrapped cheese two ways. The first bite we sample is the organic chevre — a fantastic combination of goat cheese and caramelized onion that goes perfectly with the accompanying roast tomato coulis. The second selection is a feta spanakopita made with loads of fresh dill. This pastry pocket pops with vibrant flavour, especially with the pairing of olive tapenade and fresh fennel.
After an unfortunately long wait (our server and the general manager are apologetic) my companion digs into his grilled halibut ($28). We’re disappointed to discover that the fish is overcooked — it’s not terrible, but it’s not exactly succulent either. Thankfully, the creamy dressing of the accompanying Poplar Bluff warm potato salad helps to offset the misstep.
The night’s feature rotisserie, Spring Creek Ranch prime rib ($29) is good. I love the sides of herby, house-made spaetzle and the vegetable ratatouille made with red onion, red pepper, zucchini and eggplant. The medium-rare prime rib is also good, but there’s better out there. I would recommend loading up on small plates.
Rounding out our experience we find ourselves waiting again to order our dessert (80th &Ivy has only been open three weeks, so we’re not especially upset, just ready to be on our way).
We finish with a lovely dish of beignets served with rum raisin ice cream ($8). These little wonders have that delicious mini-doughnut quality and are sweetly complemented by the tasty ice cream.
80th and Ivy is a fun, comfortable spot good for both large groups and intimate dates. Chef Ryan Campeau’s focus on fresh, local ingredients is fantastic and I think in time the food and service will only improve. I look forward to returning once they hit their stride.