Chef's Studio Japan (Canmore): Tabemashou! (Let's Eat!)
Known by word-of-mouth to have the best sushi in the Bow Valley, we finally managed to make the trip to Canmore to see if this was indeed true.
The restaurant is located in an off-the-beaten location near the main drag, the front entrance facing a public parking lot. The interior is done up in rich brown walls with pine tables and funky wrought-iron chairs. Food is presented artfully and beautifully in the spare, modern style the Japanese are famous for. We noticed an order of sushi carted by on a length of cedar, with a branch of bright green leaves, just burst from their buds, placed just so. Other dishes are arranged on ceramics plates and raku that is made especially for the restaurant. The sushi chefs were female, which is a rarity, and it's the first time I have ever seen a female sushi chef at work behind the counter.
Be aware that many of the wait staff are Japanese and don't speak English well, so you have to speak slowly and use simple words. However, they are always smiling and the service is fast and pleasant. If you need any in-depth info, it's best to talk to the manager, who speaks English quite well.
Their menu is quite small, but whatever is listed is done impeccably. The food here is incredible.
Favorite Dish: You MUST order one of their specialties, the delicious Soft Shell Crab Tempura. Our medium sized crab arrived in a small basket on a slate tile, accompanied by shaved daikon radish and salt in a length of bamboo. The crab was cooked just until done, and I could still taste the salty brine of the sea in each tender morsel.
The sushi is indeed the best in the Bow Valley. I have never tasted sushi this good in Calgary or even Vancouver. They serve Tataki style sushi (where the fish is briefly seared, but raw in the middle) and the nigiri they make literally melts in your mouth, it is so fresh. The Toro (tuna belly) is a total must-try, buttery and delectable. The special Unagi (barbequed eel) roll is a must-try as well -- rice and seaweed rolled around deep-fried rice vermicelli, and topped with sweet-salty eel. Heavenly.
My husband also had the teriyaki AAA beef, and I had the house-made tofu teriyaki. You have to order rice separately, and both dishes come with sauteed veggies on red-hot cast iron plates. The beef teriyaki was full of flavor and came with spicy sauce (by request) and the tofu was as tender and delicate as scrambled eggs.
Fuze Finer Dining
Fuze is the new culinary darling in the Bow Valley, so we decided to give it a try one night. The room is very modern, but warm and inviting, with leather being the main theme. No, I'm not talking biker bar, but it seems everything was covered with leather, down to the table, I kid you not. A leather tablecloth was on each table (or it's naugahyde, I didn't ask).
The hostess we dealt with was a bit sniffy, but I don't know if it was from being bored (the dining room was yawningly empty) or from viewing us in our improvised layered outdoor apparel due to the cold, rainy snap that hit Banff suddenly that day. Our waiter did an excellent job and was very knowledgeable.
Favorite Dish: To tell you the truth, the empty restaurant did not really build a whole lot of confidence in Fuze, but our waiter was quick to reassure us that their busy season is more into the off-season. It seems that's when the gourmands hit Banff (usually in town for a conference), as the average tourist usually is not interested in their menu.
The fantastically prepared food really did quell our fears about the empty room. My husband had the Elk Loin with a Juniper Crust and Dauphinoise Potatoes; the elk was cooked perfectly, though the slightly gamey taste may be off-putting to people. I enjoy lamb, but I personally found the taste of the Elk not to my liking. I settled for the Wild King Salmon in a Thai Red Curry sauce that was sublime. We shared a Flourless Chocolate Cake (apparently the chef's specialty, whose wife begged for him to put it on the menu) with Toasted Almond Gelato. The gelato was the star, the taste of toasted almonds coming alive in your mouth.
We would definitely return to Fuze, and hopefully when the dining room is a little bit busier, as this would truly add to the overall ambience.
Eden: A Paradise for Serious Foodies
This restaurant is for foodies.... and foodies who have lots of cash. The Eden dining room at the Banff Rimrock Resort is for very special occaisions, or for a good splurge. Their menu is a prix fixe tasting menu of three, four, or five courses. We were there for my birthday, and for the November special, where they try out new dishes, so the tasting menu is HALF PRICE in November. A considerable deal, as the three course tasting menu usually runs $125 pp ; in November, a five-course tasting menu is $59.00 pp, plus you can add on additional courses. The restaurant has a very elegant, modern atmosphere.
The service at Eden is bordering on perfection, and it should be, considering the prices there. The extremely knowledgeable waitstaff work like a well-oiled machine, and any slight error is fixed promptly and gracefully. For example, they poured the complimentary Evian water for me instead of the San Perrigrino water I had in my glass, and the whole glass was replaced with profuse apologies while I was thinking "oh, well big deal". As soon as I put down my napkin, it was promptly whisked away and replaced with a fresh one.
There is also complimentary valet parking while you dine at Eden, and when you are nearing the end of your meal, the valet is notified and your car is brought to the front door.
Favorite Dish: Each dish was excellent, but what stuck out in my mind was the amuse bouche, a parfait of citrus, cream cheese, and wild salmon tartare in a glass cone dish that was held by a glass bowl with a Beta fish swimming around in it. That was so creative I was floored! I still wish I had my camera (yes, VT'ers do go out without their camera sometimes ;o) )
Other delights were a confit of guinea hen combined with crispy guinea hen breast, and a tiny omelette of herbs and swiss chard tied up like a purse. The highlight of the evening besides the salmon parfait, was the seared foie gras with the most delicious blood orange reduction.
The whole experience at Eden can be summed up with one word: Marvelous!!!!
Cheap Eats -- Aardvark Pizza and Subs
This is another tiny place besides Barpa Bill's that serves up good, fast food. The menu is charmingly misspelt, and most people take out as there really isn't anywhere to sit and eat. You can save a few bucks by walking to Keller's grocery (a couple of blocks away) to get your drinks while the pizza is cooking. You usually have to wait about 15-20 minutes if you are ordering one. They also sell by the slice, and have subs, chicken wings, poutine, nachos and donairs. They are open until 4 a.m., which is good for the after-bar crowd.
They also deliver if you don't feel like walking.
Favorite Dish: I've only had the pizza here; the crust is very crisp, and sometimes almost bordering on board-like, which is good, as we've walked over to take out from our hotel and walked back -- no sogginess here. They ingeniously put a small piece of dough in the middle of the pizza, which stops the box lid from crushing the toppings and cheese.
Lake Agnes Teahouse: A nice break while in the mountains
Set along the shore of Lake Agnes and surrounded by mountains, the Teahouse is a great place to stop and rest your weary legs as well as get a bite to eat and something to drink.
Favorite Dish: On our way down from the Little Beehive, we stopped in to get some hot chocolate as well as eat our snacks (which we had brough with us).Related to:
- Food and Dining
- National/State Park
- Mountain Climbing
Maple Leaf Grille and Spirits
The Maple Leaf Grille presents regional food in rustic elegance. The room is decorated in a way so popular in Western Canada right now -- lots of wood and river rock, which provides a soothing atmosphere just off busy Banff Avenue.
The service was quite good -- the bartender was our waiter one quiet afternoon when we stopped by for lunch, and was a very pleasant and efficient server. However, the hostess stood by the door after we were seated and scowled the whole time we were there, shooting dirty looks to the bartender. This was highly entertaining, as we were speculating what had gone on there!
Favorite Dish: The offerings on the menu reflect Canadian ingredients. It also appears that the restaurant serves breakfast on a daily basis with a wide range of eggs benny as well.
I had the fish and chips (as it was Friday) and the halibut was melt-in-your-mouth delicious with an order of well-made yukon gold french fries. However, I felt the serving was quite small for the $13.00 price tag, but, hey, this is Banff. If you do have a big appetite, order the shaved prime rib sandwich, which comes on a whole grain baugette, which my friend could not finish, us being delicate women and all.
Desserts are excellent, and appear to be high quality. The chocolate souffle was outstanding, and my apple torte was topped with yummy homemade vanilla icecream, visibly full of vanilla bean.
Cheap Eats -- Safeway (Supermarket)
Safeway has locations all over North America and is a supermarket. Their deli counters have been updated over the past year, and besides selling the usual cold cuts and salads, now serve pizza by the slice, soup, fried and baked chickens and made-to-order sandwiches. Cold drinks are available for purchase as well.
Favorite Dish: I am really impressed by the quality of food. The fried chicken is half-decent, as well as their potato wedges. I have not tried the rotisserie chicken, though people have told me it tends to be dry. The pizza is fantastic, and you would never know it was purchased from a supermarket. You can also purchase pizzas to bake in your own oven. They are on a special tray that you use, and the crust comes out pizzeria crisp.
The sandwiches are phenomenal, several levels above typical sub sandwiches, as they use their own baked specialty breads and have numerous toppings, meats, and spreads to choose from. You can also choose from their sandwich menu, "The Plymouth Rock" being my favorite -- roast turkey, havarti cheese, cranberry sauce. They don't have a problem substituting toppings in the sandwiches on their menu. You get a HUGE sandwich for $4.99.
Second Cup - Coffee Shop: Second Cup - Coffee Shop
We stopped in at the Second Cup Coffee Shop for a quiet coffee on the day we arrived in Banff.
As far as Coffee shops go, the Second Cup is actually very nice. It has a very relaxed atmosphere, and the menu is not very expensive ......... but perhaps most important - the coffee is lovely!
For anyone wishing a quick relaxing coffee, go to the second cup. Its simple to find. Its on the 1st Floor of the Cascade Plaza, right in the centre of Banff town.
Favorite Dish: We ordered a large coffee and a large Mocha - both were very nice and quite cheap compared to other coffee shops we had visited.
Banff Springs Hotel Buffet
One may not consider having lunch at the Banff Springs Hotel due to consideration for costs. Look again. The hotel serves a buffet lunch ( starts 11:30am) for less than $ 20 /cdn per person. The food is exceptional . Not the typical buffet food.
Take the time out to walk through the hotel
and you will be rewarded. The first problem is to find the buffet dining room
Evelyn's Coffee Bar
The best coffee in Banff. Located on Banff Avenue, this coffee house gets really crowded. However, it's fun for people watching as the tourists parade down Banff Avenue. Service is friendly, fast and efficient, as it's a small shop and they have to accomodate the crowds that descend on this place. They also sell their coffee in refillable portable mugs for that long drive to Jasper or to your next location. Limited seating outside.
Like an old friend, Melissa's is dependable and reliable. It's a no-brainer place to go when you just want simple, good food at decent prices. Melissa's has been a long-time landmark in Banff, and also organizes a Banff marathon each year. You may see locals or Calgarians walking around with their brightly colored and uniquely designed t-shirts that they hand out to participants every year. Melissa's is also kid-friendly. It's a popular place for breakfast as well, and can get very busy.
This restaurant serves lunch and dinner, but this is my favorite place to come for breakfast in Banff. As you can tell by the name, the theme here is southwestern, and portions are big.
The prices here are affordable, and service is fast and friendly. The food here isn't fancy, but it's reasonably priced and good. It's also kid friendly as well.
Favorite Dish: My favorite breakfast is the huevos rancheros; and it's huge! You get red chili sauce, refried black beans and corn tortillas with cheese along with your eggs. This is just as good as the Mexican breakfasts I got in San Diego. You may consider getting the half portion which is more manageable and extremely filling. The breakfast burrito is also a good thing to try as well. If you like very spicy food, you may have to ask them to turn up the heat. They also have conventional breakfasts on the menu as well, which are very good.
Cheap Eats -- Barpa Bill's Souvlaki
Barpa Bill's serves up some of the best souvlaki I've ever tasted, besides the ones I've had in Greece.
You can also get burgers here as well, but I've only had the souvlaki -- don't go here if you don't like garlic. Also, don't go here if you're claustrophobic, or you may want to do take out -- Barpa Bill's is literally a hole-in-the wall. If you come over a busy lunch hour, you may have to sit outside. There are about 12 stools in this place, and you don't rub elbows, you knock elbows. If you turn around at the back stools, you may just fall into the bathroom. The place is clean and set up for efficiency, with small counters along the walls with the stools underneath, and there are pictures of scenes from Greece hung on the walls.
On your first time there, it is confusing, once you elbow your way to the front. However, all the choices are listed on the board above; just step forward and order, then pay. Your order is yelled out when it is ready. While waiting, it's best to keep your eye out for a free stool, as they get filled up rather quickly.
Favorite Dish: The chicken souvlaki -- tender chunks of grilled chicken with the garlickiest tzatziki this side of Athens. The pita is warm and fresh and I was told that it is shipped in daily from Chicago. The caesar salad is excellent: full of fresh, crisp romaine, cheese and covered with a light, creamy dressing.
Banff National Park Hotels
Pyramid Lake Road, 5 km from Jasper, Jasper, Alberta, T0E 1E0, Canada
Good for: Business
Friend's of mine were visiting Alberta so we decided to splurge and share a room at the Fairmont...more
This is a fantastic place to stay if you are on a budget. The rooms are well equip with everything...more
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