For L’s birthday dinner, he picked Carino Riserva. In past visits, I noticed that you must have a reservation or you won’t get into the restaurant. Despite being popular with locals and Japanese guests, I don’t think Carino gets the accolades in magazines and social media that it deserves.
I think that new restaurants get covered by food writers for one or two articles, but then it seems to be back to the same rotation of restaurants that show up in the ‘best restaurants’ category in Avenue Calgary. I’m not knocking the restaurants, writers or the magazine. I’m just saying I don’t want to read about the same restaurants year after year. I have a good memory and the articles on the same restaurants gets redundant. Edit- I stand corrected. Avenue Magazine rated Carino best fusion restaurant. My bad! My memory isn’t as good as I thought.
Last night, L and I had the best meal of 2018. For this post, let’s listen to one of L’s favourite bands – Thee Michelle Gun Elephant, GT400.
We sat by the window. I would recommend requesting this table if you have out-of-town guests. We enjoyed people watching and recognizing familiar faces walking the trendy streets of Mission.
I appreciated our server’s food and wine recommendations. She also prevented us from ordering too much food. If you like your wine, but don’t want to pay a fortune, this is the place for you. I’ve never tried a wine I didn’t like at Carino. The owner Toshi was Teatro’s head sommelier for years. Wines by the glass range from $9-12. I ordered a flute of prosecco ($9.00) and L stuck with Sapporo ($7.50).
A feature appetizer was the pork gyoza ($7.50) with basil dipping sauce. The dumplings were plump with juicy meat. The wrapping was beautifully pinched and grilled to a crisp.
Look at the fresh basil in the filling! L thought the gyoza showed the best of Italian and Japanese cuisine. Freaking fantastic. I would order this again.
We shared a second appetizer – Steamed Clams and Mussel Hot Pot ($18) with Italian sausage and fries. The flame burning underneath the black cauldron added a mystique to the ambience of our table. The sausage was sweet and I could taste fennel. The broth was so tasty, we kept drinking it. I would buy this broth if I could- it was like a seafood bisque.
The absolute star of the show was the Alberta Beef Tenderloin with Wagyu Meat Sauce and Aglio Et Olio ($35). I can’t believe pasta with so few ingredients can taste that good. The noodles were served piping hot and al dente. The flavour of the oil was incredible – it must speak to the quality of the olive oil and the chef’s cooking technique. I want to compare Carino’s version to Cotto Italian Comfort Food, the next time the latter restaurant has aglio et olio on their weekly pasta feature.
L declared Carino’s steak the best he’s had in his life. The steak was charred on the outside and cooked to a medium rare in the middle. The beef was tender and juicy. The mix of arugula and bitter greens acted like a palate cleanser in between bites of steak. We both ate as slowly as we could to enjoy every morsel. I ordered a glass of Liberta ($11) to go with my steak.
This entire meal with three alcoholic drinks cost only $92 dollars! Just goes to show you don’t need to spend a fortune to have a fantastic meal in Calgary. In fact, the best meal we had all year. I’ve already booked Carino Riserva for my birthday dinner with L and Beep Beep.
Carino makes it on Hitting the Sauce’s Phat Picks – which is a list of my own favourite restaurants in the city. I’ll take my own advice and try to keep the list fresh by trying new restaurants. I’m the biggest culprit for revisiting the same old restaurant instead of trying something new. Next on my list – Big Catch’s new restaurant, OMO Teppan & Kitchen, Raj Palace, Han Maru, and Namsam Korean Cuisine.