I’ve been putting this off for a couple of weeks because I wasn’t sure I was going to even write this. That and a trip to Vancouver which I’ll be writing about soon. The reason I’ve been reluctant? It will be my first bad review. (well I hope the -review- isn’t bad).
Kim and I stopped by The Dish Bistro on 124st and Stony Plain road on a Wednesday a couple of weeks ago on the way to our Wednesday night thing. I’d seen online that they have a gluten free menu and cater to allergies so that’s always large determining factor as to where we are going to eat. We arrived at 5:30 and on entering we were seated immediately, there being only one other table occupied at the time. The place has an OK ambiance but on close inspection, it’s looking a bit tired. Our server was prompt and brought us the GF menu right away. We ordered a 1/2 litre of the Torconal CabMerlot which is an alright wine selection for a house wine. Nothing special but when you don’t want a whole bottle, it is just fine.
Before you read further, here’s two things to keep in mind. I’m not a huge fan of vinegar and this experience could be a result of ordering off the gluten free menu. We were a bit rushed for time as is often the case on Wednesdays and were looking for a lighter meal in any case so we decided to have an appetizer to share and a couple of salads. We agreed that the Risotto Cakes sounded tasty. According to the menu, these are
Asiago and spinach risotto cakes stuffed with goat cheese and served on a fresh tomato salad
The cakes are served on a bed of lettuce with a thick slice of tomato chopped into pieces with some large slices of purple onion. I guess this qualifies as a fresh tomato salad but I thought it would be more tomato-ey. The tomato itself was rather tasteless, looking like a food service, it’ll ripen eventually tomato. The cakes themselves were alright. They were creamy and rich. It had mostly goat cheese notes, but I would have liked to have had a more prominent asiago flavour. And to be honest, I didn’t even notice there was spinach in the cake. However, what I liked about these cakes was completely drowned in balsamic vinegar. You can see from the picture that the straight balsamic was just poured over the cakes, soaking in and completely overpowering the flavour of the risotto. We ate around the vinegar. The greens also had quite a bit of balsamic. I am -not- a fan of straight balsamic poured on salads. Perhaps this is a personal quirk of mine but I believe a vinaigrette needs to be something more than just vinegar. I was also a bit surprised as the menu didn’t even mention a vinaigrette. I suppose they felt it needed something. It may have but I don’t believe it was 1/4 cup of vinegar.
For our mains Kim ordered the Dijon Chicken on Greens
Dijon marinated breast of chicken on mixed greens with tomatoes, carrots, Spanish onions, artichoke hearts and a roasted red pepper dressing
Kim’s salad arrived looking reasonably tasty. The chicken is served cold which was a bit of a disappointment. I’d expect cold, premade chicken in a salad from a chain restaurant (on the lower end of things). I can handle cold chicken, but cold, dry and tasteless is another thing. If there was a trace of dijon flavour we certainly couldn’t find it. The chicken itself had an almost pasty coating on it which gave it an unpleasant mouth-feel. Fortunately, the red pepper sauce was pretty good [EDIT: Apparently a couple of weeks has clouded my memory. Kim just informed me she thought the red pepper sauce was/tasted like thousand island dressing) and dipping helped mask the problems with the chicken. However, there wasn’t near enough sauce for the chicken. The artichoke hearts appeared to be pickled artichoke hearts from a bottle.
I ordered the Spicy Beef on Greens
Chili and garlic marinated beef flank steak on mixed greens with tomatoes, carrots, Spanish onions, artichoke hearts and a fresh herb citrus vinaigrette.
Flank steak can be a difficult thing to prepare due to its toughness. Marinating and/or braising is usually used to help break down the muscle fibres and produce a more tender end result. In the case of my dish, neither seemed to have worked. The steak was tough. Really tough. Almost beef jerky tough. The flavour? Spicy? Chili? Garlic? I could not detect any hint of heat, garlic or chili in any piece I tried. Now there may be a reason for this. The entire dish was absolutely soaked in balsamic vinegar. Fresh herb citrus? No idea. All I could taste was balsamic. Not vinaigrette. Balsamic. Vinegar. The greens were even worse than the beef. Drowning in the stuff. Completely inedible. I ended up eating the rest of Kim’s chicken, which by this time was not as bad as I originally thought. At least it didn’t make my mouth burn. And burn. Two hours later my mouth was still feeling the effects of my vinegar soaked meal.
Now with this bad of an experience, you may be wondering why we didn’t send the food back. Firstly, we had to be somewhere and didn’t really have time to wait. But mostly, I’m not sure what difference it would have made. It’s not as if we were served an under or over done piece of meat. This is apparently how these dishes are served. And to be honest, I’m someone who almost never sends anything back. I’m working on it. I’d be interested in hearing from others to find out if this was a bad gluten free dining experience or simply a bad dining experience.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I really debated whether I should even write this. But I decided that if I’m going to write reviews, I’ve got to write about bad experiences as well as good. So here it is.