Dish

Isn’t it time you joined the Century Grill club?

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‘I can’t believe it!” my easily-impressed toddler kept
squealing as we pulled up to the Century Grill.

The building that dazzled her was the rather standardly stylish big box, but
boasted some glassed-in patios that would be stunning in warmer weather. As
it was, we cursed the extra distance as we trotted through the chilly
gathering dusk.

We passed through an elegant set of double doors to instantly become as
impressed as our daughter. Somebody paid a very good interior designer a lot
of money.

The lobby was buzzing at 5:30 on a Sunday evening, but most of it was
confined to the dimly lit lounge. We easily scored a booth next to the
heavenly aromas and the warm, burnished copper tones of the open
kitchen.

The dining room was casually swanky. Plenty of tables stretched out across
the huge space, which was rendered more intimate by grand-scale dried flower
arrangements and warmly lit ceilings pulled closer by huge Styrofoam
snowflakes. (Unbelievably, the snowflakes worked.)

We took the comfortable booth, featuring a dark wood table and earthy suede
upholstery that maintained the impression of elegance. We were just happy
that the semicircle allowed us to contain our active kid.

Though I found it hard to believe, the menu’s prices didn’t
maintain the décor’s elite approach. The cuisine is approachable
but slightly more refined, boasting appetizers like bite-sized Kobe beef
burgers and jumbo prawns prepped like corn dogs for under $15. Tantalizing
entrées such as osso bucco, a rack of lamb and a vegetarian lasagna
topped out in the mid-$30s. Every description was worthy of a second look,
the signature steaks were mouth-watering and the Lobster BLTC (with havarti,
only available in the lounge) sent me reeling.

We needed something quickly to take the edge off our hunger and distract our
daughter, so my wife chose the “colossal crab cake tower” ($14)
to start and I pointed at the Masi Campofiorin ($8.25) from the Reds: Italian
section of the well-rounded wine list. My bride (two days from giving birth
to our second daughter) elected for a virgin piña colada ($4).

In a quest for an entrée, however, the Highlander said it best:
There can be only one. When my eyes found the Century Platter, my search was
done. For $57, the platter promised grilled beef tenderloin, herb chicken and
prawns with a couple of sides. It is rare to see a combination of
entrées on the same plate, so the novelty claimed us. Our sweet, very
quick server smiled happily as she delivered our drinks and took our
order.

My wife’s sweet, iced coconut drink was a hit with the girls, while my
wine was fascinating. Its rich, dark aroma was very aggressive at first, but
the wine painted a strong, flat flavour of sour black cherry across my
tongue. It held a surprise at the end: an exquisitely fruity bouquet that far
outstripped any Shiraz I had ever tasted. As I sipped, the dining room filled
with multigenerational families and plenty of dates, dressed from business
casual to t-shirts and jeans. Oddly enough, nobody seemed terribly out of
place.

Distracted by the swelling crowd, I didn’t see the approach of our
appetizer. Three puck-sized cakes were impaled on a bamboo stalk and stacked
on a bed of shredded greenery. Their crisp exterior broke open to produce a
cloud of fragrant steam redolent of the West Coast crab and spring potato
paste inside. Cracked peppercorns occupied one end of the rectangular plate
to give each bite a little extra kick, and a sweet tomato coulis was drizzled
generously across the middle.

Best. Fish stick. Ever. Captain Highliner would weep.

Our friendly server kept the pace steady and we didn’t have long to
wait for our meal. A hot metal platter was placed on our table and it felt
like the restaurant was holding its breath. An array of foodstuffs assaulted
our eyes and noses, nearly causing me to burst into sobs of pure joy.

Accented with asparagus and swiss chard, the medium-rare tenderloin laid in
glorious repose under a hearty three-prawn skewer. The herbed chicken breast
cosied up to equally herbed roast vegetables while a horseradish mash and a
shitake risotto formed the base for this succulent tower of culinary delight.
It felt positively medieval but contemporarily elegant at the same
time.

Flavour piled on flavour until the entire dish nearly took flight. The
tender, lean beef was underseasoned, but the lemon tones of the chicken more
than made up for it. Lemon enhanced the mash as well, which melted in my
mouth to leave only hints of horseradish on my tongue. Up on top, the prawns
possessed a dense fire that had me licking my lips to trap any errant
spices.

However, as delighted as we were with the dish, the crowning glory of the
Century Platter was one of the most prosaic: that risotto was phenomenal!
Simultaneously salty, cheesy and creamy, the texture knocked me out and the
flavour delivered the coup de grace. I begrudged my wife her own taste and
bartered the last prawn for the remainder. We finished off the platter of
enhanced comfort food by dividing up the Portobello mushroom cap and
savouring its earthy richness.

We boxed up a light lunch’s worth of leftovers. When I finally put
down my fork and turned back to my Campofiorin, I discovered that it had
blossomed into a milder front end while keeping its boisterous finish. It
made for a special treat at the end of a great meal. But we weren’t
done yet.

Nothing was stopping me from cracking that dessert menu, which included
specialty coffees, aperitifs and dessert beers that I ignored completely. I
skipped the strawberry rhubarb crumble, a banana caramel wrap and the $12
Callebaut fondue in favour of the lavender honey scented crème
brûlée ($8). My wife couldn’t resist the featured
chocolate cheesecake with crème anglaise ($8).

Both arrived quickly, along with a very reasonable bill for $105 including
GST. Somehow, our daughter scored both lush strawberry garnishes from the
beautiful desserts, but they kept her from demanding more substantial tastes
so we let her have them. My wife’s substantial portion of cheesecake on
a fine black plate was A-OK in her books (for which I took her word, since I
don’t do cheesecake).

I eagerly broke the crust of my light, creamy crème. It was cooler
than I expected, but sweet and luscious. I dipped the accompanying cookie
into the bowl and sank into the sensual pleasure of my dessert. I barely
resisted cleaning it out with my fingertip by the end.

On our way out, moving much more slowly than when we walked in, my wife and I
shared a glance. “I can’t believe it!” I squealed in a
passable falsetto, and my wife laughed. Believe it or not, Century Grill
soared past every expectation I had and redefined an excellent, modern dining
experience. V

Sun – Thurs to 10 pm, Fri – Sat to 11 pm
Century Grill
3975 Calgary Trail
431.0303

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