We’ve all done it; we’ve all walked by Continental Treat on Whyte Ave and noticed the fairly busy eatery, perhaps even stopped to read the menu, but we haven’t gone inside. Maybe that’s because Continental Treat has always been there. Consider all the other restaurants that have popped up and closed down on Whyte, while this spot has lingered for 20 years. But really, any restaurant that can stick to its culinary guns for this long must be doing something right.
Continental Treat is not continentally trendy. This restaurant makes no attempt to be anything other than what it is: an old-world eatery with quality, well-prepared and proven continental European fare. The interior is decorated with rustic wooden knick-knacks. Hand-carved images of alpine scenes line the walls. The dining area is divided into two parts by a rather hefty-looking wooden partition, and while we sat in the formal dining area, as opposed to the lounge, we were rather enthralled by the bar. There is something alluring about a well-stocked bar, and the one at Continental Treat is counter-to-ceiling full of European liqueurs, scotches and aperitifs, all of the kinds of things your parents would have felt compelled to stock their basement bars with but not necessarily drink. There is a definite warmth and charm to the room. It wouldn’t feel unfamiliar if you’ve traveled to Austria.
Beyond starters, the menu’s entrees were listed according to meat, fowl and fish dishes. Such classic selections as Hungarian Goulash, Schnitzel, and duck were described in all their rich glory, and moderately priced. We settled on pan-seared rainbow trout ($18.75) and something called the Hunter’s Plate ($21.95), an entree boasting a rich red wine sauce with mushrooms and chunks of tenderloin and sausage, all cooked in a giant black cauldron.
The entrees arrived pretty fast and we were not disappointed. The trout was prepared with a mix of salt, pepper and garlic; a squeeze of lemon and this fish was ready to be devoured. The fish was slightly crispy on the outside, and light and delicate inside, and reminded me of camping, making it extra enjoyable.
The Hunter’s Plate was fit for a true hunter; it was huge. A generous heap of tenderloin, sausage and big mushrooms fully dominated the Polish potatoes underneath. The red wine gravy was enviable. It was a truly satisfying combination of flavours, one of those dishes you simply have to share with whomever is at your table. Both entrees came with savoury steamed carrots and pickled red cabbage that proved tangy, fresh complements to each meal. The parade of jacketless yahoos outside our window was a contrast to the decidedly mature clientele inside; looking around the restaurant, we realized the average age was probably 55. If the food was any indication, our peers outside were surely missing out.
Despite the fact that the servings were more than generous, and despite the fact that we cleaned our plates, we couldn’t shy away from ordering a little something for dessert. There were tortes, cakes, pies, cheesecakes, Peach Melba, and ice creams, but the one we had to try was the vanilla custard, a light, flakey pastry surrounding thick and sweet vanilla custard. It was very rich, very chilled, and very edible; a puffy cloud of yum.
Just as the food and interior are reminiscent of past European experiences, so too was the service. Our waiter was prompt, polite and spared us the saccharine small talk that can sometimes detract from a quiet evening out. More than that, he genuinely knew the correct pronunciation of all the obscure Eastern European beers and wines, and was educated about the origins of the meals. While not necessary, these aptitudes did enhance the sense of immersion we were so enjoying throughout the evening.
Our meal came to just under $90 before tip, a moderate but not unreasonable price to pay for the quality of food that was served. The simple charm, authentic food and lack of pretension make Continental Treat a restaurant worth visiting. V
10560-82 Ave • 433-7432