|Lunch with more 13Jun12|
Second in a series of articles on the Downtown Busniness Association”s Time for Lunch campaign.
There’s a time for grabbing a takeout lunch or hitting a chain restaurant with friends, and then there’s a time for treating yourself to the fine dining experience! Continuing with “Time for Lunch” Campaign by the Downtown Business Association, this week, my culinary journey led me through Red Deer downtown restaurants that are waltzing to an elegant tune while boasting some of their best culinary fare. KIA-ORA, La Casa Pergola and Botanica are restaurants of choice if one is looking to enjoy a meal that is authentically prepared using high-quality ingredients and served in an atmosphere of quiet elegance.
KIA-ORA is a Maori language greeting which means literally “be well and healthy” and is also the name of the resto-lounge located at 4909-49th Street Red Deer.
The owners, Joseph and Katherine Ng, had a vision when they opened their restaurant. “I wanted to give the professionals in the district a place to discuss work over a cocktail, a place to schmooze with clients while enjoying lunch and a productive, creative environment to conduct business,” explains Katherine.
So with some renovation, KIA-ORA opened up with an upbeat lounge, separate chic dining room that has intimate setting for two or group seating for eight, and private board room to conduct off worksite meetings.
Having said this, KIA-ORA is not restricted only to people working in the downtown area. Their front lounge area is a perfect place to gather, to have dinner and then stay and order a bottle of wine and be entertained by live sounds from local talents that perform here. The separate dining room is an upscale place to enjoy monumental life moments like birthdays, anniversaries or other milestones .
KIA-ORA also has a unique menu items that really show off the skills and talents of their chefs. There are duck wings that are braised overnight and then served with a signature (secret) sauce, duck breast which is pan -fried until the skin is crispy and then served with apple rum sauce.
The dish which truly is branded as a pièce de résistance is the Braised Pork Belly and Scallops. The presentation is simply superb with a delicate piece of pork topped with a strip of crunchy bacon which almost appears to be suckling it as if it can’t resist its lusciousness.
Slicing through the pork as easily as cheese cake, is the only way to explain how moist and tender this dish is. To complement the pork you also receive two perfectly seared scallops.
During the Time for Lunch campaign they will be featuring four dishes that are all under $12. The downtown sliders, a trio of homemade Alberta beef bite-size burgers topped with shallots, artisan lettuce and parmesan and basil pesto, Chicken Spinach Quesadilla, Thai shrimp stir fry with homemade chicken spring rolls and a steak sandwich with tempura shrimp.
La Casa Pergola
Located on 4909 48 street, in the heart of downtown, La Casa Pergola, an Italian restaurant, opened its doors in 2006. The owner Shauna Fisher rightly describes her establishment as a “destination restaurant”. With an old world charm and stylish atmosphere this is the place you would want to cross town for and to taste and experience a little piece of Italy.
From the outside, La Casa Pergola looks small but that illusion is dispelled as you walk through the doors. The large dining area is divided into cozy private retreats with moveable partitions. As I walked through to the lounge there was a couple having a romantic meal in a dimly lit corner, a young family enjoying a night out and a large boisterous group celebrating a 60th birthday private party in the separate dining hall.
La Casa Pergola’s menu has some authentic dishes that will make you think you are in Italy. Some highlights of the menu include, pergola style spaghetti Bolognese,
Vitello Milanese, a tender veal that is lightly breaded and pan fried, and Pollo Parmigianino, chicken topped with marinara sauce. No Italian menu would be complete without offering ‘Dolce’ that includes velvety Tiramisu, cheese cake or Torte. This ristorante did not disappoint!
Besides an assortment of cocktails, there is a selection of excellent vintage wines. Prices begin at $34 per bottle, the majority are between $40 and $70 and the highest priced wine is $148. Of course, you can taste a variety during supper by sampling by the glass.
Fisher is continually including items that will satisfy sensitive diets like gluten-free. One of her must try item is Ciocalatta Budino, a chocolate, walnut moist flourless brownie with caramel sauce and candied walnuts. I kid you not, try this and you will get the urge to kiss your fingers and yell ‘delizioso’!
For the campaign lunch, try the Italian burger which is in-house hand formed all beef burger with freshly sliced tomato, provolone cheese, arugula, capicola ham dressed up with spicy mustard mayo or the Vegetarian Capresse, which has Boccoccini cheese and baby organic arugula nestled between freshly sliced tomato and drizzled with olive and fresh cracked pepper.
Both items come with thin cut fries ‘garnished’ (who would have thought fries come with garnish) with parmesan cheese and fresh basil.
Botanica restaurants is literally a “hidden gem” in Red Deer, because it doesn’t stick out on Gaetz Avenue or Ross Street but is inconspicuous inside a hotel. At the Red Deer Lodge, Botanica, is open to the picturesque tropical courtyard in the centre of the hotel and is the perfect setting for your morning coffee, a quick lunch, or a quiet dinner.
The tables are surrounded with tropical plants and greenery which create an atmosphere of total privacy. In the far distance you can see through the kitchen window, rippled toques bobbing across, signaling that the kitchen is run by certified chefs.
The expertise was apparent in the taste and the plating of the food. My lunch was prepared by executive Sous Chef Dawn Hand, who runs the kitchen with the practice “that our kitchen is your kitchen.”
“The menu is tailored towards what the customers want and their dietary needs,” explains Chef Hand. “If I don’t have the ingredients, then I will run to the store to get them.”
If time is of the essence, then you can opt for $17 lunch buffet that is continually served from Monday to Saturdays at 11:30 to 2:00. The buffet has selections of salads, cheese boards, variety of breads, cold cuts, two soup d’jour, starches, vegetables, two entrees and a dessert bar which will appease any sweet tooth.
But if you would like to order off the menu, don’t fret that you can’t do this during your lunch break.
“We only take 15 minutes bill time, “ explains Sous Chef Dawn. This means your order will come to your table within 15 minutes.
During the Time for Lunch campaign, Botannica will feature their Chicken Mango Rice Bowl and Mac and cheese with bacon shrimp and spinach for $12 while Bison Beef sliders and Veggie pizza on foccia bread crust, grilled vegetables, fresh tomatoes drizzled with balsamic reduction for $9.00.
Madhu Badoni is a Red Deer-based freelance food writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Watch for Madhu’s Masala-Mix blog on bprda.wpengine.com