Divino Wine and Cheese Bistro
Quaint as the tiny restaurant Divino Wine and Cheese Bistro may seem from the exterior, one must not be fooled as to the weight of it’s worth based on its simple facade. Once entering the hallway shaped restaurant, the small but nonetheless inviting open kitchen offers aromas which tickle the olfactory gland and encourage you to “sit down and order already”. But what to choose? Delicious dishes conjure up culinary dreams of grandeur, ranging from Magret Duck Breast with gingered spaghetti squash, potato confit, and roasted duck jus framboise, to a dinner special of Alberta Beef Striploin featuring potato fondant, haricot vert, white truffle oil, and cripsy shallots–and that is just looking at the entrées.
For our culinary journey we chose three starters, or “first”s as they called them: The Butter Poached Lobster featuring celeriac & black truffle reversed ravioli and seared sea scallop; the Gnocchi with porcini mushrooms, watercress and reggiano cheese; and the feature appetizer Seared Scallops served in a chilled sweet pea soup with roasted cherry tomatoes, lardons (narrow strips of bacon), and frisée (a leaf vegetable similar to the daisy family). But, before we had even decided on appetizers or entrées, our table was decorated with some of the Tempura Haricot Vert served with a fireweed honey-hot mustard which were simply heavenly and easily one of my favorite parts of the meal (I’m a complete and total sucker for anything of the green bean variety).
To start off with the butter poached lobster, the scallops served with it were perfectly cooked and the reversed ravioli, which earned their title because the filling was served on top of the round noodle, were divine, yet I found the piece of lobster which I sampled to be slightly overcooked (and therefore rubbery). Moving to the gnocchi, they were a bit of a let down for my sister who was excited for them, however if you eat them with a little bite of everything in one, they are quite tasty. I liked the rustic flavor of the gnocchi dish which emulated the earthiness of the porcini mushrooms. Finally, the seared scallops were divine. Delicate and perfectly cooked, the scallops were undoubtedly the star of this dish, with the chilled sweet pea soup as a close second. I am not usually one for gazpacho (chilled soups) but this chilled sweet pea soup was subtly sweet and when paired with the saltiness of the scallop, made for an unforgettable combination.
Our table also enjoyed some cheese, for who can say they ate at a wine and cheese bistro but neglected to sample the cheeses? We chose five, Pierre Robert (a triple cream, mild, tangy bite, and buttery cheese from France), Chévre Grand Affineur (a hard, goat milk, extra aged gouda, with salted caramel flavors from the Netherlands) and Tête de Moine (a firm, rustic, “monk’s head”, earthy cheese from Switzerland) at the suggestion of our waitress, and Queso Manchego (a firm, sheep, olive oil rubbed, nutty flavored cheese from Spain which is my mother’s favorite) and Moosbacher (a semi-hard, spicy, earthy aroma, creamy, nutty flavored cheese). My mother’s favorite cheese shifted from the Queso Manchego to the Pierre Robert, but the Manchego is a very close second, my sister’s favorite was the Queso Manchego, and my favorite was a tie of two ways, between the Chévre Grand Affineur and the Moosbacher. The Tête de Moine, or Monk’s head in english, was a good pick for blue cheese lovers, it was musky and pungent, the shape of it reminded me of leafy coral in the ocean.
The entrées which sat at our table included the Bone-In Alberta AAA Rib Steak, Lobster Cannelloni, Roasted Halibut, BC Salmon, and the Magret Duck Breast. My dish was the BC Salmon and I must say, it was the risotto that had me pick this dish over the lobster cannelloni. The BC Salmon was served on a bed of citrus and parsley risotto and braised young spinach with tomatoes. I wish I could have had an entire plate of the risotto on its own because it was honestly the other highlight (tied 1st place with the tempura haricot vert) of my meal. The Salmon was tender and perfectly cooked, and when enjoyed as all three components in one, the dish was something I could see myself craving at a later date. I would not hesitate to give this dish a 9/10. My mom mused over the idea of the duck until it arrived at our table at which she was ecstatic because the duck was cooked perfectly and the gingered spaghetti squash was the perfect compliment to a dish wish she had greatly anticipated receiving. My brother devoured his rib steak along with the pomme frites which were served with parmigiano and a deliciously lemony aioli, his asparagus were left untouched but my mother ate them quickly, claiming them to be delectable. My sister enjoyed her roasted Halibut and was surprised at the size of the portion of the fish. However, the tiny baby potatoes may have stolen the show because they were simply so cute–and so delicious. Yet still, along with the romesco, baby leeks, and clams (my sister left out the chorizo because she’s not a fan of sausage), this dish was a winner, but I personally preferred my salmon to her halibut.
Along with a few glasses of wine and a few handfuls of samples, this dinner lasted a few hours to say the least. The cozy nature of the narrowness of the restaurant easily complimented a longer dinner with lively conversation. If you’re pockets run more deeply than the next fellow, this could very well be a Calgary restaurant that may be a feature stop every time you hit the city, or if not, it may be an occasional delight that happens for special occasions. Either way, this is a restaurant I would suggest for anyone looking for a culinary treat. So my friends, eat up and enjoy, feel free to let me know what you think as well.
Just a note for those who have big stomachs: the dishes are by no means overly large nor are they overfilling. The “first”s are actually quite small, fair for an appetizer, but just something I think some of you should possibly keep in mind.