- 730 17 Ave SW, Calgary, Alberta
- Classic French
- Fairly extensive wine list and a short list of classic cocktails
- A very regal room with ornate design accents and subdued, but warm lighting in the evening. Plenty of smaller tables and booths for intimate dining
- Tartare de Boeuf, Salade Lyonnaise, Côte De Porc Normande, Tarte Fine aux Pommes
- Additional Info
- This is a fairly high-end restaurant, so you may feel out of place dining here if you’re dressed casually
Many in the culinary world would agree that the foundation of an impeccable restaurant menu is the techniques found in French cooking. That certain level of discipline, the attention to detail and greats such as Jacques Pépin or Julia Child are just a handful of reasons why top chefs and home cooks alike use this style of cooking as a baseline when creating in the kitchen.
In a similar vein, Royale is a high-end restaurant that is focused on keeping things unapologetically and classically French in a contemporary atmosphere.
Situated in the heart of the oversaturated 17th Avenue, to say this newer concept from the Teatro Group (Alforno, Teatro, Cucina) has a lot of competition is an understatement. The street is ripe with buzz-worthy options such as the contemporary Korean fare of Anju, Ricardo's Hideaway's Caribbean small plates and the ever-evolving menus of Model Milk and Pigeonhole. With so many choices, is there room for a new dog that's deliberately doing old tricks?
Earlier this year, the restaurant group announced it was taking over the space of a short-lived patisserie-restaurant concept. Its designers worked magic in a short period of time, keeping its predecessor's best interior elements, such as stunning ornate tile and orb pendants, and upped the ante. The result is a room that oozes class. Deep-blue cushy booths sit back-to-back surrounding a tall tree in the centre of the room, while a long ornate bar with red leather stools runs along the east wall and white-clothed tables fill the remainder of the space. It's a regal room – in fact, almost an opulent one – so dress the part if you're coming for dinner.
If you didn't earn top grades in high school French class, fully comprehending the menu here may require a touch of explanation from the service staff to fill in the blanks (although main ingredients are listed in English) – all of whom seem happy to do so. The friendly, yet proper staff do a lovely job of balancing the queenly essence of the room with their approachability. Sure, they may silently reset your plate and cutlery with intense focus and quietly float away, but they certainly won't scoff at you when you sheepishly mumble your way through "Côtes D'Agneau Grillées."
Saying the above will get you a duo of grilled lamb chops seasoned lovingly with herbes de Provence and a side of slightly overcooked carrots in cream sauce that proved saltier bite-by-bite.
A more carnivorous and rewarding plate comes by way of "Côte De Porc Normande", a bone-in, thick-cut pork chop smothered in a brandy mushroom cream sauce. Complete with the buttery potato gratin dauphinois, the juicy hunk of meat borders on obnoxiously rich, but your taste buds will convince you that you're foolish not to finish it.
Many other classics are more familiar to the eyes and well worth a revisit. Chef JP Charpentier's generous portion of beef tartare, topped with pickles and fried onions, served with a smear of aioli on the side sets a new bar for Calgary for how a tartare should be prepared. As well, the Lyonnaise salad with fried croutons, lardons, tomato, perfectly dressed frisée and a tenderly poached egg serves as a satiating reminder that there is no shame in having a salad for dinner.
But not all classic cooking applications seem to hold up in the modern day. The halibut cheeks en papillote, for instance, is one of the more forgettable dishes here. Steamed in a bag along with slivers of bell peppers and zucchini – and butter sauce aside – the small portion of tender halibut is more reminiscent of a low-cal diet dinner one might have on Tuesday night than a reminder of how great old school French cooking can truly be.
In the end, the difference between having a great dinner and a fantastic one at Royale comes down to what you're looking for.
Are you the kind of person who appreciates unabashed creativity and the (typically inevitable) ups and downs, hits and misses that go along with it? Creativity is deliberately not the restaurant's emphasis, so don't expect it.
On the other hand, if you are the type who likes a fairly unadulterated, yet delicious tartare, or ending your meal with a textbook example of a tarte fine aux pommes, then Royale offers this kind of cooking in spades.
Perhaps you're like me and a little bit of both. In which case, just skip the halibut cheeks, consider asking the talented barkeeps to mix you an off-the-menu cocktail and you'll have a very enjoyable time.