Blue House Cafe
2-3843 19 Street NW
Calgary, AB T2L 2B3
In life, there are always little moments that keep you humble. I pride myself on an excellent food memory – I can still recall the smells, tastes, and visions of thousands of meals i’ve had over the years. So when a group of friends was meeting at the Blue House Cafe for dinner, I was actually a bit excited. It was sold to me as a quiet, underrated place with excellent food. Not knowing how it had slipped under my radar for so many years, I was looking forward to a new experience. Unfortunately, I was reminded by my former roommate that we had dined there 7 years ago. And not gone back since for reasons unknown. Oops. So much for my vaunted memory.
The Blue House Cafe is billed as “Fine Latin Cuisine”. Located in a tiny strip mall off of Northmount Drive, it is easy to see why people could consistently over look it. Even knowing where it was, I was in danger of driving by it. I blame the darkness, though really, it was likely the driver.
The interior is an eclectic mix of Latin American decor, with some “fine dining” touches. However, no matter how much they dress up the restaurant, I can never forget that I’m in a stripmall. It just exudes boxy. However, they’ve done that they could to make the place pleasant to dine in. Other than tables that are a bit too close together, I have no other complaints.
When a larger group of us get together, it usually involves ordering a diverse number of dishes, then proceeding to ensure everyone had the opportunity to share. As a result, we all got a lot of tastes of the different dishes available on the menu.
The menu doesn’t start on a good note. Ceviche de Camarones is the first dish – excellent, as i love ceviche – but the description of “tiger shrimp served with a spicy South American sauce” turns me off. As much as i love ceviche, I hate bad ceviche more. I pass.
Instead, we opt for a large number of seafood dishes. One dish that stands out on the menu is the Mariscos de Guava ($22) – a seafood medley with a guava and cilantro cream sauce.
In reality, it sounds, and looks better than it was. With no real signature flavour, the sauce ended up just tasting creamy. The seafood was average, but slightly overcooked. The calamari had been frozen, but otherwise, most of the seafood was ok. A serving of rice and steamed veg accompanied the dish.
Knowing that the Guava dish was likely to be better on paper than in execution, i opted for the other interesting, or “signature” dish on the menu – the Cazuela de Cordero ($25). A lamb casserole in a coffee-vermouth broth. This was probably the most interesting dish of the evening. The coffee actually added a wonderful richness to the lamb, without a lot of grease. It complimented the gaminess of the lamb, which was cooked to extremely tender. The dish itself was interesting, and worth ordering in my mind. While it was definitely on the subtle side, the flavours worked for me. Most people at the table agreed.
Mariscos Con Arroz ($23) is a combination of every critter of the sea on a bed of rice and the same steamed veg. The sauce was indescript, and the seafood of basically the same quality as the Mariscos to Guava. Nothing really wrong with it, but nothing all that interesting either.
Filet of Salmon ($20) with a creamy lemon dill sauce was actually very poor. Overcooked and dried out, the salmon was drowned in a overpowering lemon sauce with only mild hints of dill. Lacking any balance, the entire dish was, in my mind, inedible.
Sadly, I was quite disappointed with the Blue House Cafe – more so than a bad dining experience like Sobaten. They have an interesting menu, and some excellent value, in terms of the quantity, which was both generous and substantial, and the price. However, there was really nothing all that interesting about the food. Flavours were underwhelming, and every seafood dish ended up tasting the same. I’m honestly at odds with myself regarding whether or not I should recommend this place. On one hand, there is nothing wrong with the food. On the other hand, my expectations, and the creativity of the menu, say it should be more. If you need a safe, affordable seafood meal, this just might be the place for you. But i think i’ll pass. Maybe there is a reason why I hadn’t remembered I had dined here before – it just was completely unmemorable. At least I feel a bit better about that.