{Dining out: Birthday dinner at the Highwood Dining Room}

After our fun-filled weekend in the mountains, we continued our festivities on Monday night when I took the boy out for his birthday dinner at the Highwood Dining Room located on the SAIT campus (recipient of the Diner’s Choice award for 2010 on OpenTable).


The restaurant is a live classroom environment that allows the culinary students, under the guidance of their instructors, showcase their talents both through the service in the dining room and inside the kitchen.

The seasonally changing menu is a set price of $44 and includes an appetizer, soup, salad, entrée and a dessert. A steal of a deal and probably the reason why you need to book about a month in advance for a reservation.

We were greeted by the hostess who pointed us towards the self-serve coat check. She then led us into the dining room where they introduced the drinks of the night (a Chambord martini and a peach banana mocktail) and directed towards our seats in the middle of the restaurant.

Me and the boy started off with a couple of caesars ($5) garnished with a large crisp stalk of celery and a wedge of lime. The bread basket arrived shortly after filled with slices of freshly cut dark rye and multigrain which we nibbled on with pats of butter while hungrily anticipating our meal.

For my first course, I chose the Symphony of Oysters with California Style Salmon Sushi. Half shell oysters done three ways: the first was a classic Rockefeller with spinach and cheese, the second was garnished with marinated japanese cucumber and the third had a horseradish mignonette. I saved the spiciest for last as per the warning of the server.

Wow! The heat of the freshly grated horseradish really hits you like a ton of bricks! Luckily its a quick burn that goes away within a minute (a great way to clear the sinuses).

On the side were two marinated salmon futomaki sushi – which kinda reminded me of something you would get in a pre-made package at the local grocery store, served with a unusually generous amount of soy sauce and a few slices of pickled ginger.

The boy went with the Duo of Woodstone Roasted Duck Breast and Duck Proscuitto. Starting from the left, a couple wedges of roasted potato draped with the salty cured proscuitto. A honey white wine poached pear atop some fresh greens and finally a perfectly cooked slice of juicy duck breast with a berry reduction.

For our soups, we unanimously chose the seafood chowder (the other option being a turkey with cracked wheat). Spoonfuls of creamy rich soup decorated with chunks of scallops, fish, potato and other flavourful delights. It’s just what we needed to warm ourselves in these arctic-like temperatures.

During our break between our soup and salad course, we each ordered glasses of red wine. I chose the full-bodied Shiraz, while the boy went with the fruity Merlot (both $8).

For our salad, we both went with delicious sounding Tomato with Fresh Mozzarella with balsamic reduction and olive oil and a kalamata olive biscotti. We were less than impressed when the salad arrived. 3 slices of flavourless out-of-season Roma tomatoes (which were cold – probably stored in the fridge) topped with a couple of halves of miniature boccocini and an unusually tacky lettuce garnish in the center. The biscuit was quite dry and flavourless leaving us wishing we have chosen the Caesar salad option instead.

Luckily our main course made up for the salad. I ordered the Grilled Medallion of Beef. A filet of Alberta raised beef served with a wild mushroom ragout and merlot reduction topped with a crisp proscuitto chip. This was served with a medley of vegetables and a pave of potato gratin.

The boy had an equally tasty entrée of Mesquite Infused Roasted Pork Tenderloin served with an Okanagan apple ginger chutney and a duo of potatoes. The boy’s only criticism was that the mashed potatoes were a bit of an odd texture, not quite mashed enough and perhaps not enough seasoning and cream or butter as they were a tad flavorless.

For dessert, I went with their feature, the Raspberry Tiramisulayers of coffee scented sponge cake alternated with a creamy marscapone cheese and fresh berries. Served with a tender and sweet wine poached pear on a pool of honey and a mini tuile biscuit.

Twas a delightful treat to the meal..

Enjoyed with a steamy cup of cappuccino on the side..

The boy had the Baked Lemon Cheesecake – garnished with a pear chip, fresh berries and served with a blueberry cake dome atop a citrus reduction.

The cheesecake was wonderful – super creamy and decadent with lots of lovely lemony flavour. The blueberry cake however was a dense, dry and an almost artificial tasting and added nothing to the dish. Most of the cake was still on the plate when it was taken away.

In the end, there were good dishes and a couple of blunders. In my opinion, I don’t feel the restaurant is up to par with many of Calgary’s fine dining establishments, nor should I expect that since these are all students learning.

Overall, a nice experience, will we be returning anytime soon? Probably not.

Highwood Dining Room – 1301 – 16th Avenue NW. For reservations call 403.284.8615 Ext. 2 or book online at OpenTable.

Highwood (Sait Campus) on Urbanspoon

2 Responses to “{Dining out: Birthday dinner at the Highwood Dining Room}”
  1. Tatiana says:

    OMG we submitted our reviews to Urban Spoon on the same day for the Highwood, although I was there a couple of weeks ago, and we have essentially the same impressions of the food! Weird coincidence. Like you, I thought it was a good experience that I’m not likely to repeat any time soon. 🙂

    • Hey Tatiana,

      Just read your review 🙂 That’s funny we had the same thoughts on our dining experience.

      Yea, that salad was a total let down wasn’t it. I really wanted to like this place, but it definitely seemed like there were elements in each dish that seemed out of place or just disappointing.

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