The Big Birthday Dinner

Saturday, January 10, 2009
To celebrate the upcoming anniversary of my birth, the Admiral treated me to dinner at The Keg, a steakhouse chain with locations across Canada and a few American states. Generally, my experiences at chain restaurants haven't been that good but I hadn't been in a few years and I was in the mood for a good steak. We opted for the Strathcona location, just south of Whyte Avenue on 105th Street mainly because it was the most easily accesible by bus. Originally we had hoped to go for lunch but this particular location only opens at 4PM (4:30 Sun - Thurs) on weekends; instead we ended up going for an early dinner. The decor, at first glance seems quite nice, dark woods and complimentary upholstery but when we sat down, I noticed that my chair was ripped slightly and someone had done a piss poor job of painting some wood planks which made up the wall beside us. However, the lighting was perfect. The music was a bit loud but they played an excellent selection of Ella Fitzgerald which set a great tone in the restaurant.

We were seated fairly close to the kitchen which is open for viewing and located right beside the entrace. I love the open kitchen concept in restaurants but our proximity to it meant that we not only had a steady stream of servers, hosts/hostesses, and other stafff constantly filing past us, we were also in plain view of the growing number of guests waiting to be seated (note, they fill up FAST! There were over 20 people waiting when we left at 6PM and the restaurant has a lot of tables so be prepared to wait or go early).

As the rest of this post will be discussing the food, I'll take this moment to talk about the service. It was wonderful. Our server, Scott, was attentive and helpful. He answered all our questions with a smile, joked with us, and filled up our water glasses a number of times throughout our meal without being asked. The timing of the food too was amazing. There was the perfect amount of time between courses. Have you ever gone out for a meal and had the next course arrive while you're barely half way through the current one? Very frustrating. Or, just as bad, you wait what seems like an eternity for the next course to arrive. We had enough time for mini conversations in between visits from Scott with plates of food for us to enjoy but not so much that we were left wondering where he had disappeared to. Now...onto the good stuff.

The Admiral began with a glass of wine, a Jackson Trigg red. I'm not a big wine fan but even I enjoyed the sip she gave me. It was full of flavour, sweet but not overly so while slightly tart at the same time without being acidic. Perfect for steak. I had a cranberry and club soda which was a bit light on the cranberry but nice and light. I figured it was a better option than soda (which I'm trying to stop) since it wouldn't be as heavy. Rather than each of us having a salad to start we decided to split a caeser salad, which was a smart idea as the salad was fairly big. Unlike a lot of restaurants, the Keg's caesar dressing isn't heavy and creamy. Instead it was fairly light with a slight vinegary flavour. At first I was a bit put off but my appreciation for the flavour of the dressing increased with each bite. When you also take into account the freshly shaved (so you know it's REAL!) parmesan cheese and the multi-grain croutons, I was sold. I could have had an entire salad and nothing else, and still have left full and content. However, who goes to a steakhouse and orders a salad...other than Jerry?

For my main course, I decided to go with the Chipotle Onion Sirloin. According to their menu, it is a "perfectly grilled sirloin topped with herbed cheese and sauteed onions in a chipotle pepper sauce". At $21, it was one of the least expensive steak options available (but not the reason I ordered it). I like my food hot and spicey, and the combination of the chipotle sauce, onions and herbed cheese on top of the steak sounded fantastic. There was no mention however of the deep fried onion strings on top - I scraped these off. The steak itself was fairly tasty, charred on the outside, well done inside. Finally, a restaurant that knows how to cook steak! The chipotle sauce was almost nonexistant however and there were only a few non-deep fried onions. The few bites of onion/sauce though were fairly tasty but it didn't live up to my expectations. The rest of the meal, as you can see, consisted of a giant baked potato of which I managed to eat half. And a baked half tomato topped with parmesan cheese. I was quite excited about the tomato as it sounded delicious and I'd never known a restaurant to offer something like that as their vegetable. Sadly, it was not very tasty either. There was almost no cheese and the tomato itself lacked flavour. The Admiral's meal however was another story...

The Admiral went with the day's special: steak (massively thick) smothered with lobster and scallops covered in a garlic/red pepper sauce (with a few pieces of asparagus mixed in) for $27. Same sides which she ate all of, except for the skin off of her 'tater. She barely said at word as she devoured the contents of her plate which I was afraid she'd end up picking up and licking at any moment! Wondering if it was truly as fabulous as she claimed, I cautiously dipped my fork in a pool of sauce, fearful she'd stab me with her steak knife if she caught me. All I can say is that it's a shame this is the special and not a regular item on their menu. The sauce was amazing. Full of flavour without overpowering the taste of the steak (I can't comment on the seafood as I wouldn't touch it), I wish my steak had been smothered in it instead of the crappy onion strings.

Since we were treating ourselves and it was a birthday dinner, we decided to order dessert. Of course there numerous chocolatey treats available but I chose the cheesecake. Good idea. Anyone who eats cheesecake knows that it can be extremely heavy - probably not the best choice right after a big steak dinner, right? Not in this case. The Keg's cheesecake was light and fluffy while still solid - not mousse-like at all which is how some of the lighter cheesecakes taste. The topping was a declious dark cherry sauce. The topping was sugary without being sickly sweet. The only complaint about the dessert was the crust - a tad too sweet. Cost $7 but since it was my birthday, it was free!!

While my meal didn't live up to my expectations, the food was quite tasty and there was plenty of it. The restaurant is a bit more expensive than your average family chain restaurant but I definately recommend The Keg for an occasional night out or a special occasion dinner. Click here to find a location near you.


Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

I just ate a huge bol of oatmeal but this post made me hungry. Happy birthday!

Wandering Coyote said...

I love The Keg! Sorry the food didn't live up to your expectations, though. I've never really had anything iffy there and have always enjoyed the steaks. Mind you, I always ordered the same thing: bacon-wrapped filet mignon meal - expensive at $31 or so, but you get a big Caesar salad in addition to a bunch of other stuff...Sooooooo gooooooood... They do a decent Cosmopolitan, too, but charge like $7 for it!

Gardenia said...

Sounds good!!!! The idea of steak with chopotle I have not tried - but I'm going to! Anyway it beats cooking on your birthday,huh? Or sitting here like I am watching a day of the Blade movies. I'm about to go to Walmart for coffee -maybe a frozen Key Lime Pie.

The prices sounded good (at least for here) for steak dinners.

Happy Birthday once again (from Facebook, too!)!!!

sp said...

Happy Birthday. Glad you had a dinner out to celebrate.

Milla said...

Belated birthday congratulations! when was your birthday?

The cheesecake looks a delish!

Candy Minx said...

The Keg's okay!

I was very happy for the Keg in that terrible time period where every restaurant was serving fucking noodles. In Toronto it was pasta pasta pasta in the late 80's and 90's. Meat was a dirty word. And to get a had tow choices The Tulip (out in the beaches...near the race I'd usually go bet afterwards) and The Keg. There was, and still is, a Keg on Jarvis, and it has gone through phases of being shabby decor...a little worn yours...but more or less the service and food stayed good.

I always lie to laugh at the peopel who go to a grocery store or restaurant and pay the same money to make noodles as it costs to make a steak.

And corn sucks too hee hee!

Down with wheat!

(you know I love talking about food!)

Tanya Espanya said...

I love the Keg! We go all the time.

Plain steak for me, medium rare. Perhaps I will start with an onion soup or baked goat cheese.

Always a shiraz too.

Hurry up and come over here, and we'll take you out.

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