Cross-posted from Calgary is Awesome.
I'm not the type of foodie who watches for restaurant openings and races to be the first at the door. There's certainly no reason to be - there are lots of great restaurants in Calgary that I have yet to try and with every new restaurant you always want to give them some time to get on their feet wet and get into the flow of things. However, I couldn't pass up an invitation from Amber, one of the managers at the newly opened Tango Bistro for a free meal in exchange for a review. So last week, I invited my cousin Kevin (of the Sherm's Ultimate Gripper challenge fame) to come out for dinner with me as thanks for providing me with the hookup.
Tango Bistro is the most recent offspring of Smuggler's Inn, carved out of a part of its large dining room. Gone is the rustic, wooden decor, and in its place, a shiny, well-lit space with tall windows looking out to busy Macleod Trail, hardwood floors and modern lines. Likely inspired by the recent tapas/mezze/anju/izakaya trend, Tango serves up "small plates" meant to be shared over a few glasses of wine. Their dishes draw from an array of global cuisines, so you can't pin them down to the simple "tapas" label.
Most of their dishes are between the $7.50 and $10 range, with fries and side salads available from $3 to $5 and charcuterie and cheese plates at $14. I'd made the mistake of eating a little too much before dinner, so you'll notice that we focused on ordering the lighter dishes on the menu (bacon or turducken here tonight!)
We started with the Barely Seared BC Albacore Tuna with Asian Vegetable Slaw and Szechuan Aioli ($9.50, picture on top). The tuna was meaty but light and the aioli had just a bit of a kick to it. I didn't like the slaw, however; it was a bit too sour for me.
The Lemongrass Chicken Salad Rolls ($8.50) were filled with crisp, fresh veggies and I loved the flavour of the lemongrass chicken with the Thai basil. The Cashew Ginger sauce was an interesting change from the usual fish sauce that you generally find at Vietnamese restaurants - all the sauces/condiments at Tango were very delicious - but the wrappers on our salad rolls were a little undercooked; they were thick and chewy.
Kevin, who is a unagi/eel fan raved about the Twisted Fish and Chips ($8.50), which comes with Tsingtao BBQ eel instead of the usual haddock or cod, sweet potato fries and chipotle aioli. Since I'm generally neutral when it comes to eel, I found it to be very greasy. I said so to Kevin as I was eating my second piece and added, "Well, maybe because it's not straight from the fryer," and he replied, "You also said it was greasy when you ate the first piece." So I guess it is what it is. The chipotle aioli was really good. I liked the sweet potato fries as well, but they weren't amazing - I still think the ones from Broken City are on the top of my list.
Kevin ordered the Mushroom and Truffle Gnocchi with Parmesan and Rosemary blanquette ($9), which he had had before and liked. At first I found the dish to be a little weird as I think there is some unexpected citrus in the sauce, and even Kevin said it wasn't as good as the first time around. But it grew on us. This dish is very rich (though the citrus does lighten it up a little bit), contrasted with the fresh, crisp asparagus.
The ceviche ($9.50) was probably the highlight of the night for me - the prawns and scallops were coated with a zippy lime and tomato-based marinade and were complemented well by the plantain chips. Funny, how the best dish happened to be Spanish ;)
I was about ready for dessert, which Amber had described to me as shot glasses filled with different sweet treats that I imagine must be similar to the ones served at O in Marda Loop. But then, Amber insisted that we had to try her favourite - Adobo Pork Empanadas with Roasted Pineapple Salsa ($7.50)
The actual dish comes with four empanadas - despite bursting at the seams, Kevin and I managed to dig right in before I remembered to take a photo.
I could tell why these were Amber's favourite - the pastry on the empanadas is very flaky, revealing some piping hot ground pork inside. I would say that I wished there was more flavour to the meat, but that would only compete with the sweet and spicy pineapple salsa.
So in the end, there was no room for dessert, but I would definitely go back for it. Yes, I wasn't wowed by the food, but it was decent and I can't wait to try some of their heavier dishes when my appetite is up for it. The atmosphere is cozy and it's certainly a classy place for happy hour or some after-dinner drinks and snacks; I probably wouldn't go for dinner, especially with a large group, because if everyone's ordering three dishes just to fill up, it could get quite cumbersome. I welcome Tango to the Smuggler's family, and think it's a great addition to Calgary's lounge and "small plates" scene.
6920 Macleod Tr S
Calgary AB T2H 0L3
Open Mon-Thu 11 AM-Midnight. Fri-Sat 11 AM-1 AM. Sun 4:30 PM-Midnight. Online reservations available via Open Table.