Big Fish – Calgary, AB

Big Fish is my go-to place for raw oysters in Calgary. My foodie friends and I have been going there for Oyster Mondays for several years now. Every Monday evening at Big Fish, oysters by the dozen are on special at $30 for 2 dozen, which basically is a 2 for 1 deal. We haven’t been going as often in the past year as one of my friends has been occupied with her studies. We were long overdue for a visit and decided to remediate this by meeting up for oysters once more before the year ends.  When I first arrived on a Monday night a couple of weeks ago, I noticed there have been quite a few changes since my last visit. There appears to have been a complete overhaul of the wine list. Our favourite Wild Rock Sauvignon Blanc is no longer available. We ended up choosing a different Sauvignon Blanc also from the Marlborough region of New Zealand but I didn’t think this one paired as well with the oysters.

In the past, there had always been a decent selection of oysters to choose from, usually 3-4 varieties from the east coast and another 3-4 from west coast. On this visit, the were only two varieties of oysters to choose from – the Mona Lisa Smile from PEI and the Sawmill Bay from BC.  I’m not sure why this was the case. Perhaps, this is all that was in season. We decided to split our order equally between the two varieties. We ended up splitting 4 dozen oysters ($30 for 2 dozen) amongst the three of us. The Mona Lisa Smile were larger and had a very briny, metallic taste with a clean finish while the Sawmill Bay were sweeter and had a smokey fish. As always, the oysters were very fresh and definitely the highlight of our visit.

The oysters were served with 3 different condiments – a tarragon chili aioli, a caper chive mignonette, and a fresh housemade 4 chili cocktail sauce. The caper chive mignonette has always been my favourite to go with the oysters as I like a bit of acidity to balance out the creaminess of the oysters. In the past, they had served the condiments in small stainless cups but now they have changed to using mini squeeze bottles. I thought this was a brilliant idea as it is so much easier to apply just the right amount of condiment on to each oyster and is a lot less messy. I wish more places would serve their condiments for oysters this way.

With our bellies already partially full from the oysters, we set out to order some other dishes to complete our meal. The menu at Big Fish can be a bit of a minefield. Given the number of times we’ve visited over the past few years, we definitely experienced our share of hits and misses, though usually more hits than misses. Normally, my favourite item to complete the oyster feast is a bowl of the Creamy East Coast Seafood Chowder with Yuzu Oil.  But on this visit I noted that some of the menu items had changed so I was curious to try something different.

Both my friend L and I decided to order the Soba Noodle Salad with Red Chili Scented Baby Calamari Skewers ($14). The Soba Noodle Salad was well-dressed with a lime miso vinaigrette. However, I wasn’t a big fan of the baby calamari skewers. Though they were well-seasoned on the outside, the red chili flavour did not permeate throughout the calamari resulting in some bland bites. The chewiness of the calamari didn’t help matters either. Overall, the salad itself was ok but I could have done without the calamari skewers. While I was having this salad, I kept on wishing that I had ordered a bowl of the East Coast Seafood Chowder instead.

My friend C wanted to try the Yam-crusted BC Halibut with Chimichurri sauce ($29). The halibut was served with asparagus, baby sweet corn shoots, and a pilaf of spicy almonds. The first attempt at this dish wasn’t very successful as the halibut was severely overcooked. The fish was dried-out and very dense. My friend C brought it to our servers attention and I was impressed at how the situation was handled. He offered to have another one prepared. Meanwhile, he left the dish at the table for my friend to continue to nibble on the side items so that she didn’t have to sit and watch the rest of us eat. A fully composed second plate of the Yam-crusted BC Halibut with Chimichurri sauce was prepared and brought to the table in no time. On this second attempt, the halibut was cooked perfectly to my friend’s liking. The fish was tender, moist, and flaky. This was definitely a stark contrast to the first attempt. Based on what I sampled from the first attempt, I probably would have never ordered this dish again. But based on this second attempt, I was totally impressed. The yam-crusted fish was very flavourful. The perfectly cooked asparagus and spicy almonds provided a great textural and flavour contrast to the fish.

For dessert, my friend C ordered a dessert coffee while my friend L and I decided to attempt something from the dessert menu again. We’ve had dessert at Big Fish several times in the past but none of the desserts we’ve tried so far have been very memorable. Personally, I don’t think dessert is one of their strengths. On this visit, my friend L decided to try the Lemon Meringue Tart ($9) while I decided try the Trio of House Made Ice Cream ($9).  The Lemon Meringue Tart tasted ok. The lemon filling was a little on the runny side and both my friend and I agreed that we wished the meringue would be taller and stiffer. For my Trio of House Made Ice Cream, I was given a choice of 3 flavours – chocolate, lemon lime coconut, and apple cheddar. I decided to get a scoop of each to try. The chocolate was definitely the favourite as it was rich and decadent. I really liked the bright flavour of the lemon lime coconut but thought there were a little too many coconut shreds in the ice cream. The apple cheddar was my least favourite. Conceptually it sounded interesting but was a miss in the execution. I could taste both the cheddar and the apple chunks. However, the texture of the ice cream was not smooth and creamy. Instead it was crumbly in texture. I’ll give them credit for at least attempting to make the ice cream in-house instead of serving the commercially produced version like some other restaurants do.  When the bill came, to our pleasant surprise, they had comped all of our desserts to make up for the earlier halibut issue.

Though this meal had its ups and downs, Big Fish is still my favourite place in Calgary for raw oysters. I think the oysters are truly what they excel at.  I’ve been there for Oyster Mondays at least a dozen plus times now. Each and every time, the oysters have been very fresh and it’s a great deal at $30 for 2 dozen. I’ve always enjoyed their oyster selection in the past. I hope on my next visit there will be more varieties available like before. The service has been great so far all the times I’ve visited.

Big Fish
1112 Edmonton Trail NE
Calgary, AB
(403) 277-3403

http://big-fish.ca

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