Friday, September 30, 2011

Jasper Getaway 2011, Day One: Jasper Brewing Company Review!

Ahhh... It's 10:30pm, my feet are up, the TV is on, my husband is sitting beside me, feet up, relaxing. This is our first night in the sweetest little hotel suite at the Best Western Jasper. It is a loft queen suite with kitchenette, fireplace and balcony!

I mentioned on my Menu Plan for last week that we were going to sample a series of restaurants and since JNP is my favourite place on Earth, I wanted to share with you our weekend away and share with you all the wondrous things we are experiencing!

As we approached the park gates, my husband spotted our first wild life! After a dash across the highway and shimmying down an embankment, The Moose dashed out of the bush and turned and looked at us!


For dinner, we had planned to go to Jasper Brewing Company. I wanted a casual, relaxed place to eat tonight - something simple, tasty and spirited.

Initially, it wasn't really clear if we were to seat ourselves - finally, I did see a sign and we found our way to a table.

Once seated, the waiter appeared shortly to take our bar order. Being it is a specialty brew house, beer was on 'tap'. My husband selected the "Honey Bear" brew and I queried the waiter on a beer that didn't have a strong after taste.

He recommended one, however, I have to admit, he kind of left a bad aftertaste. He was curt, short and not at all pleasant - or even very helpful. He left and came back about 10 minutes later to take our dinner order.

We decided on the Sucker Punch Nachos for our appetizer and the Bacon Cheddar Burger (with fries) and the Cream Ale Battered Fish & Chips.

The nachos came quickly and were absolutely amazing. The fresh, in house made salsa was the highlight. Just the right amount of spice, flavour and it was easy to taste the fresh, high quality ingredients. The cheese and toppings were plentiful and the chips were fresh, light and not at all greasy. We happy munched away and both our beer selection complimented and highlighted the flavours perfectly.

Our dinners arrived before finishing the nachos - which was fine with us. Eager to sample the food, we both started immediately. The presentation was cool - the chips were in a checked paper wrapper in a coiled-metal stand and the fish, dark and rich in colour, lay on more checked paper. On the side was a dish of coleslaw and their fresh made tartar sauce. My husbands fries were presented in the same way with the burger laying happily beside it - dressed with a queen sized green olive (much to his dismay and my delight).

We both started eating - but first I had to "push" on the fish. It was ripe with oil - oozing out of the batter. I could see the paper was already soiled so I knew what to expect. I tasted the coleslaw - and promptly wished I hadn't. It mostly tasted like old cellar. I pushed it aside and tried a fry. They too were rather oil-laden and we were unable to resolve whether they were hand cut potatoes or cleverly disguised preformed French fries. The taste wasn't quite good enough to be the former but they were hot, appropriately salted and a reasonable accompniment to our pub fair.

My husband reported his burger as "dry". He said it had all the hallmarks of a top quality burger - handmade patty, fresh toppings and a nice bun but it was just not quite to the calibur he was expecting. Being we were in such a fantastic brewhouse, he had been expecting more from the burger. And frankly, I had decided on this restaurant because burgers are his favourite and I thought what better place to have a burger than a brew house. Over all, he thought it was "fine" - and as far as restuarant burgers go, it was probably one of the better ones he had eaten but was just as good as it could have been.

The fish - all the oil aside (I wasn't expecting it to be "dry" - it's deep fried fish, for goodness sakes, but I do expect the kitchen to "blot" some of the oil before serving. I had a pool of oil on the paper and had to continually move around the fish so it wasn't sitting in the newest puddle) was good.

The interior was 'doughy' - not raw or under-cooked, just too much mush from too much batter. I ended up cutting open the fish and scraping some of the mush out.

Once I did this and could taste it, I have to say it was, without one single doubt, the best tasting battered fish I have ever eaten. The batter was amazing - tasty in a way I've never experienced and the tartar sauce? Absolute perfection. I do think, however, the batter would be better suited to a firmer fleshed fish.

The ambiance was OK. It was pretty quiet - but we are in the "off season" so it was expected. The place is dark, I'm not a huge fan of dark restaurants and I would see older clientele having issues navigating the place (occupational hazard - being an interior designer, I see things from a bit of a different perspective). It's moderately noisy but being we chose to sit in the dining room, I think we were spared some of the loud, bar going patrons.

The service... Well, it was an experience. The waiter was not chatty (which I do appreciate, I'm not going to ever be your bestie and I don't care for idle chatter from someone I'm never going to see again) but some interaction may have been nice.

I also wasn't impressed with his "Ahhh... F&^&k." comment as he watched another patron enter the dining room. He was standing right at our table when he said it and, well, if we'd had our son with us, I would have left and complained severely to the manager. He was "surly" for certain and actually didn't speak to us - until he happened to notice me taking notes. But he quickly disappeared and had to be flagged down to get any additional service.

So... Jasper Brewing Company 624 Connaught Drive, Jasper, Alberta, Canada. Overall, it was good. The beer was very good, the food was reasonable and the tab (with tip) was $100 CDN for two (including 5 drinks). The service - I have hard time saying "it was bad" - because really, it wasn't. He brought us what we wanted but it was the odd silence and lack of any conversation that disturbed me. The setting - Rustic Mountain decor - cavernous and dark and not suitable for romance, but a light, positive atmosphere.

Out of Five Stars, we would give it:

Tomorrow, we have 6 o'clock reservations for Evil Dave's!

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