bits and pieces

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Regina Reviews: Crave-ing a Good Meal?

Every time I post a review - I get a bunch of comments going 'ZING' or 'OUCH'. I went back and re-read my reviews, and while at least one of them was purposefully snarky - for the others, I was just trying to be honest! While Regina's food scene is developing and progressing rapidly, there are still a number of restaurants middling along by being 'not actively awful'. But for me - going out for a meal is a luxury. As food prices continue to rise, I firmly believe that restaurants should deliver on their services. If I'm paying $6 for a bowl of pho, I'm not going to be  obnoxiously picky - however, if it's a $25  plate of pasta and it tastes like No Name spaghetti and Prego, then I'm going to be a little more... discerning. Don't get me wrong - I love No Name spaghetti and Prego - just not paying $25 for it. 

And now - with that lengthy caveat over with, what are my  thoughts and feelings on Crave? 

One of the first restaurants I went to in Regina was Crave. This was four or five years ago, and I was intrigued by the historic building, and happening scene. And in my memory if you went out downtown, you were going to Beer Brothers, OHanlons, or Crave. At least four years ago it seemed like that. Which means we all owe big ups to the Downtown people and investors who are committed to making our city centre a more happening place. But back to four or five years ago! 

I went on my first or second visit to Regina, and was... incredibly disappointed. I ordered a seared tuna burger, took a bite, and it was ICE COLD. As in frosty. As in not thawed. It was actually the very first time I had ever sent food back. And they brought me a new one. And I opened the bun to find out it was the same piece of tuna I had taken a bite out of. It was also full of what appeared to be drunk, divorced, and somewhat handsy real-estate agents. At 6 pm on a Tuesday. Subsequently, we didn't go back to Crave for a looooooong time. 

Probably about 2 years.

Then one summer's eve, we were peckish. Crave had undergone some serious changes, and if memory serves me right, a new chef (Jonathan Thauberger) had taken over the kitchen. We were walking past on our way to somewhere else and I glanced at the menu and saw they had a chacuterie plate.  Now I love me a chacuterie plate. We decided to give Crave another shot, as I was eager to eat all of their cheese and Taylor was eager to eat all of their meats. And...?

It was awesome.

Since that second experience, back in 2012/2013, Crave has become my 'go to' spot for a nice-ish dinner out. 9 out of 10 times, the food is excellent, the service is great, and the atmosphere is usually fairly laid back. That 1 time out of 10? It's fine, and good but I'm not overwhelmed. But honestly - a B+ is the worst I'd give an experience there. 

They've demonstrated a commitment to local suppliers and the local food scene while also consistently striving to improve, innovate, and advance. It's a great place to be adventurous and try new things. They've recently brought in some white truffles and are putting them on everything.

That's right dear readers - this is a POSITIVE review.

First of all - I have never once had even the littlest bit of an issue with the service at Crave. It has been consistently friendly, informed, prompt, and responsive. Their servers are great. Full stop. 

Second-of-ly, their specials tend to be excellent. Regular readers will know that I am a recovering pescatarian (fish, seafood OK, but no 'meat'). Subsequently, up until recently all of my samplings of Crave have been fish or vegetable based. 

And OK let's be honest, I eat a lot of their cheese too. 

Their specials are frequently from the sea, and as someone who cooks and consumes a lot of fish - they have always been perfectly cooked. I don't mean like 'oh gee, they didn't overcook my fish to the point of making it flaky cardboard, bravo', I mean perfect. They switch it up (because it's a special) so I can't recommend a specific one to try - but I would highly recommend you try their special whatever it is. 

Third most, their standard menu offerings are all pretty, pretty good. I also appreciate that the change their menu seasonally, and step every offering up just a little bit. Yes I can make bison at home, but chances are I'm not going to make it with an heirloom tomato and cendrillon tart on the side. Few things make me sadder than ordering food at a restaurant and wishing I'd just made it at home. While there are a couple things on their menu that I don't personally care for - it's just that, personal. It's not badly prepared or thoughtlessly thrown together. It's just an 'oh jeez, I don't really like lentils at all no matter what you do to them'. True story (sorry Saskatchewan). 

Fourth-ish-ly, they support local suppliers and that is just rad. They also participate actively in Regina's burgeoning food scene, and seem committed to change and creativity in their ingredients. 

Now this glowing review is not to say every single thing I've ever had there has been perfect or exactly what I want. For example - I wish they gave slightly more generous portions of cheese on their chacuterie slabs (shocking). Or served more crostinis with their slabs (what they refer to their cheese plates as). They make these tiny bagels instead. While I love bagels in all shapes and sizes, it's not necessarily what I want with a cheese plate. They don't have more than 2 or 3 vegetarian options on their menu. If you're not into a lentil cassoulet or a veggie burger, you might be SOL.  And once I had a gin martini there that tasted like salt. 

HOWEVER - the gin martini was promptly replaced with a big, complimentary glass of red wine, and the restaurant even followed up with me. The steak frites is great,  their chef's salad is AMAZING, their steak tartare is pretty darn good, the prawn empanadas are delightful, their beef cheeks and beef tenderloin are melt in your mouth delicious, and despite being somewhat pedestrian - their desserts are pretty much everything you'd want. And this is only the current menu! 

I'm not saying Crave is the next coming of Alinea***, but it will not disappoint, and beyond that - it will absolutely impress.

Eat all of their chacuterie. Be adventurous! Try the tongue. EAT THE SPECIALS. And enjoy yourself! The atmosphere isn't pretentious. The staff seem pretty happy. Service is attentive and informative, and the food is great. 

Want to go for a fancy or for that matter a casual birthday dinner? Crave. Kind of a meat and potatoes type of guy/gal but willing to try a different type of meat and potatoes? Crave. Taking your Papa out while he visits you from fancy-Toronto? Crave. Booking a work dinner and looking for a private room? Crave. Just want a delicious slab of cheese, blue-rare steak frites with a poached egg on top, and a tasty tasty creme brûlée? Crave.

food: 4/5
service: 4/5
overall experience: 4.5/5 (I've never had a bad time and I can be picky). 

(NOTE TO ANYONE FROM CRAVE WHO INCIDENTALLY READS THIS - I know you're very busy and doing a very good job already - but I think it would be most excellent if once a week [maybe on an off night?], or heck - even once a month/season you started to offer a prix-fixe fancy tasting menu with wine pairings. I'm not sure if there's anywhere in YQR doing this yet and I think you'd do a phenomenal job at showcasing some innovative, gourmet offerings. Please try it. And please please PLEASE invite me. Heck - I'd even coordinate it for you. I will work for cheese and truffles.)

Crave is located at 1925 Victoria Avenue in Regina
Check out their menu and philosophy here:  

As always, this is just my personal opinion. Have you been to Crave? What's your favourite dish? Are you impressed too, or have I just gotten lucky? Would you go to a fancy tasting menu night at Crave? Do you think they should bring in more cheeses just so I can eat them? Me too! Let me know what you think - I'd love to hear from you. 


  1. Love reading your food blog. All of your reviews -- the good ones, the bad ones, the snarky ones -- are well-written and entertaining.

  2. Thanks David! I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy writing them. Over the past few years I've been checking out reviews in the 'main' paper(s) in town, and while they're great and supportive - I found them a bit misleading as 'reviews'. After enough disappointing meals out I thought 'Hey, maybe there's a tiny gap in the market I can try and fill'. A few years later and my reviews are among my most popular all time posts :)

    It's so affirming to hear that they're enjoyed! Thank you and happy eating!

  3. I love Crave!! The fixe price thing would be great too!