Habitat Restaurant Does it Work in Canmore

Nutmeg and Ginger were treated to dinner at this very newly minted Canmore restaurant, it opened on June 18th.  Habitat was reviewed in the Calgary Herald last week, whether that was the reason or the fact that they have done some heavy advertising, the restaurant was full.  It is located in the Grand Rockies Resort on Mountain Street off the Bow Valley Trail in Canmore.  When you arrive in the hotel lobby it is clearly not the standard Rocky Mountain look; there is heavy emphasis on metal, dark wood, gray-black tile, dark granite – no slate or rundle stone anywhere in sight.  In fact, if you closed your eyes to the beautiful mountain view outside you could be in Toronto with the very urban design feel.  There is a great looking kids pool, super-slide and fun splash pond located beyond the lobby – it is fantastically sound proofed and no hint of the awful chlorine smell.

The restaurant theme is similar to the lobby with some interesting light fixtures, bold artwork, wine displays and booth seating.  However, overall Nutmeg felt the design fell short in a couple areas; the room was quite over-lit and there is too heavy an emphasis on bronze metallic finishes.

The menu has a strong Asian influence with starters that include tempura prawn and vegetables, five spiced fried calamari, crispy chicken and vegetable wonton soup. The table tried salad and soup starters as well as the tempura nori rolls (very good!).  The presentation was excellent and the flavours well-balanced in each case.  The main courses are also created with the same nod to the far east;  green tea and maple glazed salmon, Asian wok vegetables, wasabi mashed potatoes, tea smoked ribs.

The wait staff seems to be newly minted along with the restaurant and they would benefit from some additional experience.  Nutmeg started to lose her patience after Ginger explained to our waiter that CardaMOM cannot eat anything too spicy and requested that her order not include the wasabi mashed potatoes…they came anyway (extra bonus?).  The table service timing was off; the red wine was poured before cocktails were finished and CardaMOM almost had her butter knife down her back as her plate was being cleared.

The clientele is very mixed; there was a couple who arrived from the city dressed for a special evening, several tables of much appreciated tourists with their cameras and hiking shorts and a couple “date” tables where he had clearly made a special effort to get dressed up by putting on a clean ball cap and white sneakers.  Habitat may be quite challenged to find the right niche clientele in Canmore.  It is definitely not townie focused.  Although the restaurant promotion encourages “casual dress” the prices are reflective of a city restaurant yet the ambiance is hotel dining trying too hard  – a bit conflicted.

Nutmeg and Ginger had a lovely evening and would definitely go back for the food and the decent wine list.  The wait staff need some more time to wear off their rough edges.  Please let Nutmeg know when she can safely return….  🙂

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