At Long Last…Starbelly
Living out in the suburbs often has it’s drawbacks regarding nightlife and restaurant options. Rising up among the vast oceans of cookie cutter housing, the odd strip mall and commercial areas provide suburbanites with simple nourishment. In these establishments, chain restaurants and small mom and pop Asian eateries prevail. Our family, having eschewed the visitation of most chain restaurants (except Subway!), do like to go out for the odd Vietnamese, Sushi, or Korean meal from time to time. What we were really craving though, was a local gourmet casual restaurant that we would be happy to frequent on a regular basis. Driving to the city core for a decent meal takes a lot of effort and especially time, which is often difficult to carve out of our family’s busy schedule.
I was absolutely excited beyond words when I got word that Starbelly was to be built in nearby Seton. After many hiccups along the way (basically everything that could go wrong during the building, financing, and planning of a restaurant did go wrong) and after months and months of anticipation, Starbelly has finally opened their doors. I’m here to tell you it was worth the wait.
Three weeks have passed now since their November 25th opening and I have been to Starbelly five times already. I think the restaurant is a welcome concept and addition to the deep South East area of Calgary and I would like to support them as much as I can…plus the food is inventive and flavourful. That in itself is going to keep me and my family coming back time and again. Additional perks also include a friendly staff beginning with Head Chef Trevor Ross and junior Sous Chef Suzanne Jacks, along with General Managers Steven Tabinski and Daylee Howell. Chef Trevor Ross began his culinary career as a dishwasher at Red Lobster at age 15 and became completely hooked on the dynamics of life in the kitchen. After receiving his certificate at Le Cordon Bleu, he began to gain more experience through staging at various restaurants worldwide. Experience is what makes Chef Trevor superbly efficient, organized, and driven. Combine these qualities with creativity and skill and you have a young man who can fulfill his dreams of one day running his own restaurant.
On one visit I was treated to a ‘behind’ the scenes’ kitchen and cold room tour where I was amazed at the well stocked and organized refrigerated room. The scent of curing duck prosciutto was prevalent and I inhaled the aromas deeply as Chef Trevor showed me the various ‘in house’ cured and smoked meats, including all the bacon that they use and some of the best pastrami I have ever tasted. Making everything ‘in house’ is a lot of work but the quality and care are certainly reflected in the plate set in front of each customer.
What I love about Starbelly is that it is bright, open, and airy. The details change a bit with every visit I’ve made but I’m in love with all of the copper accents throughout the space, as well as the various wood finishes and lighting throughout. The well stocked bar and wine room certainly reflect the interest that Steven Tabinski brings to the restaurant. Also note that Big Rock has brewed a special ‘Starbrew’, a lovely chestnut ale with flavours of vanilla and five spice. It is absolutely delicious with the ‘Rootbeer’ doughnut featured on the dessert menu.
Of the five meals that I have enjoyed at Starbelly (both alone and with the family) there are several dishes that have really stood out. On opening day I visited for lunch and ordered the Chorizo and Caramelized Onion Melt with a side of Ham Hock & White Bean Soup. I was served within 15 minutes and the dish tasted amazing. House made chorizo paired really nicely with the sweet caramelized onions…and all that cheese of course!
The family was so jealous that I got to visit Starbelly first that we ended up going again for dinner. We began with the Wood Fired Calamari and the Seared Scallops. The three of us were completely blown away by the calamari in taste and texture. Truthfully, the scallops weren’t our favourite.
Hubby couldn’t get enough of those Bourbon Honey Glazed Ribs and Sam really enjoyed his Grilled Country Burger and Fries. He still talks about those fries and on a more recent visit, he ordered the Veal Osso Bucco and substituted the garlic mashed potatoes for the fries so that he could dip them in the bone marrow. That night I really enjoyed the risotto of the day which was ‘roasted mushroom’. This picture does not do it justice…the seasoning was spot on as was the perfect ‘al dente’ texture of the rice.
We’ve been fairly happy with the level of service and quality of food we’ve eaten during our two dinners, two lunches (go for the pastrami sandwich!), and one brunch eaten at Starbelly. Brunch on Sunday was a lovely event, though we all found the dishes were under seasoned and had to ask for some salt. I enjoyed my Mushroom Fritatta, while hubby was blown away by the Poached Eggs and Polenta with Bacon Jam (I was hoping for a polenta somewhere on the Starbelly menu!). My daughter had the Poached Eggs and Chorizo, though she said that she prefers her chorizo a bit spicier and her eggs with a medium poach. It might be a good idea for the server to ask how the diner would like their eggs poached as not everyone likes their eggs as soft as these came out. I think we all agreed that the most impressive dish was Sam’s Monte Cristo; two huge slices of Brioche stuffed with ham hock and Gruyère, then topped with marinated tomatoes and a gloriously poached egg. It wasn’t me that suggested we break the yolk for the photo…I’ve trained my little foodie family well!
It’s clear from the quality of food and service that Starbelly is set to become a popular choice for those of us in the deep South areas of Calgary. I’m looking forward to many more great meals in the coming year.