I really like the Wild Sage Kitchen and Bar. Mostly.
by Aidan Morgan
Wild Sage Kitchen and Bar
1975 Broad Street
The Wild Sage Kitchen and Bar is something new (at least in Regina): a reasonably priced hotel restaurant with upscale casual dining for both guests and local diners.
Part of the Doubletree Hilton Hotel, the Wild Sage rode in on a horse-drawn wagon of buzz, with articles and blog posts heralding it as the latest example of “farm to table” dining. Farm-to-table is the New Hotness in Saskatchewan, and rightly so: it’s a style of dining that draws on relationships with (often local) suppliers and gives people a greater sense of connection with what’s on the plate. The Wild Sage menu lists some of their suppliers on the menu: Cactus Organics, Pine View All Natural Meats and several others.
So how does the Wild Sage’s philosophy work in practice?
I found it to be a mixed bag. In fact, it’s a mixed bag full of other mixed bags (ask me some time how to mix a bag — it’s a fascinating process).
On my first visit, I admit that I broke one of my rules for restaurant reviewing and dropped in during the restaurant’s first week. Normally I like to give a restaurant several weeks or even a few months to smooth out kinks or correct any number of issues, but the early press had me curious. Besides, hotel restaurants generally need to be working right out of the gate, especially when the hotel has an instantly recognizable brand.
Our party started with the Duck Confit Spring Rolls ($6) and ordered the 72-Hour Braised Short Rib ($19), spaghetti with meatballs ($15) and the Lake Diefenbaker Trout Fillet ($18) for entrees. The spring rolls had a little less flavour that I was hoping for, but I’m a sucker for duck, so I enjoyed them. The best entree of the bunch was the spaghetti. The pasta was cooked to just the right consistency — slightly al dente — and the meatballs had a good texture, but the well-judged use of truffle oil made the dish almost unbearably delicious. The short ribs were fine, but better versions of the dish exist in other Regina restaurants.
The trout puzzled me a bit; it came with a citrus vinaigrette and sat awkwardly on a warm potato salad, and the taste and presentation didn’t make a lot of sense to me. Your mileage, as they say, may vary.
We gave the dessert menu a shot as well, with something called Le Kit Kat Bar (verdict: awesome) and a Saskatoon berry crumble (verdict: also awesome) (why am I putting desserts on trial?). The crumble actually took so long to come to the table that we had reached the fidgety stage of having nearly run out of conversation, but then the server came out and explained that the first attempt at the crumble didn’t live up to chef Gerard Caswell-Murphy’s standards. Later, Gerard Caswell-Murphy himself came out to check on our meal, which bought a lot of goodwill. It also bought me the opportunity to type “Gerard Caswell-Murphy” several times in a single paragraph.
The chef was also on hand for the Sunday brunch when I visited a few weeks later. At $25 for the full buffet, the Wild Sage is competing with the Hotel Saskatchewan for the upscale bring-your-grandma crowd. The litmus test for any brunch is the eggs Benedict, which I enjoyed, although one of the Knights of Appetite (as I call my posse) wasn’t, and I quote, “blown away” by them.
At the end of the buffet waited the inevitable omelette chef, which always makes me nervous. I keep imagining the omelette chef being kept in a broom closet all week and only let out Sundays to fold sautéed onions and peppers into your eggs. On the plus side, though: delicious fresh omelettes!
I also dropped in for lunch and sampled the Braised Short Rib Sandwich ($15). The restaurant was packed with downtown office workers, most of whom were availing themselves of the lunch buffet, which features a pasta chef.
On my third visit, it seemed as if some gear or cog had gotten loose in the machinery. I’m at my word limit, so I’ll just say I’m giving Wild Sage the benefit of the doubt and assuming we showed up for a bad day in the kitchen (also, avoid the Pine View Chicken Breast with chasseur sauce and truffled potato lasagna. It’s calibrated for diners who don’t want flavour or texture in their food).
I do have to mention the $18 appetizers we had that night: the Aged White Cheddar and Caramelized Shallot Perogies, Tuna Tataki, and Pavé Truffled Potato Cubes were all rated highly by the Knights at the table. My favourite was the truffled potato cubes, which were blocks of compressed potato slices infused with truffle oil. The truffle flavour added just a bit of umami.
My one regret is that I haven’t yet tried the pizza. At $10-$12 each, it looks like one of the best deals on the menu. One of them is called the Pig and Fig, which must be good, because foods that rhyme are delicious. The Wild Sage also has a pint-and-a-pizza special for $10. The pint in question is Müs Knuckle lager. Govern yourself accordingly, as the lawyers like to say.