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photo: Darrol Hofmeister
photo: Darrol Hofmeister

The Creek Is Great

If the ancient Mayans ate here there’d be no apocalypse

by Aidan Morgan

Creek in Cathedral Bistro
3414 13th Avenue

According to a bunch of nitwits, 2012 is the year of the Mayan apocalypse. That’s when all our timelines are slated to collapse and the earth will ignite like a briquette. I don’t know about you (unless you blog or something, and then I know too much about you), but I’m hoping that the long-predicted apocalypse is a joke that some bored Mayan priests came up with one night. 2012 is turning out to be a great year for restaurants in Regina. It would be a shame if some ancient calendar wiped out my Saturday night.

Take a quick look at your options. Crave has an invigorated menu and a powerhouse of a chef. La Bodega has taken off in the last year. Tangerine is straight-up genius. Enso’s sushi is a worthy competitor to Michi. And that’s not even mentioning Flip Eatery, the Lancaster Taphouse, Beer Bros., the Willow on Wascana, Table 10, Afghan Cuisine, the Valley Girls Catering empire, and so on.

And then there’s the Creek in Cathedral Bistro. You can count the ways I love that place by tallying up pretty much everything on the menu.

I’ve eaten at the Creek regularly over the last 10 years. It’s been my go-to for anniversaries, birthdays and any evening when I’m able to convince myself that I really do have enough money for the greatest lamb shanks in town. The place has had its ups and downs but its current incarnation, with owner Jasmin Godenir and chefs Martin Snow and Ricardo Rodriguez, is my favourite so far.

The Creek in Cathedrals’ supper menu is not just good. It is narcotic. A Creek meal will get you high. That stunned buzz of endorphins will drive your senses to some limit of pleasure, then kick you out of the vehicle and leave you gasping on the side of the road.

At the very least, it will leave you giggling and cross-eyed, your skin buzzing and your belly full.

For example: at my last supper outing at the Creek (accompanied by my trusty Knights of Appetite), we went all-out on the restaurant’s unsuspecting menu. It didn’t stand a chance. For appetizers, we tried the tapas for two, the wild mushroom ragout and the crab and spinach dip. After the appetizers, I went for the lamb shanks, which were as fall-off-the-bone as ever, while my friends tried the bourbon braised beef short ribs.

I found myself fixating on the decision to include madeleine cakes with the crab dip. Madeleines are crumbly, delightful little things that French authors dunk in their tea. A good dip catcher needs more tensile strength or surface area. If you try and scoop up some crab dip with a madeleine, it quickly turns into a battle. You want the crab dip. The crab dip wants the madeleine. About halfway through the scooping motion, the dip realizes what’s going on and grabs ahold. Unless you’ve got the superior force of will, you’re going to end up with a dip-kissed half of a madeleine in your hand while the dip itself triumphantly claims the other half. Damn crabs. Use a knife instead.

Lunch at the Creek is excellent. Full stop. I ordered two lunches on my last visit because I couldn’t stop eating. I started with the citrus couscous salad ($11), a little mound of warm couscous topped with pea shoots and arranged with avocados, orange pieces, goat feta and other good stuff. It’s just an excellent balance of flavours and a great example of how to use citrus in a dish without overdoing it. Then I tried the shrimp po’boy sandwich with sweet potato fries ($13.50). It’s a messy meal, with lightly breaded shrimp trying to escape the sandwich with every bite, but extremely satisfying. The sweet chili sauce was a bit unsophisticated for Creek dining, but what the heck — this is a po’boy, not a saffron-scented soufflé or something.

Best of all, though, was the wild mushroom pizza (full name: Guinness Wild Mushrooms, Spinach and Truffle Cheddar Sourdough Pizza). It’s $13.50, but I’d order it at $20 without blinking. Everything about that dish worked, from the absolutely correct crunch of its crust to the just-truffley-enough taste of the cheddar. Not to mention the mushrooms. Thank you, mushrooms.

The Creek’s Saturday brunch is a qualified success — a few glitches and one ugly food morsel put an asterisk on an otherwise good meal. My breakfast calzone ($12) tasted wonderful, with mushrooms and cheese and hollandaise enclosed in dough, but the item on the plate, malformed and grey, looked like a mutant. A medium-rare steak and sunny side-up eggs ($15.50) came out well-done with overly salted scrambled eggs on the side. One of the Knights of Appetite tried a bite of the eggs and declared that the salt didn’t faze him, because he was “very powerful.” That’s one puissant knight.

Other brunch items were better. The eggs benedict with smoked salmon and capers ($12.50) was perfectly fine, especially on a crumpet (it’s also available on a traditional English muffin). The mild Italian sausage, pepper and onion scrambler ($13) had a surprisingly delicate flavour.

Finally, because the Knights of Appetite are impervious to calories, we all ordered dessert. I had the blueberry mango crisp with a scoop of dulce de leche ice cream ($7.50). Fellow knights indulged in the peanut butter cream cheese pie ($8), a very sweet rhubarb crisp with cardamom ice cream ($7.50) and a black forest cheesecake ($8).

Mayan apocalypse, please wait a year. I predict many mushroom pizzas in my future.

WHAT IS IT? The Creek in Cathedral Bistro

WHAT’S IT FOR? Fine, fine dining; business lunch fare for non-business people; Saturday brunch

WHAT’S IT GONNA COST ME, POINDEXTER? More than Smitty’s? Lunch and brunch items run between $12-$15; main courses are around $22-$32

DISHES OF GREAT TRIUMPH Lamb shanks; anything that says “braised beef short rib”; that unbelievable mushroom pizza; the chocolate peanut butter pie

OTHER DISHES YOU SHOULD TRY Grilled tandoori chicken breast and goat feta cheese sandwich ($13.50); Kowloon’s wor wonton soup ($12); saskatoon stuffed French toast ($12); the made-to-order Bernard Callebaut molten chocolate cake ($8.50)

STILL NEEDING WORK? The Saturday brunch isn’t as good as the lunch and supper, but that won’t stop me from going back to try it again.