On a whim, my wife and I decided to try out Bookers. I had eaten there a couple of times before, but always at lunchtime. I had always found the food quite good and the service excellent. Bookers after dark is not such a fun place to get to, it lives in one of the scuzzier areas of downtown Calgary. For neighbors it has a homeless shelter and possibly the scariest hotel/bar in the western hemisphere, The Cecil. Although it was only a two block walk from the bus it was possibly the longest two blocks of our lives. Skillfully avoiding the hookers and drug dealers we made it to Bookers unharmed.

Although it was only 7pm the place was packed, the official greeter and seater explained that there was a party of 75 and offered us a high table in the lounge area, I explained politely that while I might be able to get Jan on the high chair, I’d never be able to get her off again in one piece, she is five foot nothing and has a bad hip! A little bit of rearranging of reservations found us seated in a booth. Jan griped, because her feet didn’t touch the floor. So with her feet dangling in mid-air we were given the menu.

Bookers claims to specialize in sea food, and so we went for the surf rather than the turf. Bookers claims to be a Cajun restaurant, and Jan is a Cajun. Not finding what she wanted on the menu she asked advice, “I want fried shrimp”, oh you need the Buffalo Shrimp the server tells her. So for starters we went for Buffalo Shrimp, and an order of Calamari. Both of us like spicy food, but we are in agreement that hot for hots sake is boring. The Buffalo Shrimp was a huge disappointment, not only was it not fried it was nasty hot, and had absolutely no flavor. The Calamari was a little better, the portion was huge, more than enough for two people. The batter was not as crispy as I like, and the bottled seafood sauce that it was floating in was bland and boring.

For our main course we selected a plain Fish And Chips (once bitten twice shy), and a Salmon and Crab Cake with a cream Creole sauce. The Fish And Chips looked good, and the portion size was huge, alas it was swimming in grease, and the texture of the fish was mushy rather than flakey.

The Salmon was equally disappointing, the fish itself was well executed, and the albeit ,very small Crab Cake was quite delicious. However the goo that surrounded it was about as Creole as a Bagel. Jan called it bland, to me it was just plain disgusting, it was undercooked, it had a very raw and unnerving flavor. The best part of the entire dish was the asparagus spears. But how can you screw up Asparagus?

As Alton Brown of Iron Chef fame says, ‘It’s judgment time, our judges can award a total of 20 points, 10 for taste, 5 for plating, and 5 for originality’. Well Bookers get 5 for plating, and zero for the rest!

I will give credit to the serving staff though, they were very gracious, helpful, and attendant.

In the unlikely event that you wish to risk life and limb in the seedier part of Calgary after dark, Bookers has a web site with directions of how to get there. I am a big fan of The Food Channel’s show Restaurant Makeover, while the decor is fine, they certainly could teach them how to cook!
Simon Barrett

http://zzsimonb.blogspot.com

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