Fun fact: Did you know the Grizzly House in Banff, at its inception, was Western Canada’s first disco?
The story goes, when it was opened in 1967, food was delivered to the disco clientele through an actual hole in the wall from next door’s Chinese restaurant. Once the restaurant closed, the Grizzly House needed another way to feed it’s tight-panted, flashy dancers so they introduced fondue pots, and have been a Banff institution ever since.
The Grizzly House has maintained a lot of its 1970s elements and charm and is like walking into an actual warm and cozy bear’s den. It’s dark, with lots of wood elements and red lighting, just like the good ol’ days. Patrons can call various tables to chat (we got a call from a fella from Ireland and a newly married couple from Saskatoon).
For what we thought was a pretty reasonable bang for your buck, the Grizzly House has four-course, Complete Fondue Dinners. You get a soup or salad to start, a cheese or veggie fondue appetizer, your main course fondue, and a chocolate fondue for dessert.
Prices depend on which meat you’d like to fondue, or as our server suggested, roast on a hot rock. Friends of mine who have attended before warned me of the greasy smell that lingers on your clothing, but we didn’t really notice the smell in the air or on our clothes. Maybe because more people are using the hot rocks? Our server was prompt, and polite, but distant like they weren’t thrilled with working that day or we had annoyed them somehow. We had an amazing experience but they did put a slight damper on it.
Back to the eatin’ – I went with the Caesar Salad, after helping Siddall out with hers at St. James’s Gate earlier, and Siddall went with the soup de jour, Chicken Tortellini.
The Caesar Salad was classic and tasty. Crushed it despite trying to pace myself for the food parade about to be set before us. The soup had a lot of different flavours going on and could have been reined in a tidge.
Then came the mind-blowing victual divinity that was the Neuchatel (cheese, wine and Kirsch) fondue. The server supplied us with small containers of roasted garlic and encouraged us to mash it and add to the cheese. Win.
Like damn. I’m drooling as I’m typing this. The visit was worth the cheese alone. The bread wasn’t soft, but the fact it had a bit of an almost dry texture definitely helped it hold up to the heavy, marvelous cheese. That’s probably a fondue trick. I know my mom always toasts the bread first, so it’s all about getting the cheese in your pie hole without the bread melting away. Now Swiss Cheese isn’t on the top of my cheese list, but when you melt that sucker down and add alcohol – holy crap. There was an almost savoury sweetness to it. When I put down my fondue fork so I’d have room left for the meat course, I ended up stuffing four more cheese sodden lumps of bread in my mouth. Sigh. Bliss.
For our meat courses, Siddall went with the Beef and Lobster ($54.95) and I went with the Hunter Fondue Dinner with buffalo, wild boar and venison ($54.95). Going with the servers suggestion of a hot plate was indeed a good idea, less oily and you get to do your own barbecue. The stone does tend to cool so we were given a replacement stone about halfway through.
Siddall crushed the lobster and even managed to share some, that’s love. The beef was tender and juicy. For my hunter plate, the venison actually won the night for me, juicy and not at all gamey. The bison was lovely and tender, and the boar was tasty, just my least favourite of the three.
The meats are accompanied by a quintet of sauces. There was a horseradish, tomato, bacon mayo, teriyaki and chipotle. The horseradish was the clear sauce winner of the evening for both of us.
Wrapping up the dinner, when you think you can’t stuff anything more into your body, there comes a chocolate fondue. Our tealight ran out shortly after service but we didn’t care we were so busy inhaling chocolately goodness. There were apples, strawberries, bananas and melons and these delightful little chocolate wafers for an extra chocolate punch.
Would love to go back and fondue again obvs, but also try some of the other fare. The lovely older gentleman seated beside us had the British Columbia Smoked Trout ($18.95) and it was almost a charcuterie of delights served with pate, capers, lemon and bread.