Feb. 24, 2010 - Issue #749: Basia Bulat
Sort of not impressive
Skinny Legs doesn't live up to its reputationWhen Skinny Legs and Cowgirls ... A Sort of Bistro burst onto the dining scene a few years ago, it amassed heaps of accolades and many a devoted follower. Not bad for a self-proclaimed tiny-little-hole-in-the-wall. Space evidently became an issue, though, and a newer, bigger Skinny Legs was launched in December.
You'll now find the "sort of bistro," and the sign with the impossibly tall legs, at the west end of Jasper Avenue, close to where it veers off into 124 Street. It's an increasingly trendy district, one that seems fitting for such a purportedly trendy restaurant.
I never did visit the original location, but I was captivated by the idea of a family-run business that focused on locally-sourced, organic fare. Better yet, thoughts of all things quirky inevitably surfaced in any mention of the place, and how can you possibly resist quirky? My friend and I couldn't.
Appearance-wise, this was not the quirky Skinny Legs of old. Old-world sumptuous might be the better description. Gauzy black drapes hang seductively from the large windows, old-fashioned chandeliers dangle from the ceiling and vibrant red walls, flickering candles and dim lighting bathe the place in a luxurious aura. The pièce de résistance, though, is the stunning glass-tiled bar that dominates the room.
The place was busy, especially for a Monday night in the middle of January, but our waiter promptly delivered waters and, because we were newbies, explained how Skinny Legs works. Everything on the menu, with the exception of soup (I think), is meant to be shared. It's not really tapas-style sharing, where you share bits of this and that. It's family-style. All the items are designed to feed at least two people and the entrées are aptly featured under "Platters."
We perused the menu and, although it wasn't large, it seemed to offer something for everyone. Along with the "safe" dishes, there were quite a few with a twist or two thrown in.
We bypassed the signature mixed grill and instead went with the house salad ($25), half a dozen black tiger prawns ($20) and Skinny Legs' take on polenta ($18). And, because the room screamed wine, I ordered a glass of organic Red Truck Petite Syrah ($10).
We sipped wine—mine was fruitier and less intense than other Syrahs I've tried—and munched on the warm and heavenly multigrain bread that found its way to our table. A big plate of salad followed shortly after, along with an elegantly curved dish of prawns.
The salad was pristinely fresh, with a light and lively dressing and luxuriously rich goat cheese, but the promised feta and roasted veggies were nowhere to be seen, except for the addition of one lone mushroom. And the big metal tongs it came with challenged us to no end; they were awkward to manage and once they grabbed all of that lovely goat cheese, they wouldn't let go.
Our half dozen black tiger prawns turned out to be three of the most gigantic prawns I have ever seen. Prawns on steroids, if you will. The mammoth beasts were nestled neatly in an intriguing pesto and Cinzano sauce, with onions and peppers scattered underneath. A gentle hit of garlic livened up the dish, but it wasn't enough to save the rubbery prawns. Bigger is not always better, evidently. There was also the number issue: three prawns instead of the promised six make sharing a bit awkward.
The much-anticipated polenta arrived with a flourish. Coconut basmati rice, creamy polenta and hot-buttered salsa, all in the same bowl, sounded perfectly enticing, and parts of it were. The flawlessly cooked rice was just sweet and coconut-y enough, and the polenta was comfortingly mellow. But then we hit the onion. Lurking in the innocent-looking salsa, it wasn't buying into the whole sharing theme. Its sharp and pungent edge overwhelmed everything and took over our taste buds for the night.
Even though we arrived early enough that our waiter didn't know what the soup of the day was, we were too late for two of the four desserts. They were sold out. We settled for a couple of cups of the smooth but intense coffee, but at $3.10 a cup my friend didn't think fishing the grounds off the top of hers added to the experience.
Skinny Legs' new location has only been open a month, so maybe that accounts for some of the issues we encountered. Service was friendly and helpful at first, but once our food was delivered it became practically nonexistent. Our water glasses sat empty after we finished the first glass, we were never offered a refill on our coffee and it took forever to pay our bill. Oh, and then there was the case of the missing ingredients in the salad.
Sorry Skinny Legs: I sort of wasn't wowed. V
Skinny Legs and Cowgirls ... A Sort of Bistro
12202 Jasper Ave., 780.423.4107
Lunch: Mon – Fri (11 am – 2 pm)
Dinner: Mon – Thu (5 pm to 11 pm),
Fri – Sun (5 pm – 1 am)
Brunch: Sat & Sun (10 am – 2 pm)
More info about Skinny Legs and Cowgirls →
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