Let me preface this post with some quick facts regarding my visit to Regina’s newest Keg Steakhouse + Bar, which opened just over three weeks ago (May 18), returning to the historic Warehouse District.
- I get asked to do reviews a lot – I turn down 95% of them. I actually tried to turn down this request as well, but they twisted my arm with the promise of yummy cocktails.
- Really, I am far from being a food writer or critic. I like food but generally not enough to focus on it.
- Truthfully speaking I’m not much of a red meat or steak person, though I enjoy the occasional rib steak. To me, the Keg = steak.
- Nor am I (generally speaking) a big fan of chain restaurants.
- And lastly, even though I know a lot of people who love the Keg, I haven’t been to one since the last one existed in the Warehouse District. I’m talking over 20 years people.
But really, was I going to let any of those points hold me back? Nah, they wanted me to review it, so I said why not? (OK, it was totally the promise of trying their sample signature cocktails, along with their unique on tap wine that had me curious). So with an open mind I gave the Keg a go.
Even though they graciously hosted me (wined/dined me on the house), I went in committed to producing a truthful review – good or bad. The Keg has not reviewed this post, so what you are reading are solely my thoughts.
Wine, wine and more wine
First thing you can’t help but notice walking into the restaurant is that there is wine everywhere. Floor to ceiling windowed wine cellars as focal points – I like it immediately. This takes me very far away from my rusty memory of Keg steakhouses. And makes me quite thirsty. This Keg in particular has about 600 bottles of wine stored in house, I would later learn.
The restaurant has a dark but modern, industrial yet refined feel. It is busy when I arrive and the lounge area/bar is lively with chatter and laughter; I decide sit at a round table next to a giant marble slab fireplace. There’s a great mix of intimate tables in the lounge including stand up tables, bar stools and rounds.
The Keg’s manager Paul, warmly welcomes me, then shortly after, sends over the bar manager, Mike, who also happens to be a sommelier. Trained in Niagara, Mike also studied wine business management, making him a great resource for the restauarnt. He excitedly takes me through the ‘must try’ Keg specific cocktails, then gushes about their on tap, kegged wine brewed explicitly for the franchises.
On tap wine at the Keg
It turns out this Keg is the first restaurant in Saskatchewan to bring in on tap wine, offering four varieties, three reds and one white.
And, at this point it is my duty to point out that this is premium wine – don’t think it’s cheap because it’s not in a bottle. Instead if pumping it to a bottle, the wine goes into a 19.5 L keg, sealed with nitrogen to keep the oxygen out – in order to keep it fresh. It’s said it can have a six-month life span though Mike doubts they will ever have to test that theory, as they are already cycling on their second kegs. Another great feature he points out, is that the on tap wines are put in reusable containers, making it both better for the environment and easier to dispense and serve.
“They are fun, fruit forward with soft tannins, said Mike.” He says that for this location’s best sellers so far are two reds: the Jet Shiraz, a Cabernet and Zinfandel blend, and Home Ranch Verdot, a Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah and Malbec blend.
I’m exicited and can’t wait try a glass with my dinner, but my plan was to first try a much-anticipated pre-dinner cocktail.
“It’s fruity!” says Fawn, my server. Also mentioned and recommended by Mike, I order a Watermelon Mojito, made from Havana 3 year old rum, fresh lemon and lime juice, soda, muddled mint, watermelon and sugar. It’s the staff favourite I’m told.It’s quite sweet at first sip, with an essence of mint that lingers. After a few more nips, this drink becomes dangerously good. It goes down rather quickly until only chunks of watermelon remain in the bottom of the glass – reminding me of booze soaked yukaflux. I ditch the straw and continue on to gracefully eat them ALL.
Then I totally cave (thanks Fawn!) and Keg-size my red wine for dinner, planning on having it last me through both my appetizer and meal. A self-professed sucker for an Argentine red, I chose the Malbec-Cabernet blend, the Los Cuatro, Syrah by Domaine Bousquet. It was love at first sip and as Mike accurately described, a treat of “peppery earthiness with the softness of Malbec.”
The moment of truth – dinner at the Keg
It was finally time to order. I spot tuna tartare, a sesame-soy seasoned ahi on the menu and become immediately fixated, not able to imagine ordering anything other than that. Tuna tartare has my heart and thankfully it lived up to my own hype. It was delicious. Topped on a round of avocado, the simple dish, plated quite beautifully, was delectable. I savour each bite and secretly wish for it to never end.In addition to the tuna, I enjoy a delicious spinach salad with strawberries, cranberries, candied pecans and goat cheese, topped with Chardonnay vinaigrette. The meal could have really ended there. I was completely satiated, my belly warm with wine and full of tartare and spinach – two of my favourite things. I was a happy camper. But this was the Keg and I was determined to have steak. When it arrives, my jaw drops staring at the massive piece of meat placed in front of me. It nearly takes up the whole plate. Immediately I thumb through the menu only to realize I had ordered a 20-ounce rib steak! A pound-and-a quarter worth of steak. Holy shit. What was I thinking? Fact is I wasn’t.
Thanks Argentina for the complete momentary (but delicious and slightly intoxicating) lapse in judgement. I dig into it, also nibbling of freshly cooked veggies (peppers, broccoli, carrots and asparagus) – and tasty tiny sautéed field mushrooms. The seasoning and moisture are absolutely perfect on my medium rare steak, and I can actually say with the upmost honesty that it was one of the best I’ve ever had. I put forth a valiant effort, somehow managing to inhale a solid 8 ounces.
Stuffing the delicious rib steak into my small frame may have temporarily hurt (and immobilized) me but thankfully I came quite prepared with an accommodating stretchy skirt. It was at the time I took my last bite, where in thanked the heavens that I skipped the bread. OMG there was so much food in my belly. Why did I ever doubt this would be a great experience?
To top off the meal, it was recommended to try another specific to the Keg après dinner drink; the Billy Miner coffee – which I thought, sounded great, but coffee for me anytime after 2 p.m. means I’m not sleeping. So instead I opt for the sole on tap white wine (no I didn’t Keg-size this one!); a Knotted Vines Chardonnay, Viognier and Reisling mix by BC’s Inniskill winery. Let’s just say this crisp beauty went down without a hitch.
Along with others bars and restaurants, the Keg is helping to breathe new life to one of the city’s hippest areas. If you live or visit the Regina area, it’s definitely worth a visit.
How great it was to have my socks knocked off by a chain restaurant! Offering great atmosphere and super yummy fare, it would be my pleasure to dine at the Keg Steakhouse + Bar again.
** Big thanks to Paul, Mike and staff at the Keg Regina for hosting me!