ox-and-angela-calgary

Where to get good tapas in Calgary

This Spanish-inspired Ox and Angela is super-casual, but it could be perfect for the right client
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on print
This Spanish-inspired Ox and Angela is super-casual, but it could be perfect for the right client
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on print

Ox and Angela
528 17th Avenue S.W. (Calgary) | 403.457.1432 | oxandangela.com


When I first heard of Ox and Angela, I thought it was an odd name for a restaurant. Located in Calgary, I expected it might serve, well, ox — I didn’t want to think about what Angela might refer to.

Turns out that it serves modernist, Spanish-influenced cuisine. The name Ox and Angela refers to the “masculine” and “feminine” rooms in the divided restaurant.

Ox and Angela is located on what used to be called 17th Avenue, which then became The Red Mile during a winning streak in Calgary Flames hockey history. Today, the street is known as “Uptown 17th, the Retail and Entertainment District.” Topless Flames fangirls have given way to upscale shoppers and so-called ethnic restaurants.

The restaurant has two rooms: a lounge decorated in a “masculine” manner (think dark wood, and a giant Madonna statue) and a “feminine” dining room (think light and airy, with a cast iron bull — something I don’t consider particularly “feminine,” but these are topsy-turvy gender-fluid times). Catholic bric-a-brac is scattered throughout each room, paying homage to the Spanish and Latin American origin of the cuisine. Service is quick and attentive, and we are seated immediately on the Angela side of the room. Ox and Angela boasts one of the finer patios on the strip, and I’m told that the Ox side of the restaurant is the preferred side for that — though it’s too cold to partake during my visit.

The menu is tapas style, so food is easy to share and sample. My companion and I start with aceitunas ($4), warm olives made zippy with a bit of crushed chili, lemon zest, garlic and bay leaf. To that we add delicias ($2.50 per person), walnut-and-manchego-cheese-stuffed Persian dates, wrapped in Serrano ham drizzled in a pomegranate molasses. The olives are, well, olives; the dates are amazing. Prying them out of the bitumen-like molasses that glues them to the cutting board takes some effort and leaves a sticky mess, but is well worth the struggle.

My companion is drawn by the allure of fungus and tries champinones ($13), which are pan-fried mushrooms on toasted bread, soft egg and truffle. The earthiness of the mushrooms is mouthwatering and the dish is surprisingly filling. The toast, however, is solely a delivery vehicle — sitting beneath the egg and mushrooms, it’s soggy and unappetizing.

Next, I try the albondigas ($11), Alberta lamb meatballs in North African spices and tomato. The flavour is just right — somewhere between satisfying and interesting — but the meatballs themselves are on the dry side. We pair the meatballs with an ensalata ($11), a salad of baby lettuce, roasted walnuts, apple and Manchego cheese with a sherry vinegar dressing. The Manchego cheese is a nice variation on the usual cheddar or parmesan and it goes nicely with the meatballs.

There is a small dessert menu. I opt for churros ($7), which are good, but fall short of the airy brilliance that make these things the crack cocaine of the dessert world. My companion tries tarta de Santiago, an orange and almond cake dusted with icing sugar and sprinkled with marinated grapes ($5). It’s a bit dry and heavy for my liking but he declares it to be a good alternative to the other cloyingly sweet options.

The wine list is strong, with an emphasis on old-world wines. There is a wide range of price points, and a better-than-usual selection of sherries, though I would like to see a few more by-the-glass options.

Ox and Angela is an agreeable departure from the usual downtown fare. The casual feel makes this more of a place to visit with colleagues than to entertain clients, but the right client could no doubt be persuaded to spend some time talking shop on the patio over a pitcher of sangria.


Judge Foodie’s verdict

Highs: located in an eclectic, bustling area; interesting food
Lows: a bit far from the core


Kirsten Thompson is a Toronto-based research lawyer and commercial litigator. Since her call to the bar in 2000, she estimates that her restaurant to courtroom ratio has been approximately 14:1. Thoughts? Comments? Ideas for a review? Email her. Follow Judge Foodie on Twitter: @Judge_Foodie