Bolero—modelled after traditional churrascarias from Brazil—offers rodizio-style dining with expertly seasoned meats cooked over charcoal. It’s located above the Smuggler’s Inn in a warm and inviting space with dark wood accented by soft lighting and fireplaces. A flat fee of $35 allows you to eat whatever (and however much) you want. Start with the cold salad bar where you can load up on veggies with choices like jumbo asparagus and artichoke hearts, salad, and cherry tomatoes, then head over to the hot bar. The mashed potatoes are creamy and worth piling on, plus you can also try coconut rice or collard greens.
Once you’ve settled back into your cozy booth or candle-lit table for two, the action begins. The carvers—or gaúchos, as they’re called, (Portuguese for South American cowboys)—circle the room carrying meat skewered on swords. At your table, there is a wooden dowel that you turn up to green if you want the carvers to stop at your table; or red if you need a break. There are 15 types of meat on the menu—items ranging from filet mignon, rack of lamb, pork tenderloin, ribs, bacon-wrapped chicken, ribeye and striploin steak. Upon stopping at your table, the gaúchos will tell you the meat they’re carrying and carve it right at your table. In non-meat dishes, the barbecued pineapple is a must-try, North entrance, 6920 Macleod Tr S, 259-3119.NINJA CHEFS
The chefs at Japanese Village and Sakana Grill downtown aren’t just experts in culinary art; they’re also entertainers as they grill your meal in front of you at your table. Seated in a semi-circle around the hibachi grill, you’re so close to where the action is, you can feel the heat radiating off the grill as meat, noodles and vegetables sizzle.
Watch as talented chefs acrobatically throw cooking utensils in the air, toss and flip knives and ignite fires. They joke around and talk with patrons as they display their talent, keeping you on your toes. They may even let you try your hand at the grill, wear their chef hat and snap a few photos. If you’re alone in the city, it’s a good place to dine with others—you’re all sitting elbow-distance away from each other. This barbecue-style of dining, called Teppanyaki, originated in Japan and is also known for healthy ingredients, like fresh vegetables, shrimp, and chicken teriyaki. Japanese Village: 317 – 10 Ave SW, 262-2738; Sakana Grill: 116 – 2 Ave SW, 290-1118.ARABIAN MAGIC
Sultan’s Tent, now settled in its new location in Kensington, offers an escape from the fast-paced Calgarian lifestyle with a lengthy dining experience inside a Moroccan Berber tent. It’s like stepping into an exotic Arabian Nights fantasy with dim lighting, traditional music, and antique furniture imported from Morocco. Low-lying sofas, handmade brass trays, carpets, and velvet hangings add to the sense of magic in the air. It also features a Moroccan ‘50s-style cocktail lounge and a living room area that replicates a Moroccan family’s home.
L’Houssine Ismaili, born in Meknes, Morocco, has been the chef at Sultan’s Tent for over 15 years, personally overseeing the creation of each dish on the menu, which includes a variety of couscous specialties (a versatile pasta made of tiny grains of steamed dough), tagines (falling-off-the-bone meat with vegetables and sauce) and briq (a pastry stuffed with various goods like spices and vegetables). This traditional cuisine is eaten without utensils after hands are rinsed with orange-blossom-scented water. The trick to eating couscous without a fork is to scoop up a pile in your hand and shape it until it forms a ball that you can pop into your mouth. Dine á la carte, or try the 2.5 hour, four-course Sultan’s Feast, 107, 4 – 14 St NW, 244-2333.THEATRICAL CUISINE
Why not combine dinner with a show? These dinner theatre groups offer a range of entertaining choices:
Jubilations Dinner Theatre
While serving a four-course meal, servers stay in character. They might even pull you up onto the stage. Nov 16 – Feb 9: 29, a parody of the TV show, 24. Feb 14 – Apr 19: Desperate Households, a look at the “bedroom community” of Hysteria Lane.
The Deane House
Ask questions and solve a comical murder-mystery set in a 101-year-old house while enjoying a four-course meal. Afterwards, actors appoint a judge and bailiff from the audience and proceed to solve the case. Fridays in January: Wait Until Park Trailer park residents have more than enough motive to cause a crime.
A 120-item all-you-can-eat buffet with shows featuring entertainers from movies, TV, the stage and the music world; past entertainers have included Mickey Rooney and Night Court’s Richard Moll. Nov 22 – Feb 10: Sweet Charity An award-winning Broadway show about a woman looking for romance. Feb 14 – Apr 20: Little Shop of Horrors The popular musical about an exotic plant with a mysterious craving for blood.—Laura Pellerine and Jennifer Hilliker