The Mirage Taste House & Ultra Lounge | High Level, AB By Kelly Pippin | Photography by Trent Schlamp and submitted
An Oasis in the North is the Mirage Taste House and Ultra Lounge, which can be found at the Best Western in High Level.
The Best Western High Level opened in 2010 and Tareq Morad, 46, is currently the hotel’s general manager. In addition, Tareq is the President of Morad Hospitality Management, which operates five branded hotels in town. Born in Edmonton, Tareq has lived in High Level since 1986.
The ambiance of the Taste House and Ultra Lounge is very refined and comparable to a dining experience in a major city.
How does your menu reflect that and yet also maintain broad appeal?
Tareq: We want the Mirage to live up to its name. In the winter, the sun beams down through the glass ceiling, and with all the lush greenery inside, it feels like a tropical oasis.
When it comes to our menu, we like to take a unique twist on conventional dishes. We make everything we can in-house—from our sauces to the tortilla chips we use in our nachos.
We also have a few unexpected dishes that uniquely represent our region like our elk tenderloin. We bring a lot of variety into our menu with a focus on quality that appeals to everyone.
What are some lessons you learned specific to doing business this far north? What works well?
Most people are impressed with the kindness and generosity of small town Northern Alberta. This is the essence of hospitality.
We try to create a guest experience, not simply a transactional one. We get to know our guests, and we focus on building a relationship with them. Many are repeat customers visiting from within the greater High Level trading area, and we are always looking to enhance their stay, so they look forward to their next visit with us.
What dining experience are you trying to create?
We are trying to create a fine dining experience but with room for more casual dishes. For example, our calamari are cooked to order—from the breading to our signature sauce. Our burgers are made with 50% Kobe beef, which creates a one-of-a-kind quality experience in the region.
What makes The Mirage stand out in the region?
Part of our organizational culture and mission statement is to set the standard for hospitality for the North. For us, that means anything north of Edmonton. We strive to deliver and exceed expectations and to set the bar for dining and service in Northern Alberta.
What is the most popular drink in the Ultra Lounge?
It is hard to just describe one because we cater to diverse tastes.
For beer lovers, we always have six on tap to choose from, and we bring in a lot of imports you do not normally see in the North like Red Stripe from Jamaica and Delirium from Belgium.
As for mixed drinks, we do an amazing mojito and an exceptional sexy devil. We have recently added an applewood smoked caesar. It’s a unique experience and becoming immensely popular.
How do you choose the ingredients in your dishes?
We collaborate as a team to create new recipes and choose ingredients. Then, we thoroughly test them.
For our butter chicken, it took six weeks of constant testing and evolution to get it right, and now we are told it is as authentic and delicious as what you would find in a popular Indian restaurant in a major city.
What are the “must try” dishes?
Our lobster fettucine is a favourite. Then, there’s our brisket and St. Louis ribs, which are smoked in-house with our own signature sauces.
If you are just in for a drink and an appetizer, our nachos are super unique in terms of the quality and the flavour.
Have any of your customers ever inspired you?
The feedback we receive from our customers inspires us to keep pressing forward to higher levels of excellence every day.
Suggestions from customers can really encourage us to try new things we might not have considered. We had a customer suggest walleye [a local fish] be added to the menu, and we started having a weekly Wednesday fresh fish and chips special.
It has been such an enormous success that we then launched a meatball special on Monday nights with Kobe beef meatballs and house-made roasted tomato sauce.
Check them out on Facebook: Best Western Plus Mirage Hotel & Resort