Well-known chefs helming the kitchens of new hot spots, and a popular chain finally seeking Calgary diners are flinging open their doors as the city’s culinary — and cocktail — scene continues to grow.
Popular Japanese ramen chain Jinya has made its first foray into the Alberta market, opening a 52-seat spot in Mission (180-1800 4th St. S.W.). This is the fourth location in Canada, following one in Toronto and two in Vancouver.
Known for its rich and creamy tonkotsu broths — in pure pork, pork and chicken or pork and seafood combinations, Jinya also offers vegetable- and chicken-broth versions of their noodles. Traditional and modern toppings are on offer to completely customize your ramen bowl, from a pat of butter to chicken wontons.
Surprisingly, Jinya also offers kaedama — extra noodles to refill the bowl when you still have plenty of broth.
The menu is rounded out with salads and appetizers; the takoyaki (a.k.a. octopus balls) is a popular choice, but don’t overlook the steam buns stuffed with chashu, slow braised to tenderness and topped with cucumber and Kewpie mayo.
Among the most hotly anticipated new restaurant openings is Duncan Ly’s Foreign Concept, which is now officially open for lunch and dinner service (1011 1st St. S.W.). Ly’s following at Raw Bar was solid, in no small part to the immaculate, flavourful and creative dishes he pushed out there and in Hotel Arts’ Yellow Door Bistro, and so many of us have been eagerly anticipating his foray into a space all his own.
Although Foreign Concept is his restaurant, he has positioned Jinhee Lee – his protégé from Hotel Arts – as the executive chef, giving her an opportunity to showcase her own culinary talents. The 2016 Gold Medal Plates winner (http://goldmedalplates.com/web/?page_id=5899) has even put a version of her podium-topping dish, Alberta trout cha ca la vong, on the menu. Joining Ly and Lee is Michele Nop, formerly of Kensington Riverside Inn, and the bronze medal winner for this year’s Gold Medal Plates.
With an Asian-influenced design, featuring hand-painted murals evocative of vintage Chinese screens, a display of moon cake molds and a lounge area anchored with a deeply green marble bar, Aly Velji (http://www.alyveljidesigns.com/) has created a space that neatly reflects the plates coming out of the kitchen.
Sharing is encouraged when it comes to the dishes. Ingredients from across Asian cuisines — Japanese yuzu and miso, Thai herbs, Korean samjang — are mixed and matched in dishes that range from a Thai-style butternut squash slaw with galangal, coconut and salmon floss to a char siu and foie gras bao (steamed bun) with herbs and nutty samjang.
Also in the Beltline, Bridgette Bar has taken over what was once a spot selling sofas, trading couches for cocktails and sharing plates at the corner of 10th Avenue and 7th Street S.W.
The menu at the chef-focused bar — the latest venture from Concorde Group — runs the gamut in flavours and cuisines. A Szechuan-dressed double-cut pork chop with apple and cilantro sits next to a strip steak with Hollandaise. Small plates are vegetable-centric with a focus on roasting. Many of the dishes are simple, but executive chef JP Pedhirney — who once led the kitchen at Muse in Kensington and spent time at the kitchen at Rouge — ensures they are expertly done.
The rather large space has been neatly separated into sections so there is still a cosiness to dining, especially in the bar area with the couches around the squat, rounded fireplace that looks like it has been recreated directly from a 1960s décor magazine. Frank Architecture and Interior Design ran with the mid-century theme, adding in macramé (including a chandelier) and vintage motorcycles.
Restaurant veteran, Dewey Noordhof — of Brava Bistro fame — serves as general manager, ensuring everything runs smoothly.
Gwendolyn Richards is a Calgary-based food writer and the author of Pucker: A Cookbook for Citrus Lovers. She regularly contributes to Avenue magazine, the Calgary Herald and is the restaurant writer for Where Calgary. She believes burgers are one of the finest food creations and can often be spotted eating them while wearing her signature red lipstick and patent shoes.