downtownfood dresses down for Monday night Asian eats

628 Night Market an experiment in collaboration

Classic rock blasts from the sound system as diners enjoy dishes from all corners of Asia — Chinese steamed buns Cambodian fish curry Japanese takoyaki and Korean bulgogi. Though plated beautifully on elegant dinnerware all this doesn’t seem to quite fit the upscale reputation downtownfood has built for itself.

Welcome to 628 Night Market a collaboration or “collaborAsian” between downtownfood chef/owner Darren MacLean and Jay del Corro of Eats of Asia. With both having more than a decade of experience in restaurant kitchens their bromance blossomed quickly after del Corro raved about MacLean’s lobster broth at their first meeting.

More recently the two have been collaborating on a vlog series for downtownfood.ca as well as MacLean’s winning chowder at the recent OceanWise Chowder Chow Down a refined Cambodian fish amok.

“We started talking about a street food pop-up last year at Chinese New Year” says del Corro. “We wanted to serve different types of food small plates — like 626 Night Market [in L.A.] but indoors.”

“It’s dead here on Mondays so we wanted to do something different” admits MacLean. “This is a departure from dtf; it’s casual food it’s the kind of food I like to cook.”

The 628 Night Market menu changes weekly featuring small plates priced from $8 to $13 for sharing and larger entrées from $16 to $20-plus.

Both chefs contribute to the list of pan-Asian dishes — even during this interview they were discussing how to improve the fish amok which has now evolved from a chowder to a creamy yet flavourful custard.

“I’m all about the punched flavours. I’ve always joked that I want to open a Chinese restaurant with good service” says MacLean. “People are hungry for this kind of food and no one else is doing it. It’s also an opportunity to promote Jay’s cuisine and restaurant to the local food scene.”

Compared to downtownfood del Corro’s Eats of Asia seasonal restaurant at the Millarville Farmers’ Market is still a relative unknown in Calgary’s food scene. But that’s not to say the chef doesn’t have a following — the only Canadian to be chosen as “YouTube’s Next Chef” in 2011 del Corro’s channel The Aimless Cook has nearly 30000 subscribers.

After a successful run at the market last summer del Corro quit his corporate day job to pursue cooking full time. Aside from 628 Night Market he runs a pop-up bao (Taiwanese steamed bun) stand every Thursday at Kingsland Farmers’ Market while scouting out a location for a full-service restaurant.

“I run Bao Pop! literally out of a hamburger stand — it’s lots of fun we have Apple Sidra and everything” he says. “It’s a chance for me to try and flex my skills challenge myself. Finding a permanent location is taking a while but it’s about what feels right.”

In the meantime 628 Night Market is currently scheduled for just a six-month run though both chefs hope that it will be a permanent fixture and would like to extend its hours past its current 10 p.m. closing time.

“In one form or another we will be here” says del Corro.

The 628 Night Market menu is available every Monday night from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.