Bites: An amble through Orchard an elegant dining escape; and Pigeonhole revamps

With the Calgary airport piloting a new, rapid quarantine plan, travel is tentatively opening up again. But for those of us not ready to to leave the city just yet, a new restaurant is offering a way to escape for a couple of hours.

Orchard, the latest from Nick Suche of Syndicate Hospitality Group  — who is also behind Shelter, the slip of a cocktail bar on 1st Street S.W. — and partners chef Jenny Kang and Andrew Denhamer, who co-owns the gourmet food distributor Fine Food Stop, is now open.

Sitting in the cornerstone spot of SODO, the luxury apartment block just south of downtown, Orchard is an elegant but not overwrought space, lush with plants, unique tiling in teals, greens and streams of gold that are evocative of topographic maps, and sparkling with chandeliers which dangle from the soaring ceiling at varying heights. 

The spot is divided into bar and restaurant by an airy wood shelving structure with door-sized gaps to allow patrons to flow between the two sections. 

The dining room is anchored by an open kitchen that allows glimpses of chef Kang and her team as they whip up a well-curated selection of dishes for brunch, lunch and dinner. 

Kang, who moved to Canada from South Korea and studied the culinary arts at SAIT, has a well-earned reputation for being an impeccable chef, working at Teatro, Catch and Bow Valley Ranche restaurants. 

At Orchard, she takes the basics of Mediterranean food and finesses with Asian flavours, like adding yuzu to the aioli for the tiger prawn appetizer, and serving rich duck with chirizu, a Japanese dipping sauce.

Don’t miss out on the cheese-stuffed garlic bread, which is as addictive as it sounds. 

Kang’s creations are bolstered by a solid wine list and well-crafted cocktails (currently featuring a movie theme), which echo the Asian influence with ingredients such as lemon, sake, plum wine, matcha and orange bell pepper, which adds a unique undertone to the Pulp Fiction cocktail.

Pigeonhole revamp

After a pandemic-induced break, Pigeonhole has returned with a new approach — new logo, expanded menu and grittier feel. 

While there are still a few small plates — which had been the mainstay of the original concept — the dishes now include larger format options with classic flavours (think steak frites and chicken schnitzel) and hand-held dishes (a wagyu burger with camembert or their version of ham and cheese, which features cheese curds and shaved mortadella). There’s even a Nathan’s famous dog rotating feature that changes up the condiments. 

On the drinks side, cocktails are a stronger focus with playful concoctions that bend classics in new, and slightly cheeky, directions. Cereal Killer, is like breakfast in a cocktail glass with gin, cornflake syrup and jam. Or, skip dessert and try a boozy milkshake (with chocolate and whiskey) or bourbon-infused apple slurpee. 

The wine list is extensive and interesting.

The revamped Pigeonhole is open Wednesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Gwendolyn Richards is a Calgary-based food and lifestyle writer and author of Pucker: A Cookbook for Citrus Lovers. She is known for her love of bourbon, lemon desserts, shiny shoes and signature red lipstick — which is currently hidden under a pandemic-approved mask.