Heat Is On: Fortuna’s Row, Fire & Flora, Kama and The Wilde light a fire under the fall foodie options in Calgary

The weather may be starting to cool, but Calgary’s food scene continues to heat up with a number of new restaurants — from another sky-high fine dining spot inspired by Oscar Wilde to an innovative vegetarian establishment — opening up around the city.

The concepts are disparate, but the underpinning of good food is a delicious constant.

In the historic building tucked next to the 4th Ave. flyover, Fortuna’s Row — from the people behind Shelter Cocktail Bar and Orchard Restaurant — they’re offering contemporary Latin American cuisine in an airy and plant-filled space behind where Booker’s used to dish up barbecue. The menu, the creation of chef Mikko Tamarra of Con Mi Taco fame, features dishes inspired by Mexico, Peru and Brazil. Yes, there are tacos and empanadas, but the menu shines beyond those expected snacks.

Grilled meats, including ribeye and leg of lamb, are meant to be shared alongside small plates of softshell crab and the requisite esquites — Fortuna’s version mixing roasted bone marrow into the corn and mayonnaise dish.

On the cocktail list, drinks are highlighted by the main plant featured, from basil to jasmine to wasabi, while there is also a curated selection of wine — and cerveza, naturally.

For something more plant-focused, chef Adam Ryan has things covered with his latest, Fire & Flora, a new spot in the Beltline where vegetables are the stars of the show. 

Building off his growing empire — he’s also behind Shrub Bloom inside The District at Beltline and a soon-to-be announced spot further west — Fire is giving Ryan a new venue to play with ingredients and flavour combinations. 

Dishes highlight seasonal, local plants — none more close to home than the wall of mushrooms that serves as décor and ingredient — a modern, vegetarian version of a live lobster tank.

The space, designed by Bold Workshop Architecture, is meant to echo the ingredients on the plate with colours and motifs found in nature, from forest greens and the light beiges of wheat fields to striations evocative of veins in mushrooms.

While the weather is still warm, the expansive patio makes a great place to sip Canadian wines and enjoy innovative vegetarian cuisine. 

Just around the corner from Fire & Flora, chef Kenny Kaechele is now bringing his take on Mediterranean cuisine to Calgary. 

At Kama, Kaechele is not defined by a singular country’s take on food. Instead, he’s inspired by the flavours and ingredients of the region, offering small plates and share-able dishes that feature feta, kefta, saffron, piquillo and tahini.

The space, anchored by the central bar and view into the kitchen, nods to the airy feel of Mediterranean architecture and colour. Geometric tiles, hits of bright blue and gold accents feature prominently — the design reflecting the food on the plate. 

Meanwhile, downtown, sky-high dining has a new contender with The Wilde, set on the 27th floor of the newly opened boutique Dorian Hotel. 

Bookworms will note the connection between the hotel’s name and Oscar Wilde who penned The horror-fantasy novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. The playfulness extends into the restaurant, with menus that feature Wilde’s book covers, a cocktail list that nods to the author and a menu divided by foreword (starters) and prose (mains).

While the views across downtown are stellar, the artistry on the plate is equally worth looking at. 

No standard hotel restaurant, executive chef Kevin Birch is combining classic techniques with more modern approaches in dishes that feature high-end ingredients, from Digby Bay scallops to Haida Gwaii halibut, and a variety of meats, including some more unusual offerings, such as quail and rabbit — all set on stunning dishware.

The summer has been busy for Calgary restaurateurs and chefs, and the dining scene shows no signs of slowing either. Expect more restaurants worthy of excitement to continue opening throughout the fall.