Story by Adrian Brijbassi
CALGARY, ALBERTA — There’s no slowing down Calgary‘s food scene. During my visit last weekend, it seemed that every restaurant I dined in has recently accomplished a big feat or has an expansion project in the works. Here’s a rundown of what I discovered, including some info that should come in handy on your next visit.
Black Pig Bistro Launches
The most significant opening this month is the debut of Black Pig Bistro. It brings casual fine dining to the Bridgeland neighbourhood, which has already gained a reputation as the next hot place to live in the city. You can read more about it here.
Lineups Out the Door for Ramen
Sharing an entry door with Black Pig Bistro is Shiki Menya, a ramen noodle house unlike any other ramen noodle house you’re likely to find. It’s hip and stylish and really good. How good? Patrons don’t mind waiting two hours in the snow for one of the 150 or so bowls that the restaurant serves each day. I’ll have an article on this intriguing little place in the coming days.
Muse Gears Up for Big Openings
In less than two years, the outstanding team at Muse has reinvented that restaurant in a historic building in the Kensington neighbourhood and now they’ve got their eyes set on perhaps the best location in the city. Muse owner Heather Wighton and executive chef J.P. Pedhirney have teamed with the owners of Chicago Chophouse to take over the Burns Building on Stephen Avenue, across from City Hall. Pedhirney has secured Chris Lorenz as the chef de cuisine. Lorenz currently works under Connie Desousa and John Jackson at CHARCUT. The steakhouse is set to open in June.
A month later, Wighton and Pedhirney anticipate the launch of Starbelly, a 140-seat restaurant in Seton, an outlying area of the city that’s 30 kilometres south of downtown Calgary. Seton is experiencing a massive makeover thanks to a state-of-the-art new hospital and a plethora of construction projects.
“The people out there need to drive a half hour or more to get into downtown to enjoy really good food. So we think they will really appreciate having a high-quality but casual option in their neighbourhood,” Pedhirney says.
He has recruited Trevor Ross, formerly of Toronto’s Splendido, to take the helm of the restaurant. The menu is still being set but one item that’s sure to be a crowd pleaser is the bacon-wrapped grilled corn on the cob.
CHARCUT’s Newest Star
Jessica Pelland of CHARCUT will be appearing as a contestant on the May 8, 2014 episode of “Chopped Canada,” the Food Network TV show that features Vikram Vij among its celebrity judges. Pelland follows in the footsteps of her mentor Connie Desousa, who was a runner-up on Season 1 of Top Chef Canada in 2011.
Desousa and her business partner, John Jackson, are preparing for the 2015 opening of CHARBAR in the historic Simmons Building in Calgary’s East Village. Pelland will be the chef de cuisine at that roof-top spot.
Expansion for Bistro Rouge?
Rouge owners Olivier Reynaud and Paul Rogalski can be credited for sparking the fine-dining craze in Calgary. “When Rouge made it among the World’s 100 Best Restaurants, that caused everyone else to up their game,” says Muse’s J.P. Pedhirney, who once worked in the Rouge kitchen.
A year ago, Reynaud and Rogalski opened Bistro Rouge in Calgary’s Signal Hill area, bringing French cuisine to a community that’s on the edge of the city and more suburban than metropolitan in feel. Bistro Rouge recently hired general manager Aydrian Kalin, who helmed the launch of two-dozen Milestone’s restaurants during his two decades with that Vancouver-based chain. Could the Bistro Rouge concept of high-volume French cuisine be replicated with success in other cities? I think so.
If Rogalski isn’t Canada’s best chef, he’s very, very close to the top. My meal at Bistro Rouge proved that he can pass his recipes and techniques on to a large brigade of cooks. Whether that happens is still too early to know.
2014 Top 50 Restaurants in Canada
Calgary placed eight restaurants on the 2013 Vacay.ca Top 50 Restaurants in Canada, trailing only Toronto for most entrants among the nation’s cities. We’ll soon find out if the city makes further strides in national acclaim for 2014. Among the judges for 2014 are Desousa, Jackson and Pedhirney, along with celebrity chefs from across the country. Watch for more news coming soon.