June 25, 2022

Summer season at River Cafe in Calgary on July 29, 2021.Todd Korol/The Globe and Mail

Title: River Café

Location: 25 Prince’s Island, Calgary

Telephone: 403-261-7670

Web site: river-cafe.com

Value: $15-$53

Delicacies: Modern Canadian with emphasis on regionally grown elements

Ambiance: Inviting, but refined

Drinks on supply: Wine, cocktails and a few craft beer

Greatest bets: Fogo Island shrimp, Benchmark Farms beef tartare, Haida Gwaii halibut, wild rice pudding

Vegetarian pleasant? Sure

Extra info: Has a placing patio that’s excellent for an al fresco chew or drink any time all through the week. Additionally affords brunch on the weekend

Because the meals trade marks Meals Day Canada over the August lengthy weekend – a celebration of Canadian-grown elements pioneered by the late culinary icon Anita Stewart – I can consider fewer locations extra idyllic to have dinner than Calgary’s River Café.

What opened again in 1991 as a humble seasonal café within the coronary heart of Prince’s Island Park grew to grow to be a pacesetter within the native meals and sustainability actions. Now, because it celebrates its thirtieth anniversary, the River Café has managed to remain front-of-mind for trade professionals and meals lovers alike as one of many prime eating places in Alberta, if not in all of Canada. The phrases “native” and “sustainable” are thrown round loads by all varieties of companies within the meals service and grocery industries, however few stroll the stroll like River does.

Proprietor Sal Howell has at all times been on the helm, however, after all, many cooks have helped steer the culinary path through the years. Previously few years, the restaurant has seen a little bit of fluctuation, with head chef Matthias Fong departing in 2019 and Ross Bowles approaching for a 12 months or so. Now, Scott MacKenzie (previously of Mannequin Milk) appears to have fortunately settled into the position and the meals feels extra dynamic than ever.

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A latest dinner right here truthfully felt and ate like summer time incarnate.

Bison striploin nestled into slices of brined and grilled cabbage, wilted chard and a saskatoon berry jus.Todd Korol/The Globe and Mail

Within the summertime, the restaurant’s large home windows and south-facing patio present an open-air-like feeling to the area. It’s buzzing with all types of individuals. Of us popping in for an informal drink whereas strolling via Prince’s Island Park, {couples} on dates, mates catching up. Whereas the meals stays advanced and repair ranges excessive, there’s a refreshing lack of pretension on the air.

As contemporary Canadian produce peaks in availability, the chef has made essentially the most of it in a vibrant endive salad boasting a myriad of textures. A cool creamy base of ricotta – made utilizing cream from Alberta’s Very important Inexperienced Farms – is topped with a mixture of shaved fennel, pickled radishes, raspberries and celery. All of which is wearing a brilliant sumac French dressing.

Then there’s the grilled and chilled child cucumbers topped with a turmeric-infused labneh – once more made utilizing Very important Inexperienced dairy – wild rice crisps and fried shallots. Peppered with edible flower petals and backyard herbs, it was a stimulating little appetizer.

The marginally extra indulgent shrimp toast proved to be a fight-for-the-last-bite form of dish. A beneficiant pile of tender Fogo Island shrimp tossed in a creamy shishito aioli sat atop a crispy slice of brioche, and was completed with a “potato crumb” (suppose an uber-crispy French fry crushed up and sprinkled).

A dish like this will nearly whisk you away to the East Coast – in your thoughts, anyway.

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Grilled octopus frivolously wearing a home sizzling sauce made with banana peppers.Todd Korol/The Globe and Mail

One other seafood success, albeit a barely spicy one, is the grilled octopus. Flippantly wearing a home sizzling sauce made with banana peppers, it was offered fantastically in a round style with house-cured salami, candy peas, cucumber and thinly shaved onion.

A stunning beef tartare with flax seed lavosh additionally graces the desk and stands out due to the pop of pickled canola seeds and the tang of creme fraiche.

With apparently insatiable appetites, we moved onto principal dishes of poached halibut and a fire-grilled bison striploin. The latter arrived medium-rare nestled into slices of brined and grilled cabbage, wilted chard and a saskatoon berry jus. It was a super plate for the extra carnivorous of oldsters.

The halibut got here crusted with minced inexperienced onions in a shallow pool of flavourful house-made dashi with tender regionally grown shiitakes, radishes, bok choy and scallion oil. A sizzling broth on a sizzling summer time day wants to exude brightness and this dashi did simply that.

Halibut crusted with minced inexperienced onions in a shallow pool of flavourful house-made dashi with tender regionally grown shiitakes, radishes, bok choy and scallion oil.Todd Korol/The Globe and Mail

I’d fortunately drink it by the gallon ought to the chance current itself.

A scrumptious wild rice pudding capped off the evening, tasting like what I can solely describe as a scrumptious bowl of candy and salty, buttery popcorn. Studded with a caramel tuile (of types) and crunchy compressed Okanagan peaches, I discover myself nonetheless fascinated with it days later.

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Maybe it’s already time to return.

By staying true to its hyper-local, seasonal and sustainable mantra 12 months after 12 months, it’s clear that River Café refuses to be something lower than distinctive. Meals Day Canada founder Anita Stewart could be proud.

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