After a twenty year gap since working in an Izakaya in Okazaki, Aichi, Japan, I found this restaurant in Calgary recently opened. A stunning execution of a classic and modern Izakaya style menu. Izakaya loosely translates as ‘sitting & drinking place’, or ‘drinking hang-out’, which is a casual, after-work gathering spot where small plates or sharing dishes are designed to accompany the activity of drinking. All of the dishes were beautifully interpreted and fresh, with subtle inventiveness versus over-the-top fusion. Try the bintoro ($9.99), lightly seared Albacore tuna sashimi with ponzu sauce or sashimi salad ($15.99).
– Matt Browman, contributor, Operations Manager at Highlander Wine and Spirits
4th Spot is one of those places that when you first visit, you’ll chastise yourself for not having been many times before! There’s a warm and inviting atmosphere, vegan and gluten-free dishes and a private dining room too for the comfort food classics on offer.
We shared two ‘intros’, but don’t let that fool you – they’re very generous!
‘Inferno prawns’ ($12.99) is 10 tiger prawns, pan-seared in a spicy buttered tomato sauce – and you’ll be glad of the garlic focaccia that comes with it to mop up that delicious sauce. ‘Pier 37 Mussels’ ($10.99 ½ lb) are steamed and served with Spolumbo’s sausage in a clam tomato sauce with lime aioli and more of that lovely garlic focaccia. They have a great wine list too, so this makes for a superb lunch – if you can snag a table!
– Linda Garson, editor-in-chief/publisher, @vineanddine
Don’t let the name confuse you; although “Starbelly” is a direct reference to a Dr. Seuss book, there is nothing childish about the food that Chef Trevor Ross and his team are preparing at the restaurant down in Seton. Yes, it’s a bit of a jaunt if you don’t live in the far south part of the city, but it goes to show that not all of Calgary’s great food is found downtown. If you are there for dinner (because you might as well make a night of it), be sure to try the feature risotto. It changes weekly and there are even vegetarian/vegan options available, like the one I ordered with roasted red peppers and tomatoes. It’s light and hearty all at the same time, allowing you plenty of room to sample all of the other menu offerings – if you can refrain from downing the entire bowl that is!
– Mallory Frayn, digital media editor, @cuzilikechoclat
Beer cocktail! Simple easy and if done correctly, as good as the sum of its parts.
Chocolate Stout with a shot of Amaro Punico, which enhances the sweet, savory chocolate flavors with a balanced undercurrent of spice.
I am a huge fan of rich dark roast beers in Winter and this one is outstanding. Amaro, Italian for ‘bitter’, is a category of herbal spice liqueur.
Amaro Punico is available at Vine Arts. $38 plus tax.
Samuel Smith Chocolate Stout is my preference but may be harder to come by. Try Willow Park South. Kensington Wine Market carries Young’s Chocolate Stout for $5.29 plus tax.
– Tarquin Melnyk, contributor, @livelikeburning