G I LC H R I ST

Calgary Herald New Condos - - Weekend Life -

Fish and chips dredged in a chick­pea bat­ter. Korean fried chicken bathed in a spicy gochu­jang sauce. Miso-glazed hal­ibut on soba noo­dles with cit­rus-dashi broth. Moz­zarella agedashi with ume paste and basil tem­pura. Scal­lop carpac­cio with se­same oil and gin­ger.

Call it Asian fu­sion or con­tem­po­rary Asian or even mod­ern Cana­dian. What­ever the name, the East-meets-West com­bi­na­tion of Asian and Euro­pean in­gre­di­ents and tech­niques is one of the big trends in the culi­nary scene across North Amer­ica these days. And it’s a style that’s in­flu­enc­ing chefs and new restaurants around Cal­gary.

The chefs and res­tau­ra­teurs come at the idea of Asian fu­sion from dif­fer­ent an­gles. Toshi Karino of Carino com­bines his Ja­panese her­itage with years of ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing in the wine in­dus­try and in Ital­ian restaurants. Ergo the moz­zarella, lightly floured and fried agedashi style, like tofu.

Dar­ren Ma­cLean of Down- town­food says that his sesameg­in­ger scal­lop carpac­cio is mod­ern Cana­dian be­cause our cul­ture draws from around the world. He sim­ply puts the cul­tures to­gether on his plates. Roy Oh, born in Ed­mon­ton to Korean par­ents, has one foot firmly planted in Korea, while the other walks the streets of Cal­gary. His soon-to-be-re­opened Anju will fea­ture his own ver­sion of KFC (Korean fried chicken) on a menu of con­tem­po­rary Asian dishes. (More on Anju in a later col­umn.)

Ja­son Chen, chef at the newly launched Lava Din­ing, trained with chef Dave Bo­hati at Rush af­ter ar­riv­ing in Cal­gary from Tai­wan. He then con­tin­ued his tute­lage with Bo­hati at Mar­ket be­fore open­ing his own place to serve the likes of hal­ibut with soba noo­dles. (More on Lava soon, too.)

And then there’s Ro­han Anand, born in Shil­long, In­dia and trained in In­dia’s Hy­att ho­tel group in both French and In­dian cui­sine. It was only nat­u­ral for him to open a French-In­dian fu­sion restau­rant in Cal­gary. It’s Saf­fron Mantra at 6219 Cen­tre St. N. (403-475-1999) in Sy­mons Val­ley Square.

Anand launched his restau­rant in what had been a sports bar, also a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion since he had been head chef in Brew­sters’ Foothills lo­ca­tion prior to open­ing his own place. Work­ing on a shoe­string, he and part­ner Gur­preet Singh Dhali­wal scrubbed the pub clean, in­stalled new kitchen equip­ment and opened their 130-seat restau­rant a few months ago. It’s a sim­ple look, light on decor, but spa­cious and spot­less.

Anand’s menu in­cludes the chick­pea fish and chips, a whole fil­let of cod dipped in a chick­pea and Hi­malayan beer bat­ter and crispy fried. Served with mint tar­tar, tamarind chut­ney and pick­led fen­nel, it’s packed with In­dian flavours. Many of his other dishes com­bine the same sen­si­bil­ity. Cala­mari is coated with a co­conut and lemon grass curry glaze, and spice-rubbed Cor­nish game hen is char­broiled and served with a lin­gonberry chut­ney.

And a chicken tikka flat­bread is topped with smoked tomato chut­ney and moz­zarella. There’s some fine ideas and ex­e­cu­tion in this food.

Saf­fron Mantra also has some

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