G I LC H R I ST

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - Weekend Life -

A few years ago, restau­rant names were sim­ple num­bers. Re­mem­ber Seven? And Ei8ht? And Ten? Now they’re all about kitchen tools, harken­ing to the days of home­spun foods. In the past few months we’ve seen the open­ing of The Block, Scopa (which means broom in Ital­ian), A La Saj (a Syr­ian cook­ing grill), Tea­spoon, Kuz­ina (Greek for kitchen) and now Cleaver at 524 — 17 Ave. S.W., 403-452-1211. (I’m sure some­one is plan­ning a Whisk bake shop and a Plat­ter tapas bar as I write.) The word “cleaver” doesn’t even ap­pear on the sig­nage of the new restau­rant; there’s just a pic­ture of a cleaver in­stead.

Cleaver re­sides in a prime lo­ca­tion on Cal­gary’s hottest restau­rant strip next to Ox & An­gela. Owned and op­er­ated by Bar­bara Spain and Alex Rivera, two re­cent ar­rivals from Dublin, the 46-seat restau­rant (plus 16 seats out­side) has been done in a mod­ern-in­dus­trial look. Ex­posed pipes and duct­work lend a work­shop ef­fect and an open kitchen fills the room with the sounds and aro­mas of cook­ing.

The food style is also mod­ern, a touch of Ire­land with brunches of egg, sausage, black and white pud­ding, tomato, mush­rooms and brown nutty bread (that’s one dish), hints of Asia with tem­pura kale and lamb chops in a ko­rma dip and in­flu­ences of Europe in creamy po­lenta, duck fat fries and sticky tof­fee pud­ding. The menu con­sists of a dozen small plates, a hand­ful of sal­ads and sides and some sharing dishes such as whole chicken with stuff­ing ($37), 30-ounce T-bone ($60) and a short list of pud­dings (a.k.a. desserts).

So how did a cou­ple of newly ar­rived en­trepreneur­s snag such a prime lo­ca­tion? Both Spain and Rivera have worked in the restau­rant in­dus­try in Ire­land and Eng­land for years. Most re­cently Spain had worked with a Dublin restau­rant group over­see­ing op­er­a­tions in four restau­rants there while Rivera had worked with Michael Caines’ restau­rant in Lon­don. Look­ing for new chal­lenges, the part­ners headed west, first to Mon­treal where fam­ily lives. They quickly heard that Cal­gary was a boom­ing city so they came here with the idea to open a restau­rant.

They looked at var­i­ous lo­ca­tions and con­sid­ered dif­fer­ent op­tions in­clud­ing a subur­ban cafe with fine bak­ing and home cook­ing but when they came across the 17th Av­enue spot, they liked what they saw.

Fol­low­ing a few months of dis­cus­sions with the land­lord, they leased the space and in­tro­duced the Cleaver con­cept. It’s now open for din­ner daily and for brunch on week­ends. Cleaver takes some reser­va­tions and at present does not do cork­age.

So what do you do when Cal­gary is having a gor­geous sum­mer and you own two restau­rants that have no pa­tio or deck? If you’re Cam Do­bran­ski, owner of Winebar Kens­ing­ton and Brasserie Kens­ing­ton, you con­vert your al­ley into an out­door din­ing room. You bring in a ship­ping con­tainer, turn it into a bar and ser­vice area, rum­mage through thrift stores and garage sales for fur­ni­ture that can with­stand the el­e­ments — school chairs, church pews, ta­bles built from re­cy­cled pal­lets — and open some­thing called Con­tainer Bar (1131 Kens­ing­ton Rd. N.W., 403-457-4148).

The “pic­nic-in­spired” food menu is a short col­lec­tion of dishes pre­pared in Brasserie Kens­ing­ton — fish cakes, hanger steak, chilled tuna salad, a dock­side chili dog — and drinks ram­ble from craft beers and san­gria to fancy cock­tails. There’s a tiki hut, beach bar vibe to Con­tainer Bar, al­beit with­out the beach and the wa­ter. (Un­less you count the Bow River just a block away.)

Con­tainer Bar prom­ises to be around as long as the weather holds.

Pa­trick Malone, the always gra­cious for­mer maitre d’ of fine es­tab­lish­ments such as The Belvedere and Teatro, was in town re­cently — he spends most of his time in Van­cou­ver th­ese days — to pro­mote his new din­ing app — iTendr. It’s one of four apps that Malone has de­vel­oped for the hospi­tal­ity in­dus­try that range from restau­rant seat­ing plans to help on tip­ping. iTendr links restau­rants that deal in large cor­po­rate and gov­ern­ment book­ings with the peo­ple who han­dle those kinds of reser­va­tions. Need a ta­ble for 12 ex­ec­u­tives this even­ing? Hit your iTendr app and you’re linked to a num­ber of op­tions not only in Cal­gary but across North Amer­ica. Check out www.itendr.com for more info.

The name on this red wine refers to Xavier Vignon, a well­known wine con­sul­tant whose hand­i­work can be found in many ex­pen­sive wines from the re­gion. It is a blend of Gre­nache (60 per cent), Mourve­dre (25 per cent), and Syrah dis­play­ing red and black fruits with notes of pep­per and white flow­ers, in other words a clas­sic CDR. At about $20 a bot­tle it is an ex­cep­tional buy.

Domaine de Ren­jarde Cotes du Rhone Vil­lages

2011 — $25 Here is a top notch CDR Vil­lages from the pro­duc­ers of Chateau la Nerthe, a highly re­spected pro­ducer of Chateauneu­f-duPape. Th­ese wines were ab­sent from the Cal­gary mar­ket for a few years but they are back with a new im­porter and well worth dis­cov­er­ing. Pro­duced from a 40-year-old plus vine­yard, this one of­fers a com­plex, Chateauneu­f-like flavour pro­file with notes of min­er­als, gar­rigue and spice be­hind the black fruits. It is pol­ished and el­e­gant, a nice match with lamb chops or prime rib.

Domaine de Ren­jarde Cotes du Rhone Vil­lages 2011

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