G I LC H R I ST
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