Top 10 Restaurants in Calgary
We went, we ate, we debated and these are the best overall restaurants in Calgary as selected by a panel of judges for our 12th Annual Best Restaurants Awards.
The following is the list from our 2015 Best Restaurants Awards. Click here for the Best Tried and True Restaurants from 2016 and the Best New Restaurants.
The beautiful plating and fresh flavours of the confit rabbit and beet-cured foie gras terrine, with fermented squash, pickled pear, pickled beets, membrillo and poached quince foam, demonstrate why Rouge is our No. 1 pick.
A staple of Calgary’s dining scene for more than a decade, Rouge is experiencing a renaissance. Under the leadership of newcomer chef Jamie Harling, the bistro in the historic Cross House in Inglewood has returned to its local roots. The menu focuses on fresh, seasonal ingredients — many of which are grown in a lush garden fewer than 100 steps from the kitchen. Dining on the patio next to the myriad greens, herbs and vegetables — as honeybees from nearby hives flit about — connects diners in a unique way to the meals set before them by the attentive staff. Harling and the rest of the staff tend the garden, nourishing the plants, as well as those who dine on them. His dishes embrace the season and the natural flavours that come from good, simple food, but are carefully crafted using skill and technique to elevate a humble tomato or unusual cut of beef to a new level. —G.R.
1240 8 Ave. S.E., 403-531-2767, rougecalgary.com, @rougecal
Join us on September 24 for Dinner Series at Rouge that includes a multi-course meal with wine pairings in its garden (weather permitting). Tickets are available here.
A slick and modern room complements chef Duncan Ly’s stylish menu.
Having adopted a “Vietmodern” style, Raw Bar by Duncan Ly has placed itself in the middle of the current Asian fusion trend. Drawing from executive chef Duncan Ly’s Vietnamese background and sous chef Jinhee Lee’s Korean heritage, Raw Bar serves grilled whole squid in a pineapple-soy glaze along with lemon grass-roasted duck with tamarind-hoisin jam. The spicy tuna-and-salmon tartare with avocado and Asian pear is a full-bodied dish that melds Korean heat with the creaminess of avocado and the crunch of the pear keeping everything in perfect balance. The flavours are huge and enticing. The setting, in the newly refreshed dining room, is stylish yet relaxing. And the cocktails by manager Christina Mah and pastries by Karine Moulin are enough to make you stay overnight. Completing the mix is Hotel Arts’ skilled service and, on a nice summer day, a table by the pool. —J.G.
119 12 Ave. S.W., 403-206-9565, rawbaryyc.ca, @rawbaryyc
Join us June 12 for our Dinner Series at Raw Bar by Duncan Ly. Duncan Ly and Christina Mah have created a multi-course meal with wine and cocktail pairings. Special Hotel Arts rates are available for Dinner Series guests and each stay comes with breakfast at Yellow Door Bistro (another favourite of ours). Get your tickets here.
Angus Reserve beef tenderloin with grilled polenta, carrot and coriander purée, roasted baby turnip, puffed farro verde and red wine sauce.
Since it opened in 2007 in a historic sandstone building on Stephen Avenue, Blink has matured into one of the consistently best restaurants in Calgary. Much of the credit goes to owner Leslie Echino, who ensures the highest quality of food and drink is served every day. (She’s a wiz with the wine pairings.)
The cuisine, ably handled by executive chef Chris Dewling, follows a French-influenced style using the best local and regional ingredients. A Poplar Bluff beet salad is served with creamed goat cheese and a pistachio vinaigrette, while Angus Reserve tenderloin is sided with porcini purée and Brussels sprout hearts. And the desserts are outstanding, using more local ingredients such as rhubarb, crabapples and Fairwind’s Farm yogurt. The menu changes frequently, but you get the jist.
Blink quietly hits all the marks. There’s no pretention, no pomposity — just nicely spaced tables, discreet lighting, fine service and excellent food. —J.G.
111 8 Ave. S.W., 403-263-5330, blinkcalgary.com, @blinkrestaurant
Il Sogno [Reopened after renovation]
Braised B.C. octopus tagliatelline with pepperonata and house mustard.
Formal, without being stuffy, and elegant, without being aloof, Il Sogno serves refined Italian cuisine in a lovely, old-world setting in the historic de Waal Block in Bridgeland. Owner Patricia Mae Koyich has been overseeing the front of house since the restaurant opened nearly 15 years ago, ensuring the kind of high-end service that has kept Il Sogno at the forefront of Calgary’s fine dining scene all these years. Add to that a consistently creative, yet approachable menu, exquisitely prepared by executive chef Brian Diamond, and the result is a restaurant that never disappoints, whether the occasion is an important business lunch or a romantic multi-course tasting experience. “Il sogno” means “dream” in Italian — fitting given the quiet dreaminess of this superb restaurant. —J.H.
24 4 St. N.E., 403-232-8901, ilsogno.org, @ilsognocalgary
Diners relax in the rustic charm of River Café’s main room.
When you step back and take a look at the progression of western Canada’s food scene over the past 15 or so years, it’s hard not to put Sal Howell’s Prince’s Island eatery at the forefront of it all. From pioneering the farm-to-table concept here to bringing the Ocean Wise movement to Calgary, there is so much more depth to what River Café does than simply serving fine cuisine with a Canadian focus. Chef Andrew Winfield shares the same passion as Howell when it comes to an earnest approach to finding the best ingredients Alberta has to offer and showcasing them on the plate.
Cozy up by the fireplace in the winter, watch the snow drip off the tree branches just outside the windows in the spring, soak up the sunshine and down a few oysters on the cheery patio in the summer and see the leaves turn to reds and golds in autumn. There is never a bad time of
year to eat at River Café. —D.C.
25 Prince’s Island Park, 403-261-7670, river-cafe.com, @rivercafeyyc
River Café will host the final event of our 2015 Dinner Series. Join us on October 22 for a multi-course meal with wine pairings to see for yourself why it is one of the best restaurants in Calgary. Tickets are available here.
Pounded elk tartare, green goddess dressing and toasted buckwheat.
The bustle and chatter that fills the open room at Model Milk on any given night is a testament to its ability to bring people together over a good meal. Since opening its doors in a former dairy (and, later, disco), Model Milk has been treating diners to a unique approach to food that fuses traditional, comfort dishes with a more modern approach. Chef/partner Justin Leboe, along with chef de cuisine Eric Hendry, focus on local and seasonal ingredients and use their international experience and passion for pushing the envelope to create an ever-evolving menu that is by turns cheeky (Taleggio cheezies and a gourmet take on a tater tot) and a nod to the more traditional (elk tartare and milk-fed veal sweetbreads). A stellar wine list and changing cocktail list match well with the menu, making it even more tempting to chat, laugh and order more. —G.R
Larger and brighter than the original, Anju’s new location maintains the modern approach to traditional Korean food.
After the 2013 floods, Anju lost its original downtown location. The following year without Anju felt like time standing still. Now that the modern Korean restaurant has found a new space on bustling 17th Avenue S.W., eager diners are filling the seats to fill their cravings for chef Roy Oh’s creations, particularly his crispy tofu and spicy gochujang chicken wings. With the new location — neatly and more colourfully decorated and with more space than before — Oh has also embraced new dishes, expanding the menu to include what will become new favourites for Anju fans. The small plates-focused menu shows Oh’s creative side as he marries more traditional dishes with his own modern approach to Korean food. By definition, the elevated casual dishes are meant to be shared and savoured over beer, wine or the contemporary cocktails on the menu — or, even more traditionally, over some Korean soju. —G.R.
344 17 Ave. S.W., 403-460-3341, anju.ca, @anjurestaurant
Certified Angus prime rib, house-made mesquite bacon and Oka gratin, green peppercorn and brandy jus.
If there’s one thing chef Michael Noble’s original restaurant has proven to us over the years, it’s that you don’t have to follow the waves of trends that regularly crash into our city to remain, well, notable. With chef Justin Labossiere at the helm of the kitchen, the plates here are always well crafted, no matter if you’re ordering the signature Greek salad for lunch or something off of the eye-catching rotisserie for dinner. The design of the room has also stood the test of time and looks as cozy-meets-contemporary as it did when its doors first opened in 2010. And kudos this year in particular as the quality of the dining experience here has remained as high as ever, despite Noble dividing his attention between Notable and his new restaurant, The Nash, which opened in late 2014. —D.C.
4611 Bowness Rd. N.W., 403-288-4372, notabletherestaurant.ca, @notablecalgary
Casual sophistication defines the space at Avec Bistro.
Jackie Cooke and Kirk Shaw bring a vision for guest experience to their vocation as restaurateurs. Owning their own French bistro was always their dream, but finding a location proved challenging. Two years of searching had them partner with friend Gail Norton (the owner of The Cookbook Co. Cooks and the publisher of City Palate) and settle on a midtown concrete rectangle. They hired designer Connie Young, who transformed the space, designing a bar built of soft wooden slats reminiscent of a wine barrel to provide a warm welcome to all and a soft landing for solo diners. She added floor-to-ceiling billowing curtains and plush banquettes to absorb sound, while the vintage Parisian photos re-shot by Phil Crozier to include Calgary food industry friends add a playful element. With Cordon Bleu-trained chef Dilan Draper at the helm in the kitchen, the food never falters in taste or presentation. Indeed, when paired with wines from Cooke and Shaw’s expertly crafted list, the result is a dining experience that works on every level. Save room for the profiteroles. —K.A.
105, 550 11 Ave. S.W., 587-352-0964, avecbistro.com, @avecbistro
Canadian lobster cake with grilled lobster tail and avocado cream.
Without question, one of the prettiest rooms in the city, Alloy is also one of the most reliably excellent restaurants in the city, offering all the swank of a high-end downtown restaurant with none of the traffic and parking woes. Chef/co-owner Rogelio Herrera fuses Mediterranean, Latin and Asian flavours to create contemporary dishes layered with sometimes surprising but always harmonious flavours. Meanwhile, co-owner Uri Heilik, trained chef and Avenue Top 40 Under 40 Class of 2013 alumnus, deftly runs the restaurant with signature charm and finesse. The result is a dining experience that showcases the duo’s considerable talents and mutual respect. Everything works in harmony, from the service and the ambience to the food — a clear example of how the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts. —J.H.
220 42 Ave. S.E., 403-287-9255, alloydining.com, @alloyrestaurant
BY KAREN ANDERSON, DAN CLAPSON, JOHN GILCHRIST, JENNIFER HAMILTON AND GWENDOLYN RICHARDS