Cross-posted from Calgary is Awesome.
downtownfood has been open for about three months, but is going through a "rebirth" of sorts as Chef/Owner Darren MacLean recently bought out some of his previous co-owners. At both events, Chef MacLean prepared hors d'hoeuvres versions of dishes that appear on the regular menu, which can be described as Pan-Asian-French fusion, with an emphasis on local ingredients and small plates. He also came out regularly to mingle with guests, making sure everything was ok while explaining his vision for the restaurant; both in terms of the food and the space.
Some of the highlights from both nights -
The Beet Tartare ($5) combines sweet, earthy beets with a zippy aioli that has a bit of a kick. The star for me, surprisingly, is actually the cumin crisp. It's thin and light, and the cumin gives it a nice smoky flavour that lingers on the palate.
Noble Meadows Goat Cheese (made non-vegetarian at the Passion for Pork Launch with the addition of lardo!) The mushrooms have a meaty texture (and flavour too, thanks to mushrooms' umami qualities) and the goat cheese adds a tanginess that cuts through the richness of the ragout. Served on a thin, crisp crostini made in-house.
Broek Pork Acres, a family-run farm near Coalhurst/Lethbridge, like in the Braised Pork Tail (!) Cake and the Pork Wontons ($15 for a full dish)
Breakfast at Midnight ($4) is downtownfood's signature tapa (I'm guessing so because it's the only one with a non-descriptive name.) It features a poached quail egg, dipped in panade (as per this NY Times Magazine article on Christopher Kimball of Cook's Illustrated, it is "a paste of bread and milk") before being quickly deep-fried. Done right, the yolk squirts across your plate as you cut into it. Smoky bits of house-cured bacon, a drizzle of salsa verde and a thick slice of house-baked bread round out Breakfast.
As in any meal, you have to save the best for last, and although I'm sure downtownfood has an excellent dessert menu...
Behold, the Butter'd Beer.
well-documented that my love for Butter'd Beer knows no bounds. A creation by Chef Whitney V, who worked the bar at both events, the Butter'd Beer takes the inherent caramel, coffee, vanilla and nut flavours in Innis & Gunn and Wild Rose Honey Brown and brings it to the next level by heating it up with Demerara sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. It tastes like a creamy latte, without any dairy (eh, vegans and lactose intolerants?!)
The servers were very friendly, but I would love to go back to see what a "regular" service is like. Aside from all the changes that the restaurant is going through right now, the menu is also seasonal, so I can't wait to see how downtownfood does as it continues to evolve!
628 8 Ave SW
Calgary AB T2P 1G4
Open Mon-Thu 11 AM-10 PM; Fri-Sat 11 AM-midnight. Closed Sundays.