It felt bittersweet to be celebrating the Big Taste Calgary finale at Shiki Menya and Black Pig Bistro. On one hand my favourite Calgary food event is coming to a close, on the other I’m so excited to see how Black Pig Bistro has grown over their first year of business and to finally get a taste of Shiki Menya ramen. Last year, one yucky day in April we happened to be near Bridgeland and thought we’d try to get in at Shiki Menya for ramen to warm us up. That was before we’d heard that they limit sales to 150 bowls of their outstanding ramen per day thereby selling out by 3, maybe 4 o’clock. Since we were there for dinner there really was no chance of getting any ramen at all. What seemed like rotten luck (as a result of being ill informed) suddenly took a turn when we noticed the next door lights at Black Pig Bistro were on. Could there possibly be a table for four just magically waiting for us on opening day? There was, and we enjoyed a fabulous dinner with great service…I was highly impressed that we could have such a stellar meal on their very first day of service and I knew that Black Pig Bistro was to become a fix on the restaurant scene here in Calgary.
The growth and success of Black Pig Bistro in their first year of business is due to Chef Alison MacNeil’s ability to transpose her love of Spanish cuisine to diners here in Calgary. Her focus is mainly on bringing Spanish flavours, mixed with a bit of French and Italian flare, to a mostly non tapas menu. What a year it has been for her as well…opening a restaurant, getting married to Chef John Michael MacNeil, formerly of Teatro, who now also works at Black Pig Bistro. Together they have achieved some amazing results: Black Pig Bistro was named Best New Restaurant 2014 by Where to Dine Awards and more recently Best New Restaurant 2015 by Avenue Magazine and that lovely dish of Pork and Beans that my boy loved so much on that very first visit? It won the Divine Swine Award at the Passion for Pork/Alberta Pork 2014 Pig and Pinot Festival. Oh, and Black Pig Bistro has recently become #86 on Canada’s Top 100 restaurants list compiled by food critics, chefs, and personalities across Canada. So yes, I would definitely say it’s been a busy (and rewarding year) for Black Pig Bistro.
Our Big Taste YYC evening began with some delicious little bites at Shiki Menya. I absolutely adored these little Squid Ink Risotto Arancini. They were the perfect start to our evening.
Then we had these really tasty little Pork Belly Kimchi Tacos. If these beginning bites were meant to awaken our taste buds…they sure did the trick. I could have eaten a whole platter of these but I knew we had a long and tasty night ahead of us.
And finally, the ramen. This little dish was just a sampler of their deliciously chewy ramen noodles with a spicy tomato/sesame oil sauce. I felt like it was such a tease!
After the ramen, we moved next door to the Black Pig Bistro and found our seats. Hubby and I sat next to a really nice couple, Brett and Madelinn, with whom we had both food and football in common. The evening continued on the path of deliciousness with these adorable little tapas. I don’t use adorable that often but just look at that tiny little Confit Tuna Melt and deconstructed Tomato Caesar on a spoon! Simply Adorable. Of course the star of the show in flavour was the Chorizo Croquette.
For the main course we had the choice of Saffron & Piquillo Pepper Risotto with lemon parsley salad or Broek Acres Pork Shank with potato purée, fig compote, and pea shoots. I know that Black Pig Bistro is a place that I can order risotto with confidence so it became my choice. I loved the creamy saffron flavoured risotto with the added acidity of the parsley salad. I did find a couple of the larger parsley leaves to leave a bitter flavour so I made sure to pick them out and eat only the small ones.
I think hubby was suitable impressed by his dish. The meat was so tender there really was no need for a knife and once he tasted the compote he was a bit surprised that there were figs in it. Apparently the menu had him at ‘Pork Shank’.
After much deliberation, we both decided we wanted the Passion Fruit Mousse for dessert. The mousse was velvety soft and was definitely full of pucker power. I loved how the crunchy bits on top tasted like Frosted Flakes and provided a textural crunch. It was like eating a passion fruit and not having to eat all those pesky seeds.
Chefs John Michael and Alison MacNeil just returned earlier this week from another trip to Spain. I can hardly wait to see what kinds of new inspirations show up on future Black Pig Bistro menus.
Chefs John Michael and Alison MacNeil
827 1st Ave NE
Black Pig Bistro
825 1 Ave NE