It’s late and I’m wired so there’s no way that I’m going to bed anytime soon. I’ve just returned back to my comfy suburban home, ripped my pants off, and started to type. Now, I may be wired because I ended my evening ‘friends and family’ sneak peek at Workshop Kitchen + Culture with an espresso but I think that it’s more likely because I have just eaten some of the best food that YYC has seen in a long time. Chef/Owner Kenny Kaechele has had a hand in quite a few restaurants in this town…from The Living Room and Divino to The Ranche, West, Ei8ht, Tango Bistro, and Rouge. He’s lent his special creative touch to so many places and finally he has a place to call his own. Chef Kenny’s excitement, positive, and creative energy echoes throughout the menu with bursts of flavour and combinations that really sing…or rather, scream.
Those creative touches don’t end at the menu…the dusky, but comfortable space withing the Grand Theater is welcoming while at the same time being trendy in it’s own special way. Large tartan booth seats line the back wall and serve two purposes; one, the ultimate in seated comfort and two, they also absorb a lot of the sound throughout the dining room. This is especially important when you consider the kitchen is fully open to the dining area. While the restaurant was not filled tonight, I was there while it was full in the section nearest the kitchen and I could comfortably hear the server and my dining companion, Linda Garson. A complicated array of ropes, chains, and pulleys along the back wall give the space a ‘Forty Shades’ sort of feel which goes hand in hand with the dark walls, floors, and current tables. The furniture will change soon as the new order comes in, tables in a lovely ash colour will fit right in. The large space on the other side of the grand hall entrance is much of the same; a mixture of small tables for two, long tables meant for larger groups which is great for the ‘sharing’ concept, and a couple of really cool ‘train style’ tables…complete with luggage.
All this creativity could easily just fly right out the front door and it would all be for nothing if Chef Kenny Kaechele didn’t have an amazing team that he could trust. His has a young and equally ambitious Chef de cuisine, Chris Lorenz (previously sous chef at Charcut), delectable pastry chef Alex Hamilton, General Manager Conrad Sawatzky, and Bar Manager Aaron Huizinga. Moving immediately backward for a moment…the liquor licence had not arrived in time for this evening but we were still able to sample a couple of Aaron’s creations sans alcohol. In addition to having house made sodas, the cocktails are purely flavour forward. If they taste that great without alcohol in them, one can only imagine what they will be like fully stocked. I love the idea of having house made syrups, herbs and aromatics, as well as some fun combinations using bitters.
And now for the food. Can I begin with dessert? No? Too bad.
Yuzu Custard Tart with Basil Gelée and Foraged Berry Sorbet; in this case the foraged berries were Haskap Berries
This tart was everything we had hoped it would be. Fresh, tart, and toe curling. Ditto for the Sorbet though I would add that I thought it had an amazing texture. What really blew me away though, was that Basil Gelée. Phenomenal! We also had a small sampling of the Root Beer Panna Cotta, with ‘sparkling’ crumb…like pop rocks. I expected it to be much sweeter than it was and again, the flavour was outstanding.
Now back to the beginning. This pork belly was definitely en point. I could have sworn the ‘noodles’ were green apple but they turned out to be slightly pickled jicama.
Then I had a dish of this.
Soft Polenta with Poblano Peppers, Shrimp, Salsa Verde, and Fried Egg
But I did share and because I shared, I got to try some of Linda’s starting dishes as well. Isn’t it great to share?
Gin and Juniper Cured Trout, Sweet Potato Croquette, Green Apple Remoulade
And if Chef Kenny can get me to eat cauliflower…well that IS something.
This ain’t no first date food. Spiced and Fried Cauliflower with a Garlic, Green Olive and Harissa Aioli.
Can you believe we still had room for a main? And two ‘little extras’, of course.
For our second ‘extra’ we had the Grilled Celery Root with Crispy Chicken Skin, Blue Cheese, and Charred Leek Purée. It was really like nothing I’ve ever had before but unfortunately it did not photograph well for me.
And finally what was probably the dish of the night for the two of us.
Chickpea Miso Cured Sablefish with Bacon Compote, Celeriac two ways
Are you still with me? Now for some details. Workshop is expected to be fully open on Monday, September 22. The plan is to have the à la carte menu as well as a 3, 5, or 7 course option for dinner and a 3 course lunchtime ‘business’ lunch which gets you fed and back to work in an hour. Eventually the top floor will be added with more of a lounge type vibe and they already have several catering jobs lined up for the very near future. Chef Kenny also mentioned that there may be a plan for a ‘midnight brunch’ seating for late night types and featuring local chefs and foodie gadabouts. He is looking forward to an always busy, thriving atmosphere and you know what? I think he’s going to get just that.
Workshop Kitchen + Culture
608 1 St SW, Calgary, AB