Darren MacLean, the executive chef of downtownfood, makes no apologies for the sometimes controversial cuisine coming out of his kitchen. His restaurant is cooking up Canadian classics with an Asian fusion twist, making his tasting menu one of the most flavorful and most interesting in all of Canada.
Darren’s belief that a tasting menu should tell a story is reflected in the pace and flavors of the seven course menu, which changes nightly. Highlights include the steak tartare, served with homemade chips, which comes out of the kitchen smoking - literally. When presented at the table, the glass dome is lifted and a puff of smoke wafts to the ceiling, while the well-seasoned raw meat retains its flavor. The salmon maki, a play on traditional sushi, is served in a light tempura topped with quail eggs. The highlight of the dish is the perfect wasabi from British Columbia with its spice that melts away almost immediately after it touches your tongue. The best part of the meal is the creamy foie gras topped with rhubarb straight from Darren’s aunt’s garden.
The restaurant’s rooftop garden is home to 50,000 bees, allowing Darren’s team to brew Killer Buzz, a honey beer, right on-site. While downtown Calgary is still emerging as an after-dark destination, downtownfood’s comfortable fine dining atmosphere (a rare combination) is a bright spot.