Air Canada’s Enroute Magazine voted Pigeonhole #1 of their 2015 Top 10 new restaurants in Canada. A recent trip to Calgary and dinner at Pigeonhole quickly showed us why.
My number one complaint about Calgary restaurants is that the service usually leaves a lot to be desired. I think it’s because a city of a certain size is required for professional server to be a viable career option and Calgary is not quite at that size. Another factor is the recent oil boom which made a lot of other jobs more desirable. I have to start this post by saying that Pigeonhole has THE best service in Calgary, hands down. I also have to say: it’s about time!
The menu is broken up by food type: vegetables, meat, seafood, seasonal, caviar, cheese and sweet. We decided to try a few different items and asked what items were the most popular in order to help us make our choices. Poor Pete had to bypass his seafood and caviar cravings as we were sharing.
We started with the Deviled Eggs (meat) and Smashed Cucumbers (seasonal). The Deviled Eggs had a crunchy potato chip (!) topping and celery leaves along with a tangy mustard. Deviled delish with a fun crunch. The (new item) Smashed Cucumbers were served with pickled rhubarb, toasted almonds, mint and a chevre. While the flavours of the pickled rhubarb worked with the mint, chevre, and cucumbers, we felt that a hit of sweet, perhaps honey (?) might have enhanced the dish.
I should point out that whimsically each dish was served on unique and fun thrift store china plates. It felt like someone had raided my grandmother’s china cabinet.
Next up, Beef Tartare (meat) and Rabbit and Bacon Pate (meat). I love beef tartare and this one did not disappoint as it was mixed with a beer cheese, spring onions, a subtle pickle crunch and homemade sourdough bread. Pete loved the Rabbit and Bacon Pate which was served with mustard beads and a house-made seed bread.
The Ricotta Dumplings (seasonal) were referred to as a “strozzapretti”. Strozzapretti is typically a barbed wire shaped pasta, the name meaning “strangle the priest”. The explanation for the dumpling being called a strozzapretti was that the dumplings were “strangled by the flour”. The ricotta and spinach filling was complimented by the lightly fried sage served on top.
The Charred Cabbage (vegetable) was a meal star. It is one of Pigeonhole’s best-selling items and after tasting it, we could see why. The cabbage, charred to perfection, was topped with a heavy cover of Mimoletto (an orange cheese from Lyon) and sat on a Jalapeno Salad Cream. While it may have looked like a burrito from a Mexican fast food joint, the flavours were sublime and we would definitely order it again.
The Lamb Breast (meat) rounded out our meal – beautifully cooked slices of lamb served with mint, cress and dollops of apricot.
Andrew, our server, is not only a professional server, but also buys the wine for the restaurant (as well as Model Milk and Anju). Instead of ordering a bottle of wine, Andrew did wine pairings for us so we could try different wines from their organic and biodynamic wine list. Some wines of interest he suggested were the Orange Wines on their menu. When you go, ask for the wine pairings with your meal!
The 23 oz. Bone-In Short Rib which we saw looked amazing and huge! It was clearly a favourite, but needed a group at the table (or fewer “smaller” plates). It will definitely be tried, next visit!
Fancy a digestif after dinner? Pigeonhole has an impressive selection of digestifs and amaros, including a few we had not tried before.
If you are heading out to Calgary for Stampede, work, or just to visit, book your table NOW, you will thank me.
Where and when: 306 17th Avenue SW, Calgary, Alberta; Open Monday – Saturday 4 pm – late