It was an exciting day in the Canadian food media landscape yesterday, as the Best New Restaurants in Canada for 2016 top ten list was revealed by Air Canada’s enRoute Magazine. Did you feel the buzz in the air in Calgary? Yeah, not so much.
Of the two nominees from YYC this year, Charbar and Whitehall, exactly zero landed in the top ten. And it was a relatively small playing field; Charbar and Whitehall were two of just 35 finalists, coast to coast.
It’s a bit of a sad trombone moment for Calgary, considering that the city is enjoying a recent uptick in outside attention for its evolving dining scene. Celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse attests he had Italian food better than he’s had in Italy (don’t laugh, he said it, but no, we don’t know where) here in Calgary. And just a few days ago Vogue (yes, that Vogue) extolled the virtues of coming to Alberta for the food, singling out spots like Anju, Sidewalk Citizen, Deane House, Charbar, Whitehall, and Pigeonhole.
Oh, Pigeonhole you say? One of the acclaimed restaurant’s accolades includes being the 2015 enRoute Magazine Best New Restaurant in Canada. As in, like, number one. The best. So it’s a bit of a letdown, needless to say, that Calgary got snubbed.
The top ten list, as compiled by Andrew Braithwaite of enRoute and culled from the aforementioned 35 restaurants, does seem to show a couple of national dining trends. First, one surprising element is that Toronto has just one restaurant among the ten, with their Alo in second place. Is it time for Tdot to get knocked down a peg when it comes to a (perceived) superiority in the Canadian culinary landscape. Perhaps.
Second, Vancouver is getting a turn at the top of the chart, with their Kissa Tanto, a Japanese-Italian hybrid, in first position. BC seems to be enjoying an infusion of talent in the kitchen, with young and creative chefs heading West to kick start exciting careers, and to bask in the playground-like bounty of local ingredients.
And lastly, with three Montreal and one Quebec City restaurants among the top ten, all signs seem to be pointing to la belle Quebec as being a hot foodie destination right now, at the very least in terms of quantity. In July, Montreal was named the world’s #1 “Rising Star Foodie Destination.” Bien sur.
So where does this leave Calgary? Surely the city is shedding its dreary “Cowtown” steak-only reputation thanks to an influx of on-point concepts, from elevated diner fare to modern Asian, and beyond. Will 2017 be the year we get back onboard the enRoute list? Here’s hoping.