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THIS CONTEMPORARY AND INVENTIVE izakaya is a showcase for Darren MacLean’s diligent passion for Japanese cuisine — and the skillset he rode to the dramatic final round of elimination on Netflix’s The Final Table four years ago. His reverence for (and surprising cross-cultural ease with) Japanese traditions and techniques have made this lively 50-seat room a local favourite since its inception, in 2015. The culinary offer has been continually evolving and has grown steadily more ambitious ever since. As drinking is a key component of the izakaya equation, cocktails here are highly creative, while Calgary’s first exclusively junmai sake list arguably remains its best. If you fancy ramen (who doesn’t?), note that the style here is not the commonplace tonkotsu (pork) but, instead, paitan — a similarly viscous and equally flavourful but lighter broth made from chicken bones (in this case, graced with poached and roasted roulade of chicken thigh, among other tasty things). The kitchen butchers 30 fowl a day, with much of the rest of the birds destined for the yakitori program — skewers of every imaginable cut and delectable scrap of offal from oysters, wing flaps and tips and ribs to sweetbreads and “ass” (parson’s nose), grilled over binchō-tan charcoal from Kyushu. Soft-shell crabs are marinated in sake to give their innards a light cure before being lightly battered in tempura, fried crisp, then sauced with tomalley-enhanced chili butter. A pastrami sandwich here means smoked wagyu short rib dressed with togarashi-and-sake “chimichurri.” Watch for the yakitori omakase, launching soon.

Chef MacLean is always evolving and creating delicious new dishes”

–Rosemary Bacovsky

Photography by: DQ Studios

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