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DARREN MACLEAN’S EIGHT IS VIRTUALLY HIDDEN, behind a discreet doorway inside Nupo, his larger and far more accessible, vegetable-forward restaurant in the Alt Hotel Calgary East Village. Inside, you’ll find a dramatic room, heavy on black, with a striking Douglas fir bar, set with just four stools on each of its two perpendicular counters. All sightlines align with the kitchen and its central black marble work surface. Eight stools and just one seating three nights a week — a seat here is a very hot ticket. MacLean is an estimable chef, and of his three restaurants, Eight is the most personal. He’s known primarily for his Japanese-inspired cooking, but here his culinary preoccupation is with Canadian identity, which, for him, is polycultural. Indigenous cooking has an important role in the program, but so does Calgary’s Korean community, along with the Chinese, South Asian — and French. Consider a few recent dishes. A Haida-inspired Chinook tartare, the fish lightly cured and smoked, served on a chicharrón of its skin, topped with its roe. Duck vindaloo made from a two-year-old Pekin duck from MacLean’s farm, its legs pressure-cooked in curry, breast roasted on the crown. And dry-aged sablefish cooked under binchōtan, served on a bed of wilted seaweed, bacon and favas, topped with foamed toasted-kombu dashi and a drizzle of green garlic oil. As we said, it’s a hot ticket.

One of the most difficult to acquire reservations in the country, but worth the wait. Mijune Pak

Photography by DQ Studios

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