No. 21: Shokunin
With a Netflix cooking competition show under his belt, numerous collaboration dinners planned and a popular restaurant whose reputation has no doubt grown with his time in the spotlight, chef Darren MacLean has a lot on his plate.
But no rest for the wicked: his second and third spots in Calgary, a fish-and-vegetable restaurant called Barshoku and an eight-seat chef’s tasting bar (both located in a new hotel in the city’s East Village), will open in 2019. Japan continues to hold influence for the chef, who brings his passion for this exacting cuisine to his 50-seat, izakaya-inspired restaurant, Shokunin. In the run-up to its opening in late 2015, MacLean travelled Japan with chef Yoshihiro Narisawa, whose eponymous Tokyo restaurant sits at No. 22 on the list of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. (The Japanese chef also appeared on The Final Table, but as a culinary legend, not a competitor.) The experience galvanized MacLean’s appreciation for Japanese cooking, especially its focus on seasonality, technique and the showcasing of ingredients to maximum effect via purity of flavour.
MacLean’s passion for that cuisine translates to his own dishes, which span drinking snacks (eggplant and goat cheese tempura, chicken-skin chips) and ramen to yakitori (pork belly, chicken heart and sweetbreads grilled over binchō-tan). Venture beyond these offerings to the more ambitious plates and you will be rewarded by MacLean’s inventiveness and detailed commitment to the culinary traditions he is borrowing from. Order sushi and sashimi and they come with house-made gari and wasabi ground from B.C.-sourced roots. Try the bison tataki, the rich meat spiked with yuzu-pickled onions and fresh pea shoots. Venture into richness with miso-cured bone marrow and escargots. Or trust the man in the apron and opt for the omakase menu. The cocktail list is strong and the sake list extensive, with multiple options in all categories—junmai, junmai ginjo, junmai daiginjo, nigori and even sparkling.
Photo by: Shok Schaefer