No. 28: Model Milk
Chef Justin Leboe’s first restaurant as chef and owner occupies a historic 1930s dairy at what is now the anchor of Calgary’s trendiest restaurant row. Along with its name, the restaurant maintains the dairy’s original exposed brick walls and concrete floor.
Ingeniously, that long-gone dairy’s system of massive, cargo-transporting steel beams that run the length of what’s now the restaurant floor has been adapted to accommodate slideable tabletops, which can be moved together or apart for a changing seating plan. The modernized industrial look, combined with the multi-level seating, twin bars and vinyl for spinning, makes for a highly energetic setting ideally suited to Leboe’s restlessly imaginative cooking. The menu is ever-evolving, but underpinning it is a sense of refined comfort food and a dedication to local and seasonal ingredients. The only menu item that has stood the test of time is the rich burger, topped with an earthy morel ragu and cheese curds.
Even the Southern fried chicken—a must-order for big groups—is born anew every few months, going from versions nodding to Nashville hot to one topped with a chorizo glaze and served with basil fry bread. Sunday suppers are when the kitchen really shines with themed set menus, changed every week, of four courses, served family style. Influences are myriad; on the menu, mole co-exists with stracciatella, miso and mignonette. But if any dish descriptions strike you as confusingly multicultural, relax: on the plate those seemingly disparate ideas invariably translate into something delightfully coherent. Technique is never showy but always accomplished. The wine list is strong. Cocktails are smart and modern. Eight years on and Model Milk continues to show why it’s a perennial favourite.