No. 39: Shokunin
2016 4TH STREET SOUTHWEST, CALGARY, ALBERTA
THE DEFINITION OF SHOKUNIN IS “A SOCIALLY CONSCIOUS CRAFTSMAN OR ARTISAN”—WHICH DOESN’T SO MUCH DESCRIBE THE PLACE AS IT DOES CHEF-OWNER DARREN MACLEAN.
After closing his previous Calgary spot, Downtownfood, MacLean set off in search of a muse. A trip through rural Japan with chef Yoshihiro Narisawa of Tokyo’s Narisawa—number eight on the list of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants—galvanized MacLean’s passion for Japanese culture and ignited his focus on sustainability and the purity of things. MacLean likes to play with his food, and he’s built a perfect little stage on which to do it, a Japanese-style brasserie for the convivial eating of shared plates with a shot or two of sake on the side. The place is small, just 40 or 50 seats, with an open grill, an anime mural and USB ports at the tables, lest you need to boost your battery.
Sous-chef Koji Kobayashi hails from Osaka, where he trained in the art of kaiseki, a highly composed and ritualized seasonal cuisine involving multiple dishes. While by no means kaiseki -level in concept or composition, dishes offer creative flourishes that may not be immediately apparent. MacLean enjoys crucial details, such as importing authentic binchō-tan charcoal for charring his yakitori. Fish is an obsession: He’s is a fan of the Japan-originated technique ikejime in which a spike to the brain quickly paralyzes and dispatches the creature, thus preserving quality. Elegant sashimi makes way for decadent miso lobster dengaku, the signature duck tataki with wasabi stem salsa, and “white soy” ponzu and shaved foie gras torchon. The drinks menu boasts one of Calgary’s best and most varied selections of sake, Japanese whiskey, cocktails and the only beer in Canada made with Canadian-grown rice and sake lees (a collaboration with a local brewery). Barely a year on the scene, this little spot is not afraid of shaking things up.
Monday to Friday
5:00 PM until 1:00 AM
10:30 AM until 2:30 PM
and 5:00 PM until 1:00 AM
10:30 AM until 2:30 PM,
and 5:00 PM until 10:00 AM
IMAGES COURTESY OF SHOKUNIN