Calgary restaurants buzzing with news

Clockwise from top left, Calgary’s food scene includes: Shiki Menya, a hip new ramen noodle shop; delicious cauliflower fritters from Bistro Rouge; star chefs Connie Desousa and John Jackson of CHARCUT, which has plans for 2015; seafood delicacies from newly opened Black Pig Bistro; and J.P. Pedhirney, executive chef at Muse, which has two new restaurant projects forthcoming. (Julia Pelish/

Story by Adrian Brijbassi Columnist

CALGARY, ALBERTA — There’s no slowing down Calgary‘s food scene. During my visit last weekend, it seemed that every restaurant I dined in has recently accomplished a big feat or has an expansion project in the works. Here’s a rundown of what I discovered, including some info that should come in handy on your next visit.

Black Pig Bistro is the newest restaurant opening in the Bridgeland area. (Julia Pelish/

Black Pig Bistro is the newest restaurant to open in the Bridgeland area. (Julia Pelish/

Black Pig Bistro Launches

The most significant opening this month is the debut of Black Pig Bistro. It brings casual fine dining to the Bridgeland neighbourhood, which has already gained a reputation as the next hot place to live in the city. You can read more about it here.

A limited batch of ramen noodles are made daily at Shiki Menya and when they are gone, the doors close. (Julia Pelish/

A limited batch of ramen noodles are made daily at Shiki Menya and when they are gone, the doors close. (Julia Pelish/

Lineups Out the Door for Ramen

Sharing an entry door with Black Pig Bistro is Shiki Menya, a ramen noodle house unlike any other ramen noodle house you’re likely to find. It’s hip and stylish and really good. How good? Patrons don’t mind waiting two hours in the snow for one of the 150 or so bowls that the restaurant serves each day. I’ll have an article on this intriguing little place in the coming days.

Trevor Ross, formerly of Splendido in Toronto, will now be head of Starbelly's Kitchen. (Julia Pelish/

Trevor Ross, formerly of Splendido in Toronto, has moved west to be the head chef at Starbelly, opening this summer in Seton. (Julia Pelish/

Muse Gears Up for Big Openings

In less than two years, the outstanding team at Muse has reinvented that restaurant in a historic building in the Kensington neighbourhood and now they’ve got their eyes set on perhaps the best location in the city. Muse owner Heather Wighton and executive chef J.P. Pedhirney have teamed with the owners of Chicago Chophouse to take over the Burns Building on Stephen Avenue, across from City Hall. Pedhirney has secured Chris Lorenz as the chef de cuisine. Lorenz currently works under Connie Desousa and John Jackson at CHARCUT. The steakhouse is set to open in June.

A month later, Wighton and Pedhirney anticipate the launch of Starbelly, a 140-seat restaurant in Seton, an outlying area of the city that’s 30 kilometres south of downtown Calgary. Seton is experiencing a massive makeover thanks to a state-of-the-art new hospital and a plethora of construction projects.

“The people out there need to drive a half hour or more to get into downtown to enjoy really good food. So we think they will really appreciate having a high-quality but casual option in their neighbourhood,” Pedhirney says.

He has recruited Trevor Ross, formerly of Toronto’s Splendido, to take the helm of the restaurant. The menu is still being set but one item that’s sure to be a crowd pleaser is the bacon-wrapped grilled corn on the cob.

Chef Jessica Pelland from Charcut will competing on Top Chef Canada as well as heading Charcut's newest endeavor. (Julia Pelish/

Chef Jessica Pelland from CHARCUT will compete on Chopped Canada on May 8 and will be the executive chef at CHARBAR when it opens in 2015. (Julia Pelish/

CHARCUT’s Newest Star

Jessica Pelland of CHARCUT will be appearing as a contestant on the May 8, 2014 episode of “Chopped Canada,” the Food Network TV show that features Vikram Vij among its celebrity judges. Pelland follows in the footsteps of her mentor Connie Desousa, who was a runner-up on Season 1 of Top Chef Canada in 2011.

Desousa and her business partner, John Jackson, are preparing for the 2015 opening of CHARBAR in the historic Simmons Building in Calgary’s East Village. Pelland will be the chef de cuisine at that roof-top spot.

The food at Rouge Bistro is fresh, french and delicious. (Julia Pelish/

The food at Rouge Bistro is fresh, French and delicious. (Julia Pelish/

Expansion for Bistro Rouge?

Rouge owners Olivier Reynaud and Paul Rogalski can be credited for sparking the fine-dining craze in Calgary. “When Rouge made it among the World’s 100 Best Restaurants, that caused everyone else to up their game,” says Muse’s J.P. Pedhirney, who once worked in the Rouge kitchen.

A year ago, Reynaud and Rogalski opened Bistro Rouge in Calgary’s Signal Hill area, bringing French cuisine to a community that’s on the edge of the city and more suburban than metropolitan in feel. Bistro Rouge recently hired general manager Aydrian Kalin, who helmed the launch of two-dozen Milestone’s restaurants during his two decades with that Vancouver-based chain. Could the Bistro Rouge concept of high-volume French cuisine be replicated with success in other cities? I think so.

If Rogalski isn’t Canada’s best chef, he’s very, very close to the top. My meal at Bistro Rouge proved that he can pass his recipes and techniques on to a large brigade of cooks. Whether that happens is still too early to know.

2014 Top 50 Restaurants in Canada

Calgary placed eight restaurants on the 2013 Top 50 Restaurants in Canada, trailing only Toronto for most entrants among the nation’s cities. We’ll soon find out if the city makes further strides in national acclaim for 2014. Among the judges for 2014 are Desousa, Jackson and Pedhirney, along with celebrity chefs from across the country. Watch for more news coming soon.

Adrian is the editor of and He also edited "Inspired Cooking", a nutrition-focused cookbook featuring 20 of Canada's leading chefs and in support of the cancer-fighting charity, InspireHealth. "Inspired Cooking" was created in honour of Adrian's late wife and co-founder, Julia Pelish, who passed away of brain cancer in 2016. Adrian has won numerous awards for his travel writing, travel photography, and fiction, and has visited more than 55 countries. He is a former editor at the Toronto Star and New York Newsday, and was the social media and advocacy manager for Destination Canada. His articles have frequently appeared in the Huffington Post, Globe & Mail, and other major publications. He has appeared on national and local broadcasts, talking about travel, sports, creative writing and journalism. In 2019, he launched Trippzy, a travel-trivia app developed to educate consumers about destinations around the world.

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