>> Friday, February 19, 2016
There has been lots of buzz leading up to the opening of Shokunin, the newest creation by Chef Darren MacLean. I was extremely sad to see DTF (Downtownfood) close last year since it has always been one of my favorite restaurants, so I could not wait to visit his new establishment. Based strongly on traditional Japanese small plates, yakitori (a specialized charcoal grilling technique) and late night ramen, Shokunin definitely tries to bring a bit of Japan to us here in Calgary.
Atmosphere: Edgy dining room with a beautiful feature wall and an open kitchen where you can witness all the grilling action.
Price Range: Mid $10s - $20s
Next was the Karage Okamiitsu aka deep fried chicken thighs served with a yuzu aioli. The chicken itself was nice and crispy on the outside while remaining moist and tender on the inside. We didn’t find that the yuzu was quite tart enough and the added extra squeeze of lime over the chicken and aioli really helped round out the flavours.
Our last small plate was the Squid Tempura made with tender Humboldt squid, sansho pepper, ginger salt and served with a side of spicy mayo. I really loved this dish, the Humboldt squid is super tender and the sansho pepper gave it a lingering spiciness that was just perfect. It was vaguely reminiscent of the salt and pepper squid that the chef served at this last restaurant, but I found this dish to be even more memorable.
To end the evening we ordered the White Miso Crème Brulee with fresh yuzu peel and black tea walnuts. It’s always a treat to see a savoury ingredient used in a dessert and the miso works well here. The saltiness did a good job of mellowing out the dessert since crème brulees can often become very heavy and overly sweet for me. I found with this version I was able to keep going back for more. The yuzu flavour was again light but it did come through with the black tea walnuts adding the extra textural crunch. The size of this dessert if also perfect for sharing, if you don’t eat it all yourself first!
A main feature aside from their food is their sake menu, specially imported from Japan and can be sampled in its natural form or in their specialty crafted cocktails. The chef suggested that we sample the Kozaemon “Goddess” Junmai sake that evening to pair with our grilled meats. The sake itself was light and smooth, perfect to mellow out the smokiness of the charcoal. I highly recommend trying cold sake if you haven’t done it before. They typically only serve sake warm to mask the lower quality sakes, so like other alcohols sake should ideally be enjoyed slightly chilled.
My Picks: Squid Tempura, Yakitori (Shiitake, Chicken Butt if available)
2016 4 Street SW