By John Gilchrist, For the Calgary Herald
Looking across 85th Street S.W., I had a brief moment of confusion. Behind me was Vin Room, the popular Mission wine bar. Across from me was Mercato, the busy Mission Italian deli and restaurant. What’s going on here?
Looks like Phoebe and Ken Fung, the owners of Vin Room, have taken their concept to West Springs with a second location at 8561 – 8A Avenue S.W. (587-353-8812). They’ve planted it in a new stripmall development called West 85th Street, directly across from Mercato West, the second iteration of the Carocciolo family’s restaurant-deli, and dubbed it Vin Room West. In moving west, both restaurant groups are tapping into their clientele who have made the long drive to their Mission locations. They’ve taken advantage of the booming development in West Springs and are bringing their food and wine combo to its residents.
The new Vin Room West is a 120-seat, two-level room that’s centred around a large, marble bar. The bar houses eight Enomatic wine dispensers which, in turn, hold 64 wines. Add in a dozen sparkling wines, a dozen sweet wines and a half-dozen bottles on ice and you have more than 90 wines available by the glass at any time. So you can sample very expensive wines by the ounce or enjoy full glasses of your favourites. And yes, you can always buy a full bottle. (Note: Our liquor laws allow us to take home partly drinken bottles from restaurants.)
Running Vin Room’s kitchens is newly arrived senior executive chef Christopher Chabot. The native of Elmvale, Ont. and graduate of the Culinary Institute of America’s New York campus, was most recently cooking at Vancouver’s Opus Hotel. Since arriving for the opening of the new Vin Room, he’s been working with executive chef Diana Nacita to ensure that both kitchens put out simple, tapas-focussed, wine-friendly food. The pair promises a new look menu for both locations early in the New Year.
In addition to the Vin Room wine bar, the Fungs have opened VR Wine, a wine shop, next door to the restaurant. It features the wines sold at Vin Room and also features tastes from an additional Enomatic dispenser. They also have Calgary’s first Enomatic sparkling wine dispenser, allowing tastes of pricy champagnes and such. The bubbly can stay bubbly for up to a month is this machine.
Although West 85th Street is a fairly small stripmall, it holds a few other culinary gems. Experienced baker Sebastian Judkovski has opened Ohh la la Patisserie (587-353-0111) just a few doors east of the wine bar. It’s so new not all of Judkovski’s display cases have arrived yet; he’s planning on making his shop and his pastries as pleasing to the eye as they are to the palate.
Originally from Argentina, Judkovski is trained in French and Italian baking techniques and was until recently the executive pastry chef at Calgary’s Chamber of Commerce. Ohh la la showcases his talent in madeleines, macaraons, maple-glazed croissants and more. He doesn’t do breads; instead he specializes in pastries, cakes, eclairs and tarts.
And just east of Ohh la la, there’s an olive oil and balsamic vinegar shop called Blue Door (403-978-4659). Owned by Courtney and Bruce Gillis, Blue Door pours more than 50 oils and vinegars from bulk fusti tanks into smaller bottles for home use. Sourcing from Veronica Foods in Oakland, Blue Door – like Soffritto in Canyon Meadows – offers the most freshly pressed oils available. They also include sesame oil and walnut oil to round out the flavours in your kitchen. (Bottles of these oils and vinegars make great Christmas gifts too.)
Speaking of Christmas ideas, I was pleasantly surprised to find some excellent food items in Inspirati, the lovely linen shop at 2115 – 4 Street S.W., 403-244-4443. In addition to all the fine fabric products there, owner Wendy Brownie has brought in Hubs Virginia peanuts (a treat for goober fans), Poorboy caramels infused with fleur de sel (after one bite Catherine claimed an entire box as her own) and Il Palagio’s extra virgin olive oil from Sting’s estate near Florence.
John Gilchrist’s new Eat Canada restaurant app is now available for iPads and iPhones. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 403-235-7532.