Back in March, Mack and I headed to Calgary for the weekend. Though I recapped some of our eats on that road trip, I haven’t yet posted about our suppers.
Borgo Trattoria is the latest offering from the chef behind Capo, the acclaimed Italian restaurant that has since closed. Though I never had the chance to visit Capo, from what I gather, Borgo would have been its younger, hipper sister, not only because of its atmosphere, but also because of a less traditional menu that emphasizes share plates.
Reservations are only permitted between 5-6:30pm, but we didn’t mind, as it guaranteed us a table. If you aren’t an early eater, be prepared for a wait! The crowd in the lobby started forming halfway through our meal.
The interior was somewhat puzzling, a mash-up between a warm, Italian kitchen (the heart of the dining room was a brightly lit bar) and a nightclub. The techno beats streaming from the speakers didn’t seem to match the décor, and neither did the unnecessary projection of Fashion Television episodes on the wall above our heads. We hoped the food would stand up for itself, as opposed to relying on the sights and sounds to enhance the experience.
Mack at Borgo
We were pleasantly surprised. The arancini rivaled Corso 32’s version, paired with creamy cheese fonduto sauce. It was hot, crispy and simply delectable. The sauteed mushrooms paired with crostini were okay, but it seemed the flavour relied heavily on the truffle oil.
The orichette, with broccoletti and smoked bacon, was a bit of a let down. It was missing something, though we did enjoy coming across the pops of bacon.
Orichette with borccoletti and smoked bacon
The highlight of our meal was undoubtedly the veal meatball. It was a dash salty, but all components, from the Sunday sauce, tender meat, and perfectly executed creamy polenta made up a dish that almost had us licking our plates clean.
Veal meatball and polenta
Service was consistent all the way through (dishes arrived lightning fast), until the end, when we waited quite a while to settle our cheque. Our server was doing the best that he could though – it was a packed house by that time.
We enjoyed Borgo as a whole, and now have our go-to dishes if we decide to return in the future.
The next night, we were lured to Market, just two weeks old at the time. It was all over the Calgary blogosphere, benefitting from Executive Chef Geoff Rogers’s debut on the third season of Top Chef Canada in a few weeks time (though it has since been announced that Chef Rogers will be moving to Vancouver to join another TCC alum, Trevor Bird, at Fable Kitchen).
When we arrived, the room was buzzing. We also realized we were the only diners not to receive the memo of the dress code for the evening: four inch heels and miniskirts for the women, and the sneaker-suit jacket combo for men. Needless to say, we felt more than a little out of place, but thankfully, our server put us at ease. Still, it’s worth saying that between the nightclub atmosphere and attire at Borgo and Market, we were glad Edmonton restaurants haven’t picked up on this trend.
Market prides itself not only on sourcing local ingredients, but also on making as much from scratch as possible, including breads, cheese and cured meats. They even have an Urban Cultivator which allows them to maintain an indoor garden year-round. This was mirrored in the décor, with glass terrariums suspended from the ceiling. The rest of the interior was plain, if stark, entirely black and white and devoid of any colour.
The menu, skewed towards small plates, changes often to reflect the seasons, but at that time, emphasized comfort food. As a result, Mack and I couldn’t decide between dishes and ended up with four, much too ambitious given the richness of the items.
For balance, we chose to start with their greens. It was a pretty standard salad, but Mack especially enjoyed the pickled beets, and I loved the inclusion of fresh watercress.
We had to order the charcuterie board as well, given it would best showcase some of the kitchen’s from-scratch preparations. The air-dried bison, duck bacon and chorizo were great, and the pickled vegetables and house-made mustard were nice touches.
The potato and onion dish was Mack’s favourite, with melt-away gnocchi, caramelized onions, and pops of crispy fried onions.
The lamb tart put us over the top. Though I’m not usually a fan of lamb sausage, the Ewe-Nique sausage tasted almost like pork, bursting with flavour. We didn’t initially take to the buttery crust, thinking it didn’t pair quite well with the savoury toppings, but it grew on us.
I can’t speak to the food since Chef Rogers has moved on, but I’m hoping they retain the philosophy behind their menu, and the food quality that we experienced that night. I’m looking forward to returning to see what seasonal treats are now in store!