There have been lots of new restaurants popping up in Calgary lately, but there was one that I was particularly eager to try. Located in what was formerly the historic National Hotel in the heart of Inglewood, The Nash is the latest project of Chef Michael Noble. Having enjoyed the food and ambience at the critically acclaimed NOtaBLE, Noble’s other venture, I was looking forward to finding out if The Nash would live up to my lofty expectations.
It only took me a few minutes before I’d fallen in love with the space. The Nash’s main dining room area is bright but warm and feels cozy while still remaining modern. Little touches like the stacked wood beside the kitchen and the antlers hanging over the fireplace add to the rustic feel, and banish any possible feelings of stuffiness at this upscale establishment. If you want a front row seat to the action, sit at the bar, where you’ll get an up-close view of the hustle and bustle in the bright, open kitchen. The acoustics are great (read: not too loud), so it’s an ideal spot for a quiet date night conversation or a rendezvous with Grandma.
Based on some emphatic recommendations from friends who had already paid a visit to the restaurant, I went for the Charred Pacific Octopus as my starter. Accompanied by thinly sliced chorizo and a silky avocado cream, this was the most tender octopus I’ve ever tasted. While this sea creature can sometimes be rubbery and chewy, there was no hint of that unwanted texture in this delicious preparation. The spice on the charred exterior was subtle, and the little pearls of citrus provided a welcomed bright contrast. I was impressed! Zevi chose the Brown Butter Glazed Gnochetti, and the warm winter-spiced flavours of the mini pasta pillows had us equally pleased. I didn’t manage to snap a good photo of this one, because sometimes your date doesn’t appreciate it when you spend all night fiddling with your camera ;).
After all but licking our appetizer plates we were excited for our mains to arrive, and they certainly delivered. Zevi’s chocolate-braised bison short ribs were meltingly tender and the accompanying celeriac puree was super flavourful. We did find ourselves wishing for a bit more textural contrast, though, and I found the chocolate flavour to be a little too bitter. There was nothing to criticize when it came to my roasted duck breast though – this was absolutely the star of the show. The duck was cooked perfectly, the velvety pain perdu was divine, and the bing cherry sauce was the ideal compliment to the meat. The beet macarons were light and airy, and added a creative and whimsical feel to the dish. I feel confident in saying that this was the best duck I’ve ever had and one of the best plates of food I’ve eaten, period.
From one innovative dish to another, our server was spot on when he told us to forget everything we knew when it came to dessert. With one look at the menu I knew what Zevi would lobby for, and I was happy to indulge him and try the dark chocolate with cotton candy and hay ice cream. It really was like no dessert I’d ever tasted. The bitterness of the chocolate was expertly balanced by the cotton candy, which was sweet but nothing like what you’d get at the Stampede. You don’t see hay ice cream on a restaurant menu every day, but subtle sweetness of The Nash’s iteration assured me that there was no need to be afraid.
The service, atmosphere, and, most importantly, the food were top notch during our first visit to Inglewood’s newest hot spot. I know it’ll take a while for me to stop daydreaming about that incredible duck! It’s not somewhere we could go every week without some complaints from our wallets, but it’s great for a special occasion dinner or those nights when you want to treat yourself. I’ll be back soon to check out the adjoining Off Cut Bar for some cocktails and try their tempting, and significantly less pricey, brunch menu.