Eating at a hyped up restaurant can be dangerous. When an eatery comes highly recommended by trusted friends or has been given prestigious awards, it’s easy to come in with sky-high expectations and be disappointed when the food doesn’t quite measure up. I’d eaten at Pigeonhole prior to its Air Canada Best New Restaurant win, but last week was Zevi’s first time at the restaurant, and we were counting on a meal worthy of a big winner! Spoiler alert: it lived up to our expectations and then some!
Pigeonhole scored points with me before I even walked in to the restaurant because of their small-plates format. Choosing what to eat at a restaurant is always an incredibly agonizing ordeal for me, so what could be better than getting to sample five dishes instead of just one! Even with the opportunity to choose multiple dishes, though, Zevi and I had a pretty hard time picking just five plates to share. The menu is divided into vegetables, meat, seafood, seasonal, and dessert categories, and we were tempted by so many of the offerings from each section.
After we’d come to a hard-won consensus, we were presented with our first two dishes. The lamb tartare and tuna crudo, much like the other dishes we’d eat through the course of the evening, came out on adorable mismatched saucers that looked like they’d been stolen from my grandmother’s china cabinet (or maybe a hipster’s apartment ;). My enthusiasm for the plates was soon forgotten as I took my first bite of silky raw tuna with bright radish and the perfect crunchy pop of crispy puffed rice. Slathered on crusty bread oozing with burnt onion butter, the lamb was gone in a flash. If Pigeonhole started selling that burnt onion butter my toast would be dripping with it every day of the week!
Things only got better as our next three dishes made their appearance. Pillowy ricotta and spinach dumplings begged to be broken open and dunked in their lucious mushroom sauce. Every bite of halloumi was both soft and chewy, its saltiness perfectly complimented by mini bites of beet and caper. Zevi and I consider ourselves semipro-level halloumi connoisseurs, and we’ve never made any that’s close to as good as Pigeonhole’s. The flank steak, cooked to medium rare perfection, absolutely blew our minds and made us question everything we knew about cooking beef. Each thinly sliced piece all but melted in my mouth, and I’d be hard pressed to think of a more expertly prepared steak.
The memory of that juicy beef singing on my tongue would have been more than enough to keep me smiling for the rest of the night, but my dessert-loving husband was pretty keen on trying something from the sweet side of the menu. Zevi’s a diehard chocolate guy, so I knew we’d be going with the chocolate pot-de-creme. Rich, dark, and not too sweet, the creme-filled teacup was everything I love in a chocolate indulgence, and the perfect way to end a delicious evening.
Pigeonhole is not only the best new restaurant in Canada, it’s one of my all-time favourite restaurants in Calgary, and I don’t give out that kind of praise lightly! If you love to share delicious food as much as I do, you should definitely check out this 17th avenue spot. Just save a little flank steak for me, ok?