3. Native Tongues
Native Tongues, winning third place in the Best New category in the 13th Annual Best Restaurants Awards, is an homage to authentic Mexican cuisine.
photograph by jared sych
On the table: Barbacoa de Cordero, slow-roasted lamb neck with salsa verde and rojo, cebollas, agua chile, white onion and cilantro. Big Time In the Jungle cocktail, Lot 40 Canadian Whisky, Braulio Amaro Alpino, Lillet Blanc, Giffard Banane du Bresil, Bittercube Corazón bitters and banana leaf garnish.
A taqueria is only as good as its tortillas, being, as they are, the foundation for everything else that goes into them. And, boy, has co-owner Cody Willis, in his first restaurant venture, delivered on this front. Willis imports white, heirloom Bolita corn from Mexico and every day he and his kitchen team grind the corn, form the dough and press the tortillas all by hand. It’s an homage to authentic Mexican cuisine which then receives some serious refinement by way of fillings including braised beef tongue, herb-and-green-chili sausage and grilled octopus. Offerings range from simple, individual tacos to elaborate family-style platters that feature excellent house-made sauces like pumpkin-seed dip, salsa verde and rojo, and peanut and chili salsa.
You can’t sit down here without enjoying at least one of the expert Mezcal-forward cocktails. The room — the work of interior designer Amanda Hamilton — shines with reclaimed tin panels and a beautiful feature wall of blue and bronze paint that mimics the look of a rustic Mexican taqueria. The worlds of authenticity and contemporary dining collide here at Native Tongues, feeling right at home in Calgary’s Beltline.
Restaurants in the Best New Restaurants category opened by the end of summer 2015. It gave each restaurant time to find its groove and our judges time to eat there before the deadlines for our March issue. Other restaurants have opened since and they are on our radar for next year.