New Restaurant: Pigeonhole

New Restaurant: Pigeonhole This eclectic new 17th Avenue restaurant is defined by not being easy to define. By Dan Clapson June 09, 2015 Edamame with rabbit mortadella is one of many dishes at Pigeonhole that is getting people talking. Pigeonhole: a category, typically an overly restrictive one, to which someone…

Burnt cabbage with jalapeno cream dressing and shaved mimolette cheese.

New Restaurant: Pigeonhole

This eclectic new 17th Avenue restaurant is defined by not being easy to define.

Edamame with rabbit mortadella is one of many dishes at Pigeonhole that is getting people talking.

Pigeonhole: a category, typically an overly restrictive one, to which someone or something is assigned.

Formally known as Victoria’s, the space right beside Model Milk stayed vacant for more than a few years before construction began and Justin Leboe’s newest restaurant – Pigeonhole – began coming to fruition. Last month, the cool new eatery opened its doors and the buzz around it has been growing steadily in Calgary.

Leboe is well-known for his unique use of ingredients and ability to set trends in this city, being the first chef to serve up an elevated chicken and waffles several years ago, introduce shishito peppers to the main stream food scene here, among other things. The menu here aims for the same thing as Model Milk – to truly differentiate itself from any other establishment currently on our local culinary radar.

If you arrive with a group of six or more people, it would be quite easy to eat your way through the entire menu, one which places a primary focus on sharing plates, with a few larger-format dishes like cider-glazed chicken or lobster stew with morels and turnips. The flavours that pop up on the dishes here run the gamut from Mediterranean (halloumi cheese with celery, pistachio and olive) to Asian fusion (nori crumpets with prawn butter) and everywhere in between.

Burnt cabbage with jalapeno cream dressing and shaved mimolette cheese.

The burnt cabbage, in comparison to some of the other plates, may come off as a bit of a wallflower, but the char on this “steak” of locally grown cabbage, coupled with a jalapeno cream dressing and a feathery layer of shaved mimolette (a soft cow’s milk cheese with a slightly nutty flavour) on top, makes for an umami-type experience and makes roast cauliflower seem so last year.

The diversity of flavours found on the menu ties back into the restaurant’s name. Pigeonhole serves as an inspiration to Leboe, his chef de cuisine Garrett Martin, and the rest of the kitchen team to not be “pigeonholed” into one specific style of cuisine.

Earl Grey martini.

When it comes to the cocktails, Pigeonhole has David Bain (formerly of Model Milk) manning the bar. Bain will still happily make Model Milk’s signature Black Manhattan but why not branch out and try a different custom cocktail, like the refreshing Earl Grey martini, a combination of gin, black tea, lemon and egg white. It’s dangerously easy to drink. The wine menu is also interesting, primarily focusing on organic and biodynamic wines, plus some sherry and orange wine (essentially, white wines that have been processed for a short period of time with the grape skins intact).

The room has a mid-century modern feel with many eclectic touches.

Now, let’s talk about the room. Pigeonhole’s designers Kate Allen, Kristen Lien and Kelly Morrison of RAD are proving that how a restaurant looks is just as important as the food and service elements. The space evokes a mid-century modern feel without shoving it down our throats in an overly Mad Men sort of way. The central restaurant bar is constructed with reclaimed marble slabs from a heritage bank building in Edmonton, the tabletops, a deep grey/green, were from the original Victoria’s and in the south area of the dining room, funky wallpaper covers a couple of walls to make the room pop. The restaurant also has a fair-sized street-facing patio as well as plenty of natural light, two things which will make for plenty of early summer evening diners, no doubt.

All things considered, Pigeonhole is, refreshingly, one of the most unique concepts we’ve seen pop up in this city in a while and people are already flocking here, so consider making a reservation instead of just popping in.

306 17 Ave. S.W., 403-452-4694, pigeonholeyyc.ca, @pigeonholeyyc

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