New Restaurant: Test Kitchen
This unique restaurant is neither a pop-up nor a permanent space, but it’s definitely worth checking out.
Ribs and crab arancini at Test Kitchen’s new home.
Part restaurant, part pop-up event space, Test Kitchen wears a few different hats in Calgary’s food scene, and they’re all delicious. While Test Kitchen will continue to host pop-up dinners featuring local chefs (it most recently held a multi-course dinner by chef JP Pedhirney, formerly of Muse), it is now up and running for lunch and dinner in its new permanent space on the corner of 15th Avenue and 8th Street S.W.
Formerly a Ric’s Grill, the room has been significantly brightened up with tan and red leather upholstered booths, tables wrapped in butcher paper and twine, and chalkboards on the walls displaying the current cocktail, the food menu or the Test Kitchen philosophy.
“A social dining experiment that unites chefs with adventurous diners looking for something different from the conventional restaurant experience,” reads one board on a pillar on the south side of the restaurant where you’ll find a long bar and casual lounge set-up. Unconventional is certainly right.
The whole idea behind a “pop-up” space like this one is the fact that it’s always in flux, waiting for something more concrete to come along, whether that be a permanent restaurant concept moving into the particular space or a move to a different location altogether. Given the flexibility in a situation like this, there’s room for a lot of variety of experiences within one building.
Most recently, the restaurant hosted Hawkers Market, an event that provided different culinary professionals with a platform to showcase their food or test out a concept before making the plunge into full restaurant ownership. It’s a series of events that started out originally in Vancouver and made its way east for the first time this summer.
While a lot of the interest in Test Kitchen does lie around its special events, it is also making good use of its space now by opening for regular dining service throughout the week. When it comes to the regular lunch and dinner menus, they’ll evolve from week to week, being heavily influenced by what particular pop-up event is taking place on a particular date. Examples of what you may see on the menu are steak and fries or a unique spin on a Ploughman’s Lunch, with Asian-style pork belly, pickled vegetables and more. The majority of dishes you’ll find one week may not be there the next.
Regardless of what’s on the menu, the drinks list is much less chameleon, so if you just want a nice, cold pint of beer or a well-made cocktail, the barkeeps have you covered.
And after all of this, if you’re still a little confused as to what Test Kitchen really is, that’s ok. I sort of feel that way too, but with owner Garth Brown and chef Brent Klassen at the helm, your mind should be at ease knowing that you are in good hands until this temporary eatery evolves into something different in the spring.
(A quick aside: With a soft opening and not much traditional advertising, it’s a safe bet that Test Kitchen has still got some room to accommodate a holiday party or two if you’re having a hard time finding a space for a last minute get-together.)