Don’t run from the restaurant yelling “fire!” if you’re smoked out by what you ordered. These days, you’ll find chefs and bartenders with a flair for the dramatic creating cocktails and dishes with the added element of wood smoke. Here are five things to order if you want to experience the smoke show for yourself.
Arctic Char Appetizer at Eden Restaurant
The AAA/CAA 5-Diamond-ranked dining room at the Rimrock Resort Hotel in Banff has an arctic char appetizer that is composed over smoking cherry bark. It’s brought to the table under a dome that is lifted to dramatic effect by the server. If you’re wondering what kind of wine might pair well with cherry-bark smoke, sommelier and maitre d’ Chad Greaves recommends the 2013 pinot gris from the Kettle Valley Winery on the Naramata Bench.
300 Mountain Ave., Banff, 1-403-762-3356, rimrockresort.com
El Santo at Proof
Proof is cocktail-culture central in this town, so you know its got something smoky in its wheelhouse. The bar will be debuting a new menu on May 2 to mark its one-year anniversary featuring an impressive 40 original cocktail creations. Among them is the El Santo, a creation of Proof’s Jeff Savage, which takes its name from the Palo Santo wood burned to create smoke that floats above a combination of mescal, amaro, creme de cacao and agave syrup. The Palo Santo tree, which grows wild in South America, is believed to have mystical properties similar to that of sage or cedar, so this cocktail promises to be something of a spiritual awakening.
Smoked Beef Tartare at The Derrick Gin Mill and Kitchen
This new-ish spot across the street from the Globe Cinema on Stephen Avenue has earned buzz for its tasty gin-based cocktails and for its beef tartare, which is served in dramatic fashion under a glass dome filled with smoke. In the words of local food writer and Avenue contributor Dan Clapson: “once the glass dome is lifted and the smoke wafts away, you’re left with a beautifully and classically prepared tartare with a touch of cognac, aioli and pickled shaved vegetables to cut the richness.”
Smoked Old Fashioned at Shokunin
Japanese pop culture is unabashedly flamboyant, so it makes sense that this new modern Japanese restaurant on 4th Street S.W. wouldn’t hold back when it comes to cocktails. Shokunin’s take on the Old Fashioned uses Nikka From The Barrel Japanese whisky and serves it under a layer of hickory smoke in a stoppered glass bubble that resembles a snow globe (they call it the “smoke sphere”). When they feel really fancy they’ll even toss in a few edible flowers. The Smoked Old Fashioned doesn’t appear on the official cocktail menu, so you’ll have to order it by special request.
Smoked Spruce Collins at Klein/Harris
With a cuisine described as “coast-to-coast Canadiana,” it’s not surprising to see maple flavourings abound on the food and drink menus at this new restaurant and lounge. Bar manager Christina Mah’s “True North” take on the classic Collins is served with a light layer of maple wood smoke over a combination of locally distilled Eau Claire Gin sweetened with a spruce and maple syrup, balanced with a touch of citrus and topped up with sparkling water.