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The biggest complaint Calgarians tend to have about local restaurants is the lack of interesting independent spots outside of the inner city or restaurant-rich neighbourhoods like Falconridge or International Avenue. Current food trends tell us that the best eating is local eating, but when suburban commercial areas are packed with big chains that source food from national suppliers, the “eat local” movement becomes inaccessible to a whole lot of people. Things have gotten better over the years with smart entrepreneurs and new locations of much-loved downtown restaurants spreading to the four corners of the city, but there’s always room for more places to attract discerning suburban food lovers who want to stick close to home.
It was with that in mind that Ravi Panchagnula, a seasoned local chef with experience at several resorts and casinos (he’s also the proprietor of Gully Street in Southcentre Mall), decided to open Tomahawk Kitchen and Bar, an ambitious new restaurant located in a former Jack Astor’s on Macleod Trail. Panchagnula aimed to create a far-south restaurant that uses as many Alberta-based ingredients as possible, while also serving almost exclusively local beers and spirits. Taking a “may as well go big” approach, Panchagnula set up shop in a massive location with a sprawling bar and ultra-high ceilings and is focusing on luxury fine dining with a restaurant that lists beef carpaccio, lobster thermidor, and the titular tomahawk steaks as its core specialties.
“I always had a dream of opening up an Alberta-focused restaurant. We have the best beef available in the world in Alberta,” Panchagnula says. “We want to be unique in every way we can. The whole menu is meant to be an experience. It’s not just a steakhouse, it’s a place to celebrate.”
Tomahawk steaks (bone-in ribeye cuts with a long portion of the bone attached, usually portioned and priced for two people) have become wildly popular over the last few years, thanks to their sharable nature and the dramatic Instagram-worthy look. The 42-ounce Alberta beef tomahawk ($140) is the king of the restaurant’s menu, but Panchagnula’s kitchen also serves more unique proteins in tomahawk form, such as bison ($120), veal ($75), and lamb ($65). Other beef cuts are also on the menu, but Panchagnula didn’t want to position his restaurant as purely being a steakhouse, so he rounded out his menu with an eclectic array of dishes that draw on global flavours, like spicy shoyu tuna poke ($26), Indonesian beef short ribs ($35), and a coconut milk-enhanced lobster bisque ($14). The aforementioned lobster thermidor brings in some of that audacious luxury, as does the ridiculous (but, admittedly pretty delicious looking) “Gold Digger” burger featuring a Brant Lake wagyu patty, bone marrow butter, poached lobster, shaved truffle, and a gold-leaf wrapped charcoal brioche bun ($120).
Tomahawk also pushes things in the drink department with a cocktail list that includes an “Old Fashioned Campfire” with chilled, locally sourced, branded ice and the “To Infinity,” which comes with an edible flower to stimulate the taste buds, as well as some impressive higher-end wine bottles in addition to its reasonably priced glass pours. While all of this may sound ambitious enough, Panchagnula says that Tomahawk’s current menu is just the start and he has big plans to bring some surprises with summer barbecue season and also wants to launch chef’s tasting menus and special wine pairing dinners once the restaurant is fully off the ground.
Tomahawk Kitchen and Bar is located at 9823 Macleod Trail S.W. and is open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. The restaurant can be reached at 403-475-4295 or yyctomahawk.com.
Also new and a little further afield is New Camp, a new pub concept in Signal Hill from prolific restaurateur Tony Nicastro (also of PZA Parlour, Villa Firenze, and several restaurants in Cochrane). Named after the English translation of Nicastro’s last name, New Camp was designed to pay homage to Signal Hill’s past as the home of a First World War training facility, with cool retro styling. It’s a beautiful room, ideal for a leisurely daytime lunch or weeknight drinks with friends.
While New Camp has a distinctively bar-like feel (there’s a discreet VLT room and minors are asked not to stay past 8 p.m.), the food here is also a key part of the concept, with Nicastro giving Chris Galbraith, a chef who has long been part of his restaurant family, the green light to explore his personal culinary history. Galbraith grew up in California and his mother is of Japanese descent, which has inspired dishes like ramen ($22) and chicken flautas ($17), which appear on the menu alongside a small section of pinsa-style pizza, fancy poutines, and other bites.
New Camp is located at #323, 1851 Sirocco Dr. S.W. and is open daily from 11 a.m. onward. For more information, visit new-camp.ca or call 403-879-8198.
Elizabeth Chorney-Booth can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @elizaboothy or Instagram at @elizabooth.