CAREFUL YOU – Apple Puree, Sweet Tea, Lemon, Simple Syrup, Bitters
RED FIFE SOURDOUGH – Cultured Butter
CHEDDAR DOUGHNUTS – Black Pepper
ROASTED HEIRLOOM CARROTS – Savoury Hazelnut Praline, Carrot Harissa
SALT BAKED SWEET POTATO – Taleggio Cream, Crispy Chicken, Chicken Broth
21-DAY DRY AGED DUCK – Confit Leg, Roasted Breast, Sultana Mole, Black Garlic, Parsnip
DOUBLE ESPRESSO – Ice, Brown Sugar Cube
TWICE BAKED BRIOCHE – Rum, Orange Marmalade, Almond, Spiced Chantilly
M.M. APPLE PIE – Cheddar Crust, Milk Ice Cream
Currently felt by many to be Alberta’s most important restaurant, British Columbia native and Chef/Owner Justin Leboe’s training taking him from Napa Valley to New York to Copenhagen throughout the years, Model Milk was booked for dinner during my first day in Calgary, an early Saturday seat at the counter providing full-view of the kitchen run by Executive Chef Eric Hendry.
Housed in an old dairy, a quadruple-tiered space with a bar at bottom, seats along a loft as well as the main floor and kitchen built into a former loading dock, Model Milk is best described as modern Canadian cooking with an ingredient-driven focus, the menu changing frequently save for a few signatures and divided into Bar Snacks, Small Plates, Large Plates and Large Format (for two.)
Without doubt a going concern, every seat filled save for a lone walk-in barstool by 7:30pm, it is with pleasantries that patrons are greeted at a hostess podium up a short flight of steps, the white walls decorated in old signage lightly reverberating overhead music often drowned out by the din of clinking cutlery and conversing voices.
Served by a young man with a British accent who proudly proclaimed himself a Sommelier between jokey rehearsed lines, a pleasant shtick that only wore thin when it led to him later omitting part of the order, it was after some perusal and questions bout portion-sizes that a four-course meal was crafted of seven plates, the non-alcoholic “Careful You” an absolute steal at $6CAD for sour Apple Puree thickening brewed Tea, Lemon and mellow Bitters.
Told up front that the assemblage of plates would be “a lot” of food, a truthful statement to some degree but certainly no more volume that most fine-dining tasting menus, it was with a plate of tangy Sourdough alongside a knob of house-cultured butter that the meal got underway, the decision to charge for Bread justified by the Loaf’s robust Crust and springy Crumb while four savory Doughnuts registered somewhere between Gougeres and Cheez-Its beneath an avalanche of finely-grated Cheddar slowly melting over the warm Dough.
Intrigued by the produce-focused small-plates, an expected emphasis on Root Vegetables and Tubers given sub-zero temperatures outside, two roasted Carrots beneath a dusting of crumbled nuts was soon presented in a pool of vibrant orange ‘Harissa,’ the follow-up of charred Sweet Potato topped in shaved Chicken Cracklins’ made equally complex by way of airy Taleggio Cream and savory broth added at the tableside.
Always happy to see Rougie Duck, the Quebec-based purveyor repeatedly outperforming Hudson Valley’s best in the past, it is without hesitation that I can say Chef Hendry’s dry-aged Breast not only out-portions, but also outshines that at Michelin 3* Eleven Madison Park in Manhattan, the crisp Skin and a ribbon of fat around a rosy Breast well paired to sweet Mole while the confit Leg found even more umami in a smear of Black Garlic.
Partaking in an $8CAD Double Espresso before dessert, the combination of a small pastry station and a plate forgotten due to too much chatter seeing the bold brew long-gone before either plate arrived, suffice it say that no meal at Model Milk should end without at least a slice of the signature sweet n’ savory Apple Pie served warm and sloppy, the Baba au Rhum-Gateau Basque hybrid entitled ‘Twice Baked Brioche’ no less delicious with gooey pudding center rich in Booze and Almond paste with Orange Zest playing well off the aromatic Whipped Cream topping.