Mushroom Tempura – King Oyster, Shimeji, Truffle Ponzu, Green Onion, Nori
Maple Hill Chicken Wings – Sablefish Kabayaki, Sesame
Foie Gras & Tofu – Smoked Bone Marrow, Steam Bun, Plum, Pistachio, Sesame
Short Rib & Rice Gnocchi – Soy Marinade, Cabbage, Mushroom, Onion, Green Onion
Roasted Kobacha Squash – Brown Butter Soy, Cashews, Ginger, Yuzu
Potstickers – Pork, Prawn, Tofu, Glass Noodles, Black Vinegar, Chili Garlic Oil
Double Espresso – Ice
Sweet Potato Trifle – Coconut Sponge Cake, Sweet Potato Custard, Corn Pop Ice Cream
Fuyu Persimmon Cheesecake – Preserved Dates, White Chocolate Curry Crumble, Kaenip, Lemon
Dark Chocolate White Truffle Pate – Black Vinegar, Orange Compote, Chocolate Gochujang Ice Cream
Located just up the street from Model Milk, an area passed through frequently both for dining and en route to downtown Calgary, Chef Roy Oh’s Anju played host to a Sunday dinner that will go down as one of the most memorable in Western Canada, the modern Korean concept based on “food consumed with Alcohol” requiring none of the latter to be as delicious as it was intriguing.
Open now for dinner and late-nights seven days a week, Brunch on weekends also a popular event, Anju was originally placed on my agenda thanks to a story about Chef Oh’s roundabout path to a career in the kitchen, a non-traditional route that includes no formal culinary education, but rather the influence of his Mother plus a whole lot of tenacity and good fortune.
Furthering my interest reading the accolades achieved since opening, a perennial slot on several “Best of” lists suggesting that the combination of boldly flavored cuisine and an upscale space has continued to evolve and impress over time, it was just after 6:45 that I was sat between two groups of four, their orders at first giving me pause considering the portion sizes, the server also offering warning that “two-to-four” plates per person was reasonable, though a total of nine including Dessert proved well-worth testing my stomach’s resolve.
Well designed with mixed-woods, white walls, upward shining lights and an open kitchen, those born prior to 1996 also likely to appreciate a soundtrack featuring the likes of TLC and Blackstreet playing overhead, it was in five well-paced courses that the evening progressed over the course of approximately 130 minutes, an opening plate of mixed Mushrooms lightly battered and exceedingly flavorful even before dipping in Ponzu, a rare occasion where Truffle Oil was well-utilized to accentuate the flavor rather than masquerade as something justifying a substantial price-hike.
More than a little well-known for their Korean Fried Chicken, available as a large sharable plate but far more accessible for solo diners as Wings, Anju’s product from Maple Hill Farms covers all the bases for what a great Bird should be by coming across plump with a thick and crispy coating lacquered in Sauce, a total of four available with the housemade smoked Sablefish Kabayaki and Sesame outperforming David Chang’s Octo-Vinaigrette as relates to both sticky-thickness and umami.
Impressed to this point, but happy to have expectations exceeded, Anju’s “Foie Gras & Tofu” arrived next to achieve the rare feat of redefining a luxury ingredient, the Mousse thick yet light with Plums draped over and ready to be smeared on seared Steam Buns with a bit of smoke and salinity added by shaved Marrow and Soy.
Pressing onward to two completely different types of ‘Noodles,’ the springy nuggets of glutinous Rice an adept backdrop for tender Short Rib and Cabbage while the Potstickers came connected by a delicate lattice with a lot of funk and medium heat, it was actually Anju’s seasonal Kobacha Squash that made quite an impact by way of Soy-infused-Butter, Cashews and bright top-notes of Citrus and Ginger.
Taking a strong Double Espresso to refresh the palate and invigorate, all three desserts proving as irresistible as reviews suggest, one would be hard-pressed to decide which to omit if forced to do so, the Sweet Potato Trifle without a doubt the lightest and sweetest thanks to Cereal Milk Ice Cream and an airy Sponge Cake while the Fuyu Persimmon Cheesecake ate like one made with Ricotta amidst well-balanced Citrus and minty notes, the “Dark Chocolate White Truffle Pate” another undeniable umami-bomb that may not suit everyone’s palate, but proved defiantly delectable with the acidity playing off sweetness and a lingering bit of heat from the Red Chili paste.