Red Kuri Squash – Burrata, Honey
Oyster Mushroom – Scallion, Crispy Rice Gremolata
Ember Roasted Sweet Potato – Huckleberry, Sheep’s Milk Feta
Grilled Meatballs – Sake & Pork Gravy, Chili, Parmesan
Potato ‘Risotto’ – Candy Cap, Pine Nut, Burgundy Truffle
Pork Neck – BBQ, Apples, Cabbage, Spicy Nuts
Confit Duck Leg – Parsnip, Sea Buckthorn
Aerated Cheesecake – Caramelized Apple, Hazelnut
Meyer Lemon Cream – Olive Oil Crumble, Cucumber
Leaving Model Milk on Saturday night it was difficult to shake the feeling that I’d be missing out by not also visiting Pigeonhole next door, Justin Leboe’s Wine and Snack Bar which was said to be just as good as his acclaimed first Restaurant subsequently welcoming me back for an early dinner on Tuesday thanks to a Social Media conversation plus a mutual friend.
Arriving just after four o’clock, the space empty then but near-full by 5:30, it was with greetings from the hostess that I was led to a windowside table where Leboe would later greet me, the Chef speaking passionately about dining in Western Canada with a keen eye for goings-on elsewhere as he described his restaurant concepts and the staff with proud, fatherly words.
Spread laterally across two levels, a significant departure from Model Milk which runs long from door to back, diners at Pigeonhole are presented with a varied but well-culled menu created by Leboe and chef de cuisine Garrett Martin, the general idea based on natural flavors honed during a stage in Copenhagen with a focus on Canadian ingredients.
Every bit as trendy as Model Milk, though servers here seem better trained in the art of casual courtesy, it was with seven plates selected plus two offered from the kitchen that the meal progressed fluidly, opening bites of skewered Mushrooms balancing brine with bright acidity and pungent Scallions while the brilliant orange Squash seemed almost too bright to be real amidst creamy housemade Burrata and just a touch of Honey.
Happy to see Sweet Potato on this menu, the version next door a stunner, Chef Martin’s version sees the Tuber softened over embers from a wood grill with amidst Huckleberries and Sheep Feta, that same wood Grill responsible for the smoke-imbued slab of Pork Neck that harkens a backyard Barbecue while three pool-ball sized orbs of Meat bathed in a thin yet complex sauce that featured both booze and a bit of heat.
Anticipating the makeshift Risotto from the moment I first looked at the online menu, Candy Cap Mushrooms used to lightly sweeten thinly diced Potatoes perfumed in Truffles, Pigeonhole’s Confit Duck fell just short of the dry-aged version seen just three nights prior, though that speaks more to the quality of that version than of any issues with this one as the tender chunks of Turnip were a fancy counterpoint to the sour Berries of Sea Buckthorn.
Happy to see a few desserts offered, the online menu devoid of that information, both the Aerated Cheesecake and Meyer Lemon Cream are presented as exploitations of expectations with a focus on texture, the former putting a base of caramelized Apples beneath a cloud dusted in Hazelnuts while the latter is a dense Pudding a la Pot de Crème with sweet Meyer Lemons finding balance in grassy Olive Oil Crumble and Cucumber Cream.