The Elbow Room is a new upscale casual restaurant located in the popular Britannia district of Calgary’s southwest. Founded in a brand new building, there’s a sunny south-facing patio taking up half of the second floor. Intrigued by the look of the place, I sat down with Executive Chef/Owner Chef Ryan Blackwell for a chat.
Cochrane born, Chef Ryan started at Earls while still in high school. After graduating from SAIT’s culinary school in 2004, he honed his skills in a series of steps that took him through the Hyatt, Belgo, Flames Central, and then out to Vancouver for the 2010 Olympics at Coast, Global and other locations. Missing Calgary, he returned to Chef at rig camps, then on to Roosevelt for three years. Craving more control, he and his partners recently opened the Elbow Room, where we sat on the patio in the middle of December!
The bright, modern interior wraps around a square open-plan kitchen that shows off their in-wall grill and stone-lined pizza oven. Depending on need, they pull out their sous-vide machines or waffle display case for diners to admire and have evil plans (muah-ha-ha!) to bring in a commercial cotton candy machine. It’s worth a visit to see what they have planned!
Their mission statement, “We believe delicious doesn’t have to be complicated” is bolstered by their motto “Simple, bold, and delicious.” To that end Chef Ryan draws on his experience under Gord Martin at Bin 941 in Vancouver to ensure big flavour, while incorporating the intent to present Modern Canadian cuisine by meshing profiles that reflect Canada’s multicultural nature. An example might be their Tiger Prawn starter, served with gochujang ebi mayo, crisp sushi rice, an anise soy reduction, scallion and sesame.
They use their sous-vide machines in a unique way: to poach their Brant Lake Wagyu™ steaks in clarified butter to 117°F, blue rare, to infuse fat into the meat, then grill to order in only a couple of minutes. Ingenious! They also use the pizza oven for meats and vegetables, and their grill gets a further workout with dishes like the Oceanwise™-certified octopus, served with fingerling potatoes, kale, oven dried tomato, roasted shallot and lemon harissa butter sauce. In addition, Chef Ryan uses local produce wherever possible, as in their Sungold™ lamb T-bones, served with a wild mushroom & honey baklava, lemon thyme carrots and a Cinzano Rosso jus.
I was really impressed with their waffles. They are made in the Belgian liege style, using a yeast batter that gets proofed and rises like a bun, bubbly in the middle, sweet with pearl sugar and a contrasting sour from the yeast. Unlike a traditional diner, these are not a breakfast item, they are served by the piece with your choice of dips, and you eat them almost like a French pastry. Yum!
— Fred Holliss