In a city that can barely keep up with restaurant openings despite a jittery economy, Foreign Concept, the first restaurant from chefs Duncan and Wanda Ly, has been more eagerly anticipated than most. Wanda was the long-time chef at Winsport, which owns and operates Canada Olympic Park. Duncan, who grew up a self-professed hippie-skater punk rocker in Lethbridge, Alta., and began his culinary career in the dish pit at the Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino, has established himself as one of the most respected chefs in Calgary. With six consecutive Gold Medal Plates wins earned at the helm of several notable kitchens, including Hotel Arts’ Raw Bar and Chef’s Table at the Kensington Riverside Inn, turning 40 motivated him to strike out on his own.
The couple gave Calgary designer Alykhan Velji (whose portfolio includes the Back Bar at Alloy and Ooh La La Patisserie) free reign to transform a large corner space on the outskirts of downtown, lending it a modern feel with hand-painted chinoiserie murals and vintage-moon pie moulds mounted on a lounge wall. The 65-seat dining room, flanked by an open kitchen and charcuterie bar, features comfortable banquettes and plenty of natural light.
Executive chef Jinhee Lee and sous chef Michel Nop bring their own backgrounds to the table – Lee grew up in Korea, and Nop was raised in Paris where he attended culinary school. The group has cooked together for years and has established a synergy rarely seen in restaurant kitchens. Their tag line, “alternative Asian dining,” best describes their approach, incorporating Albertan ingredients such as locally farmed pork and winter squash into specialties like Thai style slaw and an already famous Vietnamese Scotch egg.
For more information, visit www.foreignconcept.ca.
LOCAL INTEL: GRACE MAHARY
The top model and founder of the non-profit organization Project Tsehigh highlights places to explore in her birthplace, Edmonton, and beyond
DRINK: “Three Boars in Edmonton serves creative cocktails and delicious small bites. The atmosphere is warm and hip, with friendly serving staff. My go-to order is the Hooked on Tonics (a mix of gin, white port, lime and house-made tonic) with mushrooms and toast.” www.threeboars.ca
VISIT: “I love overlooking the river valley in Edmonton, because the beauty of the North Saskatchewan River never ceases to humble me!” www.exploreedmonton.com
ESCAPE: “Get away to Banff for its serenity, captivating views, hot springs, skiing, hiking and numerous other nature activities. I usually stay with friends who have homes out there, and my favourite activity is snowboarding, though I’m still learning how.” www.banfflakelouise.com