Chow Down in Cowtown is an (almost!) weekly account of Calgary’s most awesome eats from Ceci n’est pas un food blog.
Alloy‘s latest venture, Candela just opened on Tuesday, but I was one of the lucky few who got a sneak peek last week as they did a soft opening for the media. There was an open bar where they served up cocktails and wine, and servers walked around with trays of bite-sized versions of their dishes. Scanning the menu, there is a lot of South American and Asian influence, and all of the dishes are small plates, meant for sharing over drinks.
Local interior designer Sarah Ward of McKinley Burkart did an amazing job with the space, creating an environment that is modern and classy, but still feels cozy. I loved all the little details, like the retro tile floors, globe lights in the private room, the quirky art on the back wall and these beautiful painterly washroom doors.
I arrived a little late so didn’t get to try all the dishes – let alone photograph them, sorry! – but still got quite the selection:
The Tunisian Carrot Hummus ($7) had a subtle, earthy sweetness and tasted light compared to the more garlicky hummus that I’m used to.
The bok choy ($6) carried the traditional Asian flavours of soy, sesame and ginger very well, with just a whisper of spice from the Thai chilli – very bold to be serving greens as an hors d’oeuvre!
Now to the meats – the albondigas ($10) were so good. Moist lamb-pork meatballs made with manchego cheese in a tomato sauce. You could really taste the lamb in the meatballs; I definitely had more than one of these.
The flank steak ($10) was cooked just to medium-rare and topped with a tangy chimichurri sauce. A tiny smear of mayo kept it glued to the thin crispy toast it was served on (as a dish it is going to be served with chips.)
The crowd favourite was definitely the Chicharron ($7) – the crispy skin on the pork belly made way for some melt-in-your-mouth goodness. Edamame was scattered over the plate in the quince sauce, making for a pretty presentation (and delicious too!) I somehow managed to only eat one of these, but nothing is stopping me from ordering this the next time I’m there!
My personal favourite was the striped bass (above, $9) – the fish was cooked perfectly; the skin was crisp and lightly salted while the meat stayed very tender. The slabs of fish sat on a bed of peas and Israeli couscous flavoured with saffron and garlic. I loved the contrast of flavours between the light-tasting fish and the smooth (slightly chewy), creamy, garlicky couscous.
The good thing about hors d’oeuvres is that there was a lot of room for dessert! The yuzu yogurt ($7) had a nice citrus flavour, but I was more impressed by the warm roasted rhubarb beneath – definitely comfort food here!
When I go out, however, I tend to gravitate to the more chocolatey desserts, and Candela did not disappoint. The brownies ($7) were so fresh and warm from the oven, that some of them crumbled when you tried to pick them up! I must say I like my chocolate even more chocolatey, but the nuttiness of the pistachio added a different kind of richness to the brownie.
Of course, there were drinks too! I started with the Pura Vida ($12), made with coconut milk, fresh mango, cantaloupe liqueur and cachaça – a tropical treat without being cloyingly sweet. Next up was the Cherry Sour ($12) which was quite strong (I originally thought it was rum, but it’s actually bourbon) but refreshing.
All in all, I had a great time at Candela and couldn’t stop raving about all the food! I would definitely love to go back to see what a full meal service is like.
1919 4 St SW
Calgary AB T2S 1W4