For our five-year wedding anniversary, L took me out to celebrate at Shokunin. The owner and chef – Darren MacLean – recently competed on the Netflix show – The Final Table.
Shokunin has changed since Darren was on the show. Without reservations, it’s now difficult to score a table. When L and I got there on an early Monday evening, his restaurant was packed. For this post, let’s listen to Jidenna, “Chief Don’t Run”.
Darren switched to fatty yellow chickens for his yakitori. He informed me that yellow chickens are ridiculously expensive but he feels it is worth the extra cost. Whole chickens are butchered daily. New to the menu are: wing flap, skin on thigh, skin on breast, sweetbread, knee and rib. The price ranges from $3-5 dollars a skewer.
The difference between the fatty yellow chicken and the previous chickens used is noticeable. I thought the taste of the charcoal was more prominent. The chicken was silkier and tastier. I also prefer the addition of skin on the meat because it adds a contrasting texture and the skin soaks up the charcoal smoke.
We ordered the Alberta Bison Tataki ($19). I’m not normally a fan of tataki but this version was a pleasing combination of insanely delicious flavours and textures – the bright sauce, the succulent meat, and the tang of the pickled onions. The portion was pretty generous too. This is a must order dish.
The Roasted Duck Breast Udon ($19) is my current favourite bowl of noodles in the city. I’ve never had duck so flavourful and satiny. The meat was served rare and cut thin. I ate as slowly as possible in order to savour the tender morsels. The noodles were fat and chewy. The egg had a rich, intense flavour. The broth was delicate with a touch of sweetness.
L and I ordered the Grilled Rice Ball ($5, + $2.50 egg) after we saw another customer order it. The eggs were so good it made me want to come by Saturday morning and ask to purchase a dozen. I’ll also take two fatty yellow chickens while I’m at it.
I buy great produce but the eggs here are next level. Just because I’m on an egg roll, take a look at the yolk from my bowl of udon.
I always find a new sake at Shokunin and then I’ll hunt it down for my parties from their supplier – Richmond Hills Wines. There’s a new warm sake I’m crazy about – Aizuhomare Premium Dry Honjozo. I loved the hint of melon and the general mellowness. For a 5 ounce, it’s only $10! Dreams do come true! The only issue is L saw that Shokunin monitors the temperature of the sake. If I run out and buy this one, I’ll probably screw up the temperature and it won’t taste as good at home.
L was a fan of the draft beer – OkamiKasu – ($10) a collaboration between Ol’ Beautiful and Shokunin. Clean and refreshing, I much prefer Ol’ Beautiful’s version than the previous collaboration between Big Rock and Shokunin, the latter being a bit sweet.
I don’t want to spoil the show for those who haven’t watched The Final Table. I’ll just say that Darren put Alberta on the map as a food destination and did Calgary proud. I’ve said this before but I feel the need to repeat myself. If you are looking for big portions at a cheap price, don’t come to Shokunin. This place is not for you and that’s fine. Not everyone gets what the restaurant is about.
I met my family doctor – Dr. Quinn – at the now closed Il Sogno. Her husband is a chef and when she does eat out, she frequents fine dining establishments – five-star restaurants, Michelin star, etc. As she’s use to a high standard at home, she has to seek out places that offer a more exceptional experience when she dines out. I told her to check out Shokunin. Dr. Quinn went and said the sushi was the best she has ever tried. I think she would prefer Darren’s special dining events because it would be quieter. She doesn’t like how loud a restaurant can get when it is busy. She can also experience what Darren likes doing best – Michelin Star collaborations and his Omakase Sushi Experience.