I finally had the opportunity to check out Model Milk for dinner two weeks ago. Model Milk is the brainchild of executive chef and co-owner, Justin Leboe. If I hadn’t read about it, I would never have guessed that Model Milk is actually part of the larger Concorde Entertainment Group of restaurants and bars with sister establishments such as West, Flames Central, Double Zero, Local 002/510/522, Sky 360, and the newly opened Clive Burger. This is because Model Milk has the feel of a one-off independent restaurant that has done away with the confines of fine dining and instead focuses on trying to create delicious food with quality local and seasonal ingredients. The look and feel of the place is totally casual and non-pretentious. Model Milk’s menu changes very frequently depending on what’s in season. When we went, they were already on menu iteration #00024 since their opening last fall.
We started off sharing two of the small plates. The first was the Fricassee of Calamari ($14), which had guanciale, edamame, housemade croutons, and pimenton mixed in with the calamari. I was amazed at how tender the calamari was. The flavours were vibrant and spot on. When I think of the best calamari that I’ve had to date in Calgary, this dish and the one from Il Sogno comes to mind. I was actually quite surprised at the generous portion size and glad that I shared with my friend. The dish is hugely popular and has managed to survive the many and frequent changing menu iterations.
Our second small plate was the Fried Green Tomatoes ($13), which were served with fior di latte, minced green olives, sliced fresh cherry tomatoes, and mozza cream. To me, this dish reminded me of a bocconcini salad except with a unique twist as the tomatoes have been breaded and fried. I loved the flavours in the salad. The briny olive mixture really helped to brighten the dish and contrast against the creamy fior di latte. The breaded tomatoes were crispy on the outside and firm on the inside. Overall, this dish was very well executed. My only disappointment with this dish was that they used slices of red tomatoes instead of actual green tomatoes. The breaded red tomatoes tasted good but I just felt let down because I was expecting green tomatoes as the title of the dish suggests. Had they called it Fried Tomatoes, I would have been fine with that or if they had let me know in advance that they were out of the green tomatoes and will be substituting it with red tomatoes.
We then shared a large plate consisting of Halibut Cheeks ($27), that were served in a mushroom broth with nori dumplings and Chinese greens and garnished with flecks of nori. I was actually surprised at how large the halibut cheeks were. This dish was very delicate and light in flavour. The cheeks were perfectly cooked and were very tender.
I was most intrigued by the nori dumplings in this dish as initially I wasn’t sure what to expect. The nori dumplings turned out to be like gnudi except that there were flecks of nori interspersed throughout the dough. In addition to a stalk of baby bok choy, they were a couple of the football shaped green vegetables on the plate. It took me a little bit to figure out they were actually tourne cut cucumber pieces.
My friend and I also shared a side of the Manchego and Chive Fries ($7), which were cooked in peanut oil. Though they didn’t have much of a wow factor, the fries were tasty nonetheless and we were surprised by the huge portion.
For dessert, my friend tried the Chocolate Pecan Pie ($8.50), which was served with a scoop of housemade buttermilk ice cream. I loved the buttermilk ice cream but wasn’t a huge fan of the Chocolate Pecan Pie as it was way too sweet and heavy for my liking. My friend, however, loved it so it’s all a matter of personal preference.
I had the Lemon-Thyme Pot au Creme ($8.50), which contained layers of raspberry and had a cookie crumb topping. This dessert was much more my style. I loved the tanginess of the lemon and the subtle flavour of the thyme in the custard. The layers of raspberry acted as a perfect contrast to the lemon and thyme flavours. I liked that this dessert was really light and not overly sweet. I sure hope that it will still be on the menu on my next visit to Model Milk.
Our meal certainly didn’t come cheap as it came out to about $60 a head for the food and a glass of the Descombe Clos de la Roche Moulin a Vent each. However, I thought it was totally worth it as this was one of the more memorable meals that I had in Calgary in a long time. Everything was well-executed. I may have loved some dishes more than others but that’s more of a personal preference and overall, there was not a dish that was poorly executed. I certainly look forward to going back to Model Milk soon.
308 17th Ave SW