A melding of culinary creativity took place this Tuesday when Calgary’s Model Milk bistro joined forces with Wildebeest in Vancouver for a one-night-only, six-course dinner. Thoughtful pairings took precedence both behind the bar and in the open kitchen at the hands of Model Milk’s chef Justin Leboe and Wildebeest’s chef Wesley Young.
“It was a natural fit,” said Young of the collaboration. “Our restaurants have similar philosophies—we’re not uptight, and we’re both fairly experimental.” Market-fresh ingredients take pride of place in both chefs’ repertoires and accolades have been flowing in ever since their respective restaurant openings, both of which occurred within the past year. (Model Milk was the winner of one of enRoute magazine’s coveted Top Ten Best New Restaurants in Canada in 2012; Wildebeest was recently bestowed the title of Vancouver magazine’s Best New Restaurant 2013.)
“We really had to consider what we were able to execute in a strange kitchen, quickly,” said Leboe, who flew in from Calgary the previous day, along with his chef de cuisine, Eric Hendry, and bar manager, Stephen Phipps. His three original plates all kept in line with the expression of Model Milk’s fare, and included a steelhead trout starter set in buttermilk vichyssoise and topped with a crunch of black squid ink toast, as well as a share-plate of sliced rabbit mortadella draped with local asparagus, beignet-like doughnuts, and fermented cheese. Leboe’s final dish, fittingly, was a milk-fed veal breast cooked in goat’s milk, proving that the union of meat and dairy transcends the restaurants’ names directly to their non-pretentious plates.
Wildebeest’s dishes were interspersed course-for-course, and included their much-loved garden salad of fresh radishes—roots, leaves, and all—nestled in carrot sorbet, mascarpone, and malt “soil” (crushed hazelnuts and beer), followed by slabs of slow-cooked short rib which won over every carnivore in the room. A small bowl of deconstructed cheesecake with local strawberry sorbet capped off the meal.
In lieu of wine pairings, seven cocktails were crafted by Calgary’s Phipps and a quartet of Vancouver’s best bartenders: Shaun Layton of L’Abbatoir, Ben de Champlain of Boneta, Jay Jones of the Donnelly Pub Group, and Wildebeest’s own Josh Pape.
“Nights like this are so much fun,” said Leboe amidst a clearing of plates following the dinner service. “In the end, everybody’s food gets better from doing things like this.”
This event was orchestrated by the Visa Infinite Dining Series, a program that unites top Canadian chefs and restaurants together for innovative dining experiences.
Photos by Mark Kinskofer/VisionPhoto.ca.