Air Canada enRoute Magazine Announces 2015 Canada's Best New Restaurants

Pigeonhole in Calgary named Canada's Best New Restaurant, and Vancouver's AnnaLena wins public Eat & Vote contest

TORONTO, Oct. 22, 2015 /CNW/ - Canada's award-winning inflight magazine, Air Canada enRoute, is pleased to announce the Top 10 list of Canada's Best New Restaurants 2015 as well as the winner of the third annual Air Canada enRoute People's Choice Award on eatandvote.com. A month-long culinary journey took noted food writer Andrew Braithwaite across the country, discover the innovative chefs and sommeliers who are redefining the Canadian dining scene.

This year's first-place honours went to chef Justin Leboe's Pigeonhole, an inspired Calgary wine bar serving creative small plates. Leboe's Rush and Model Milk also made the list in previous years, but this is his first appearance in the top spot. The other winners stretch from Galiano Island, British Columbia, to St John's, Newfoundland.

"The top restaurants in our 2015 ranking are influenced by a strong sense of place and time," said Jean-François Légaré, editor-in-chief, Air Canada enRoute. "Take Toronto's Bar Raval, where Grant van Gameren serves traditional Spanish tapas and Basque pintxos in a Gaudí-esque room, or Port City Royal, where Jakob Lutes reimagines Maritime cooking in a historic Saint John building."

"As a proud Canadian brand, we're pleased to shine an international spotlight on our country's incredible culinary scene wherever our aircraft fly," noted Craig Landry, Vice President, Marketing, Air Canada.

In addition, the eclectic group of chefs featured in this year's Top 10 is as genre-defying as the dishes they create. Chef Scott Bagshaw transformed a former Quiznos into an intimate open-kitchen space at the Winnipeg eatery Enoteca. Chef Steve Vardy took time off to train as a hot-yoga instructor before making a triumphant return to the St. John's dining scene with Adelaide Oyster House. And chef Michael Robbins brought a personal touch to AnnaLena in Vancouver – winner of this year's Air Canada enRoute People's Choice Award – by incorporating his own Lego constructions into the otherwise minimalist decor.

Here are some highlights from the Top 10 restaurants:

  1. Pigeonhole (Calgary, AB): "Housed in a former British teahouse, chef Justin Leboe's latest endeavour brings Southeast Asian street cooking and polished European tavern fare together on the same dainty small plate. Here, the young and dapper crowd snacks on crumpets laced with strips of roasted seaweed, or shelled soybeans with little cubes of rabbit mortadella sausage bathed in warm, salty butter and crème fraîche."
  2. Port City Royal (Saint John, NB): "Time plays tricks on you at this new-school tavern, where chef Jakob Lutes pushes hearty Maritime cooking into the future. Locals in herringbone blazers sip stirred Manhattans on a sprawling leather chesterfield while tucking into buttery Bay of Fundy sturgeon mousse and a beet salad punched up by foraged pineapple weed."
  3. Pilgrimme (Galiano Island, B.C.): "Noma-trained chef Jesse McCleery and co-owner Leanne Lalonde met at an eco-tourist lodge before decamping to the small island of Galiano. Their intimate 25-seat dining room, housed in a timbre-clad structure set aglow at night by paper lanterns, is worth the pilgrimage. Ling cod nuggets link sea to forest when presented atop an emerald-green smear of fir-tip emulsion. Following the trail of each new flavour, we're transfixed."
  4. DaiLo (Toronto, ON): "After sharpening his French technique at Niagara Street Café, chef Nick Liu gave his latest venue a whiff of danger with the name DaiLo ('gangster boss' in Cantonese slang). Dishes like the brilliant Big Mac bao, filled with beef and house-processed cheddar cheese and sprinkled with black sesame seeds, go down easy with bubbly from Jura courtesy of sommelier Anton Potvin."
  5. Bar Raval (Toronto, ON): "According to Grant van Gameren, tables and chairs are so two years ago. After topping this list in 2013 with Bar Isabel, the Spanish-influenced charcuterie Jedi went on another Iberian vacation. He returned home convinced that seafood preserved in tins tastes amazing, and that bar snacks are more fun stacked atop bread and skewered with a toothpick."
  6. AnnaLena (Vancouver, B.C.): "Chef Michael Robbins may have named his restaurant for his two grandmothers, Anna and Lena, and decorated the room with his own Lego, but the real toys are in the kitchen. Four circulator baths produce innovative creations, such as an octopus dish in which the tentacles are cooked sous-vide, then grilled, and the tiny suckers are detached, pickled and accentuated with little pastry-bag dots of lobster mayonnaise. Who said you shouldn't play with your food?"
  7. Adelaide Oyster House (St. John's, NL): "After a decade spent leading high-pressure brigades at such gastronomic heavyweights as Beckta in Ottawa and Atlantica in Portugal Cove, chef Steve Vardy is having fun again. From a narrow outpost on Water Street, he features pretense-free dishes like tacos, fried chicken and kale Caesar salad topped with smoked albacore, capers and the highly delicious 'sunflower granola' (ready your spoon)."
  8. Yasu (Toronto, ON): "Omakase dinner at Yasu is a tightly marshalled parade of sushi unfolding along a white L-shaped counter. The space goes from quiet to dead silent as Osaka-born chef Yasuhisa Ouchi emerges, followed by his lieutenants. A juicy slice of perfectly fresh red snapper gets draped over a bullet of seasoned rice, while a round of monkfish liver bursts with a pleasing fattiness that's brightened by a single leaf of shiso. Each bite is like a ceremonial handshake."
  9. Enoteca (Winnipeg, MB): "Previously the enfant terrible of the Winnipeg food scene, chef Scott Bagshaw aims to bring refinement to a former Quiznos space in a strip mall, no less. The almost-French, almost-Spanish cuisine here plays on unexpected notes that resonate: dense salt-roasted beets and hickory-laced yogurt (about as Manitoba as Enoteca gets) pick up a crunchy balance from thin-sliced apple and toasted black quinoa."
  10. Soif (Gatineau, QC): "Véronique Rivest leveraged the prestige of a second-place finish at the 2013 World's Best Sommelier Competition to open her own wine bar in Gatineau. Representing the next generation of oenologists, a squadron of young, bilingual and sommelier-trained servers show that they know their Bourgueil from their Brouilly. The decor, featuring cork walls and stools resembling champagne corks, is as playful as the cellar."

Eat & Vote 2015
Offering diners across Canada the chance to choose their favourite new restaurant among 32 nominees, Eat & Vote (eatandvote.com) garnered a record number of votes in 2015. This year, the Air Canada enRoute People's Choice Award Winner, officially presented by lead sponsor American Express, is AnnaLena in Vancouver. In addition, one lucky voter will receive a trip for two to the nominated restaurant of his or her choice, including hotel and flight.

Canada's Best New Restaurants Video Series
For a behind-the-scenes look at this year's top three restaurants, watch our video series on enroute.aircanada.com/2015top10. Justin Leboe of Pigeonhole talks about the mashup of Asian and local influences on his can't-be-pigeonholed menu; Jesse McCleery and Leanne Lalonde, the couple behind Pilgrimme, describe the importance of supporting the local food economy in the Gulf Islands; and Jakob Lutes explains how reinventing East Coast cuisine means digging into the past. Now also screening on the Food, Documentary and Travel TV channels on the Air Canada enRoute Inflight Entertainment system on most Air Canada flights.

Awards Celebration
The Top 10 restaurants will officially receive their awards during the annual Canada's Best New Restaurants Gala celebration on November 12 at the Ritz-Carlton Toronto. For the third year, top chefs from around the country will gather in Toronto and put their skills on display for media, industry professionals and Air Canada guests, with select offerings from their menus.

About Air Canada

Air Canada is Canada's largest domestic and international airline, serving more than 200 airports on six continents. Canada's flag carrier is among the 20 largest airlines in the world, and in 2014 served more than 38 million customers. Air Canada provides scheduled passenger service directly to 63 airports in Canada, 52 in the United States and 86 in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Australia, the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America and South America. Air Canada is a founding member of Star Alliance, the world's most comprehensive air transportation network, serving 1,321 airports in 193 countries. Air Canada is the only international network carrier in North America to receive a Four Star ranking according to independent U.K. research firm Skytrax. For more information, please visit aircanada.com, follow @AirCanada on Twitter and join Air Canada on Facebook.

About Air Canada enRoute

Air Canada enRoute is Air Canada's award-winning travel media brand. An inspirational authority for the global traveller, it reaches passengers at every step of their journey through its multimedia portfolio: print publications (including Air Canada enRoute, the iconic magazine with over 1 million readers each month, Air Canada enRoute edition, the Air Canada enRoute Inflight Entertainment Guide and a series of special-interest publications), digital channels (enroute.aircanada.com), a dining app (Air Canada enRoute Eats) and many prestigious programs and events (Canada's Best New Restaurants, the Air Canada enRoute Film Festival, the Air Canada enRoute Hotel Design Awards).

Air Canada enRoute is produced by Spafax, one of the world's leading content marketing agencies and providers of inflight media, with offices in 15 cities around the world. Visit us at enroute.aircanada.com and follow us on Twitter and Instagram: @enRoutemag, #ACenRouteTop10.

SOURCE Air Canada's enRoute

For further information: Phil Birnbaum, Spafax, 647-789-7297 phil.birnbaum@spafax.com; Sydney Torgov, Spafax, sydney.torgov@spafax.com

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