This taqueria makes Mexican street food recipes with mostly Central Albertan ingredients and places them in a California-cool setting with vibrant colours and loud Latino rap music. The food comes fast and consistently satisfies, whether it’s pollo asado or chorizo, whether it’s served on a taco, torta or quesadilla, or with whichever house-made salsa it’s paired. Second to taste, Tres Carnales is about socializing, what with couch and communal seating, tortilla chips piled in tall cones for groups and sangria pitchers for three. It goes to show that a restaurant doesn’t have to be stuffy or pricey to make an impression; it just has to be original. -Omar Mouallem 10119 100A St., 780-429-0911, trescarnales.com
The brick walls and hardwood floors give Niche a romantic vibe, but the menu takes precedence with five starters and five mains crafted by chef Michael Wozney, previously of the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald. The menu is all about providing big taste in small bites. Such thinking paid off with dishes like the duck confit, slow-cooked until it falls from the bone and served with apricot cranberry chutney, sweet potato dumpling and butter asparagus. But the menu is always changing; so expect the dishes to evolve over the months. –Caroline Barlott 11011 Jasper Ave., 780-761-1011, experienceniche.ca
Honourable mention: LA PERSAUD
If you don’t speak French, the only words you need to remember for your visit to La Persaud are “Merci beaucoup.” And, you’ll probably be repeating yourself a lot when the French-inspired dishes come to your table, prefaced by the day’s amuse-bouche courtesy of executive chef Emmanuel David, formerly of Dante’s Bistro. Each item – from pan-seared rainbow trout to the Cornish game hen Ballantine stuffed with currants, brandy and herbs – is a work of art with the plate as the canvas. –C.B. 8627 91 St., 780-758-6636, lapersaud.com
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