Cilantro gets a 30th birthday makeover

Cilantro celebrates 30 years in Calgary with a newly refreshed and redesigned interior.

Julie Van Rosendaal checks out one of the city's most enduring culinary landmarks

The charcuterie and pork roasted almonds at Cilantro. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

At a time when Calgary is seeing a record number of new restaurant openings, there are still some classics that have survived the test of time.

This year, Cilantro celebrates its 30th year in business, and marked the occasion with a refreshed and redesigned interior.

The first restaurant owned by Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts (CRMR), Cilantro opened the summer after the 1988 Winter Olympics, in a building on 17th Avenue S.W. that was originally a men's tailor shop with a residence in the back.

It was redesigned by the still-prolific designer-restaurateur Witold Twardowski.

Kim making mushroom soup at Cilantro. (Erik McRitchie)

Original focus on California cuisine

It has occupied the same space ever since; originally, its focus was on California cuisine, and was the home of Alberta's first wood-burning pizza oven, imported from Italy in 1988.

The eatery's famous pear and gorgonzola pizza — a bold departure from the typical meat and potato steakhouses of the day — is still on the menu, along with the mussels and Kim's mushroom soup, which is a staple for the 20-plus years Kim has been making it in the kitchen.

Over the decades, Cilantro has evolved to become one of the city's first eateries to elevate wild game and other Canadian ingredients, serving elk and bison raised on the CRMR ranch in the Foothills just south of the city.

Cilantro pastas are handmade by Wei, who has been cooking in the kitchen for 30 years. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

Sharing plates popular

Their latest menu features more sharing plates and larger dishes, like pizzas and pastas that could be served family-style (or kept for yourself). Their charcuterie board is loaded with locally sourced cured meats along with their own pickles, mustards and crostini.

Many of the preserves are also available for purchase by the jar at the nearby Urban Butcher on Fourth Street S.W., and breads come from The Loft in the Granary Road Market (which they also plan to start selling at the Urban Butcher on weekends).

Pastas are handmade every morning by Wei, who has been cooking the Cilantro kitchen for 30 years.

Their new look has made the lower level even more inviting, with cozy banquettes, warm wood and subtle marble and tile touches that are certain to keep the space timeless for another 30 years.

Cilantro Restaurant, 338 17th Ave. S.W.,, @Cilantro17thAve


Julie Van Rosendaal

Calgary Eyeopener's food guide

Julie Van Rosendaal talks about food trends, recipes and cooking tips on the Calgary Eyeopener every Tuesday at 8:20 a.m. MT. The best-selling cookbook author is a contributing food editor for the Globe and Mail, and writes for other publications across Canada.