Klein/Harris opens in Calgary, brings 'true north' cuisine to Stephen Ave
'We're able to put forth what the food and beverage industry in Calgary means to us,' says co-owner Mah
Christina Mah is a culinary wizard behind the bar, having established herself as one of Calgary's best-known mixologists during her time at Raw Bar in the Hotel Arts.
A pioneer in her industry, she sort of fell into her niche, she said — although her grandfather was a bartender, so it runs in the family — and her focus came at a time when many diners want their experience to include well-crafted cocktails and interesting drinks beyond a spicy Caesar.
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Pre-Hotel Arts, Mah was the bar-chef at CharCut when it opened in 2010, and developed the cocktail program at Notable.
But when Home Tasting Room was looking to rebrand, it presented the opportunity for Mah and her partner, chef James Waters (previously of Raw Bar, Home Tasting Room and Diner Deluxe), to do their own thing.
Klein/Harris opened this week in a 95-seat space re-imagined by Kasey Sterling of Korr Design.
The room is split almost in half, with an open kitchen on one side, dining tables and sleek yet comfortable velvet couches staggered with low coffee tables on the other for those who want to visit over cocktails and nibbles or post-show dessert.
The giant cardboard elk head mounted at the front entrance (with smaller versions leading into the dining room) is a reminder not only of their focus on Canadian cuisine, but that they don't take themselves too seriously.
The back of the room features a custom floor-to-ceiling spirits display, with custom-built chairs made by local youth via the drop-in Calgary WoodWorks Woodshop.
"We're able to put forth what the food and beverage industry in Calgary means to us," Mah said of Klein/Harris.
The name represents both the more formal seating area in the front of the room (Klein) and the more loungy area in the back (Harris), both under one roof.
"Some things you can do at home, some you can't — we want it to be comfortable and approachable, yet sophisticated.
The main thing to us is showcasing our staff — the hospitality and service behind it all. You can put out a great product, but it's really up to the people to be the last leg of that experience."
The concept is true north cuisine — exceptional products and ingredients from Canadian producers coast to coast, from wild seasonal mushrooms from British Columbia to fresh oysters from the Maritimes.
Mah's cocktails are inspired by the kitchen as well, showcasing her talents by incorporating ingredients you may not think of drinking — like oats and apples — and mastering classics like The Vancouver 1950.
Using Alberta-sourced products like the vodka, gin and Equinox from Eau Claire distillery in Turner Valley, their grain-to-glass philosophies are the same.
"To get out and meet all the farmers and producers is so inspiring," Mah says.
"To see them react to what you do with what they've grown, and how people enjoy it, is really amazing.
"We want to be a part of that, to celebrate our province and make those connections. That's what it's all about — connections."