Skye Café and Bistro showcases owners' globetrotting past and artistic flair
Local foodie eats his way through Regina to share his take on what’s good
Dining at Skye Café and Bistro in Regina is like attending a dinner party where every little detail impresses you.
Located on the south side of the Saskatchewan Science Centre, the space is bright. Natural light pours in through large windows, hand-painted with branches and multicolored leaves.
The window art, along with the Van Gogh-inspired oil paintings and handmade pottery, was made by Skye co-owner Louise Lu. An accomplished chef and pastry maker, Lu is also a serious visual artist, currently completing a bachelor of fine arts at the University of Regina.
The restaurant, named after one of Lu and fellow chef, husband and co-owner Milton Rebello's daughters, speaks to how the business is an extension of the couple's shared life and personality. Even the jade plant that sits to the left of the till is the first plant they bought when they moved in together.
"It started as a dream and it became an expensive hobby because everything had to be perfect. So we started making our own plates. We started making our own mugs," Rebello said of Skye's early days in 2016.
"The food, too, we wanted to keep it very, very small. There is a seed-to-plate kind of cuisine because we grow even our sprouts. ... We love that green, the atmosphere around. It's all the entire experience, right?"
To eat at Skye is to be a guest at Rebello and Lu's.
"That is the attitude. ... They'll ring a bell, and if the food is not picked up in the first, say, 30 seconds? Milton jumps in," said Lu. "If Milton is not around, the cook will bring it out."
Before I arrived, I'd asked Rebello to prepare me one dish to try. He served me three. The first one was a new lunch item: Skye's take on fish and chips: Rebellion Brewing lentil ale-battered halibut served on a nest of "fries" — Japanese mandolin-cut wire thin potatoes drizzled in date and tamarind chutney. The tartar sauce has a bit of curry to it. It's delicious.
The other two dishes are Skye lunch and brunch mainstays: the Mediterranean bowl and the savoury waffle. Both dishes combine flavour, texture and colour – not to mention local ingredients and house-grown herbs – with flair.
Rebello, a native of Bangalore, India, met Lu (who hails from Chengdu, Sichuan province, China) when he was teaching culinary arts at NAIT in Edmonton. Lu was one of his students. Rebello recalls how Lu was a perfectionist, even then, and a lightning quick study.
"I had a guy I worked with, Henry. He was a real details guy. You have to earn his trust in the kitchen. He wouldn't let just anybody sear his pork chops. The first night Louise was cooking with him, he was letting her sear pork chops. I thought, 'OK. This girl is special.'"
Skye began as a 35-seat operation and as the kitchen found its groove and word of the restaurant got out, Rebello and Lu grew it to 45 seats, then a few more seats, until it reached its current capacity of 56. Rebello said they are maxed out now — anything more would affect the kitchen service. In the summer, they open the patio.
A few days later, I brought my wife and two daughters in for Sunday brunch. I had the chilaquiles with avocado, a dish I've only tried once before. This version blew that image to bits.
My wife had the Belgian waffle with berry compote and whipped cream. It was so good, I had to fight her for a bite of it.
My daughters ordered the kids' chicken fingers, but because they had a touch of Indian spice to them, they didn't really go for them. (My wife and I happily ate them instead.)
The restaurant, as you can imagine, is family-friendly. And the kitchen hours (lunch, Tuesday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) are friendly to Rebello and Lu's family, too.
"I've been cooking for the last 28 years, so I'm an old guy. I've been doing this for a little while," Rebello said. "This is my tenth country, and I've been in Canada for the last 16 years. I've travelled a lot around Canada. And now, for the first time in my life, I will live. The stability's there. The restaurant is our home."