When a restaurant’s beautiful ambiance is paired with delicious food and dishes, it makes for a most wonderful dining experience. Foreign Concept may be the new kid on the block, but they are serving up delightful Asian fusion for Calgarians to explore and enjoy.
In the space formerly occupied by the Vicious Circle cocktail bar, Foreign Concept owner and chef Duncan Ly is finding his groove with his first solo dining enterprise. The restaurant space itself is a modern take on an Asian restaurant. There are no Chinese characters or curved dragons hanging on the walls. Instead, the corner unit takes advantage of the many windows for a bright, naturally-lit room. Comfortable booths line the windows, bright rugs cover the floor and custom made pottery plates and bowls fill the tables.
The Asian motifs are more subtle with the floral wallpapers, bamboo plants, and simple trellis walls. The most obvious influences are the beautiful murals featuring young Asian women in traditional garb. My most favourite design element is probably the bathrooms which feature different Asian cities like Seoul and Hanoi in curly cue lettering.
While you may not exactly have been transported to Korea, Vietnam or China, the food at Foreign Concept will make you hungry for their take on these different Asian cuisines. Chef Ly has put together a simple and concise lunch menu that pulls together all the best Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Japanese flavours. The restaurant was very good at accommodating my nut allergy, which can be a bit of a hassle at other places and a bummer since many Asian dishes are based off of nuts.
It’s all in the details at Foreign Concept when you look at dishes like the Yuzu cured salmon roll. Yes, that’s a flower petal on my roll. It’s almost too pretty to eat… but I did because it’s so yummy. The Korean chili sauce adds a nice kick and you can taste the freshness of all the ingredients in the roll.
The steamed buns (baos) are so decadently light and fluffy. The tofu filling was light and crispy – it reminded of the flavouring of dried tofu but with the crunch you get from agedeshi.
The Banh Mi Vietnamese-style sub sandwiches are big and tasty. I tried the lemongrass angus beef patty which was also paired with onion, aged cheddar and a fried egg. You gotta open wide if you’re gonna try to eat this in one bite. The side dish of honey butter chip had me drooling the entire meal. Every chip is perfectly coated, stays crunchy and there just isn’t enough in the bowl to keep you satisfied.
Located centrally just outside the core at 1st St SW and 11th Avenue SW, Foreign Concept keeps up a steady pace of foot traffic and I expect it get even busier as word keeps spreading. The lunch crowd was quite busy so I highly recommend a reservation so you don’t get disappointed at the door. I look forward to giving the dinner menu a whirl for more delicious “foreign” eats.