Savour Calgary editors report this location as permanently closed

It’s the Saturday night before Halloween and two Cleopatras are dining at Mélo Eatery. Their party, a lively group of friars and pirates are engrossed in several conversations, one of which is how great the food is. While the table is admittedly more eclectic a crowd than Mélo might see on a typical Saturday night, the dining room is filled with guests from all demographics laughing, toasting and enjoying Chef Duncan Ly’s latest offering.

“We wanted to break the stigma that French food is stuffy or unapproachable or too rich or heavy,” says Ly. “And I think we’ve been able to do that here using fresh local ingredients with traditional French techniques.”

Judging by the trio of zennials leaning conspiratorially over one of their phones seated across from a quartet of octogenarians toasting the occasion, Ly and chefs Jay Maygane (Blink) and Jose Battad (Oxbow) have succeeded.

The menu is a delightful mix of snacks, small plates, family style sides and entrées that pique the curiosity as well as the appetite. For example, Ly’s take on chicken and waffles opens the menu. A chicken liver paté with date jam and hazelnut on a pie-shaped mini-waffle results in a perfect bite that balances sweet and salty with crispy and creamy. And this is just the beginning.

From the appetizer menu, we sampled terrine of smoked pork hock, and beef tartar –  both bursting with umami and tastefully tempered with country bread and gaufrette potato chips respectively.

As we dive into our entrees, Ly makes his rounds of the dining room, speaking to each party and asking about their experience. Some of them he knows and inquires about mutual friends, to others he introduces himself and listens carefully to their feedback. He plops down beside me at my invitation and tells me retired Calgary food critic John Gilchrist is with the rambunctious table on the other side. Laughter erupts and he smiles. This is what it’s all about.

For the main event, we tried the beef shortrib which melted into its bed of whipped parsnip and potato at the mere hint of a fork. The flame-grilled steelhead trout was perfectly done and its rich texture balanced with an uber-bright accompaniment of crème fraiche, green apple, cucumber and dill. The family-style sides leave some tough decisions to be made. We tried the triple cooked frites, potato croquettes, roast Brussels sprouts with aged cheddar and the sherry creamed button mushrooms. All were excellent.

Dessert found us sampling Pastry Chef Karla Delaney’s (Hotel Arts, Cake Bake Shoppe) raspberry crème choux pastry with a cappuccino and a loosened belt. It was a delightful meal and all very reasonably priced with the two of us dining very well including wine for under $150.

Given Mélo was the first of a trifecta of new restaurant launches over a three-month period this fall (Greenfish sustainable sushi in the Avenida Food Market in partnership with Shokunin’s Darren MacLean and a second location of his Asian taco house Takori in the lounge space at his debut restaurant Foreign Concept) we’re surprised Ly is still standing, let alone smiling. But, as he surveys a full and lively dining room  on a Saturday night in Calgary’s beltline, it’s plain to see there’s a lot worth smiling about.

Editors Note: Mélo Eatery has permanently closed