Cafe Koi

I just had dinner at my favorite restaurant in Calgary.  This statement might bring visions of premium cuts of beef but not for this vegan.  I anticipate my visit as soon as I book my flight and leave feeling better than after a yoga class.  The atmosphere and artistry I'm exposed to while I savor incredible food creations brings me an inner peace that is hard to explain.

I found Cafe Koi over 2 years ago on a business trip.  I searched for vegan cuisine in Calgary and although it was a long walk from my hotel, I made the trek in the rain and fell in love.  As you can imagine, every trip to Calgary, I find my way to Koi.  The past couple trips, I've stayed at Hotel Arts which is less than two blocks from Koi.  Even though the food at the hotel is top-notch, I can't turn down an opportunity to be part of the Koi community.

Every single visit, the same hard-working and considerate staff make me feel like a local and welcome me for as long as I want to soak it all in.  In such a small place, it's obvious I'm an outsider and depending on the entertainment session, I'm also older than the eclectic group of young artists.  Last August, it went to another level when I was one of the only ones that didn't speak French-Canadian during French Improv night.  The performers took pity on me and did a skit in English before they broke for intermission.

Tonight was Spoken Word with an hour of open mic followed by featured performers that spoke and sang.  I'm always in awe by the talent and passion that people have, especially with spoken word.  These young (and a couple older) adults came to the stage in a mix of nerves with folded notebooks, phones, and scraps of paper.  One man was inspired, after attending the last session, to write his own words which were directed at his wife and so moving that I fought back tears when he sat back down to a special (yet public) moment with his bride.  A shy but animated lady with a large fan club did two different pieces that left us all wanting more.  An IT guy by day, but incredible poet by night, wrote a new piece between work and his turn on stage that was titled "I'm Sorry".  I could go on and on.  There were as many men as women, and most you would never pick on the street as poets or spoken word aficionados.

Like all my visits, no matter the artist or topic, the crowd is supportive and really appreciates what it takes to put yourself and thoughts on display.  There is no judgement, only applause before, after, and one more time for every single artist.  Maybe it is just Canadians being nice, but whatever it is, I like being part of it.

I don't have an interest in singing, acting, playing an instrument, or doing spoken word; but I was excited to come back to the hotel and blog.  I haven't been keeping up with weekly blogs, but whether it's because I'm busy living life or haven't been inspired, it feels good once I get going.  Maybe this is how the poets tonight felt, sharing their words with complete strangers and not expecting anything in return other than the satisfaction of putting it out there.

In addition to the Cafe Koi community and talent, their food takes the experience to the highest level.  The ingredients of their dishes and drinks are high quality and as artistic as their stage guests.  They aren't exclusive vegan but they do take care of us with several options, including homemade desserts. My favorites are the Buddha Burger and the Buddha Bowl but I've tried several of their dishes and love them all.  I eat even slower than normal not wanting the taste or the experience to end.

I try not to overdo it on my visits in order to keep the experience special, but with a long stay ahead of me, I'm pretty sure I'll be back for more this week.  Just like you can't get enough yoga or inner peace, you can't get enough Cafe Koi.

Cafe Koi Buddha Bowl with Lotus Flower cocktail