CHARCUT – off to a great start
It’s no secret that going out to eat is one of my favorite things to do, right up there with skiing and reading, and people, that says a lot. I’m one of those travelers that will have a ‘must eat’ list before going on a trip, although I don’t plan every meal, that would be anal. Just a list of several restaurants that define a city, from big names to hole in the wall gems. Often I came back from those vacations and cried because they reached a level of awesomeness rarely seen in Cowtown. So it was in the spirit of low expectations that I checked out Calgary’s newest restaurant last Thursday, and it was surprisingly awesome.
Having been open for only two days when my friend Vanessa and I descended on it, they were still a bit unprepared in the drinks department, especially when it came to anything other than wine – no beer kegs yet, no hard cider, no soda for a highball, but undeterred we requested a caesar. It was rather serviceable as my friend put – worse than Spur and better than the Keg. They must have been out of veggies too, as it arrived unadorned with beans, celery or asparagus – namely the best parts of a caesar. But they were JUST opened, so can’t really complain.
The menu was quirky and fabulous – bone marrow gratin (in Calgary!), romaine with crispy chicken skin, arugula and tuna conserva with lemon pickled new potatoes and shaved celery, baked raclette… and although it was hard to decide, ya gotta start somewhere, so we went with carnivore’s delight - the bone marrow gratin, duck fat poutine, and the share burger – a min. 9 oz order of a garlic sausage burger topped with an egg.
This was my friends’ first time with the bone marrow, and luckily she’s an adventurous soul – it consists of two thick rounds of bone, seasoned lightly and broiled, served with flakes of parsley to cut the richness, flakes of sea salt for crunch and to bring out the flavor and thin crostini. The marrow was as divine as expected – warm, rich, beefy and robust. (For the uninitiated souls the texture is similar to soft boiled eggs’ egg yolk and the taste is not unlike bread and drippings, or dragging your bread through the bottom of a roast dish.) The crostini appeared to be buttered though, which is a bit of overkill since beef marrow itself is intensely rich. (Yeah, go ahead and ask for more crostini right away – four is just not enough.)
The duck fat fried poutine was… ducky. A small dish of thick, hand cut fries with a mild duck fat flavor and just a bit less gravy than it should have had. It was well seasoned, and had the fries been crisper and the gravy more bountiful it would have reached greatness.
The burger was not a traditional beef burger, but a sausage burger as stated on the menu. A thick patty charred on the outside and cooked to medium on the inside it was one of the most satisfying burgers I’ve had in a while. Topped with a sunny side up egg which slowly dripped over the meat and served on golden brioche it was just an embarrassment of riches when it comes to flavor. I’m almost reluctant to admit that in the midst of this carnivorous nirvana I actually wouldn’t have minded some tomatoes or pickles on the side – just to cut the richness. But no worries – I ordered a second caesar instead.
The portions are on the small side which led me to wonder at the outset whether we ordered enough food, and I’m happy to say my concerns were unfounded. The three dishes we shared left us very comfortably full, on the verge of stuffed really, and according to all witness accounts we eat like lumberjacks, so believe me when I tell you that three dishes between two people is plenty. Of course we did go all out on the meat front – had we ordered some lighter fare we might have had some room for dessert, which sounded just as original and fun as the menu – Saskatoon berries layered in a jar with cheese cake and graham crackers anyone? Alas we did not, so it will be with pleasure that I’ll be returning there in the weeks to come to see Charcut come into their own and be an extremely worthy and welcome addition to the Calgary scene.