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Tuesday 17 May 2011

Charcut Calgary - A cut above the rest

Rating Service 8.5/10 Food 9.5/10 Overall 9.0/10

On a drippy wet Sunday afternoon, what better way to celebrate Mother's Day inside one of Canada's top 10 new restaurants? Chic black furniture is set against a backdrop of amber and warm red decor. Service is attentive, knowledgeable with menu choices and our waiter had an impressive unerring pronunciation of both French and Italian terms. As we were a fairly large group, and being Mother's day, readers rejoice - we tried almost everything on their menu!

Pineapple smash (left), Appalachian (right)
There was a decent wine menu, but our eyes fell upon the Artisan creations, exclusive to Charcut, so we gave two of them a whirl.
Initially a very strong kick in the teeth with the Zubrowka Bison vodka, but after the first sip, a rich liquid apple pie danced on the tongue. It was candied apple goodness. There were also little diced pieces of cooked apple you can scoop out of the bottom of your glass - like eating a dessert to finish your drink. Fun!
Pineapple Smash
No, its not a super move by a spiky haired blond anime fellow - a mixture of Milagro tequila, pineapple puree with a touch of spiciness from the chili compote mixed in with soda. Not as memorable or as well executed as the Appalachian, but tasty none the less.

Charcut Board
A large wooden cutting board platter was piled high with five of Charcut's specialty cold cuts, served with a side of crispy fresh crustinis and in house grilled bread with a touch of olive oil. The platter was a bit overly generous and we ended up filling up on it - left little tummy space for all the other foods we ordered... there was enough deli meats to make sandwiches for a month!
1) Pig head mortadella was akin to a pork ham studded with sadly soggy pistachio bits and lacking in the advertised truffle flavoring. It was served with a super grainy brassica mustard, while tasty, tended to overpower and mask any subtle flavors the mortadella may have had.
2)Portuguese Linguica with shaved St Jorge cheese - this coldcut was the best out of all the 5 choices... rich, super creamy and indulgent with hints of paprika, piri piri and garlic. It was over the top paired with the fresh crustinis
3)The pork rillettes were served inside cute little jam jar - confitted pork pate was very rich, oversalted with a hint of orange flavor.
4)Garlic sausage - almost two links of well seasoned, lean sausage was a bit too generous in the portion size department.
5)Spragg Farm's pork croquettes - crispy exterior with an orangey-red shredded pork interior. Standing alone, it wasn't memorable, but paired nicely with the DeSousa Family's Piri Piri aioli.

West Coast Oysters
We only had the small ones as they had sold out of the large ones - apparently the size of a man's palm. It was strange as we were informed they only had 6 large oysters to begin with, and we were the first sitting of the night. They need to work on their sourcing issues. The small oysters were toonie sized and were sweet, crisp, smooth and just slid down your throat like silk.

Bone marrow and escargot au gratin
A perfect pairing of two of the most indulgent foods in the world. The rich fatty bone marrow was cooked to perfection, melting in your mouth like butter, while the escargot was drenched in garlic butter. The melding of both on top of a fresh crisp piece of crustini was a little bite of heaven. A must have!

Warm Quebec raclette cheese
The little cast iron container of a Swiss flavored melted molten cheesey goodness was far too small to share - I wanted to keep it all to myself. Buttery, tender, freshly baked brioche buns complemented the cheese quite well. It was like a mini super indulgent cheese fondue. Though the cheese itself was a bit on the strong side, it was still nomnomnom!

The mains can be prepared with your choice of either family style which makes it easy for sharing or plated individual servings. Its the only high end restaurant in Calgary to do both.
Spragg Farm's roasted pork belly
Though the pork belly looked a bit on the charred side, the meat was fork tender and melted on your tongue with a burst of flavor. The pork skin "chip" was essentially a higher end salted pork rind where you just can't stop at one. Sadly, it only came with one pork chip. After eating such a decadent piece of pork, the mascarpone polenta and arugula pistou were completely overshadowed. Just gimme another pork chip!

Spring Creek Butcher steak
The steak was made to perfection, my guess it was a well marbled prime rib cut, with the green chimicurri marinade adding in a world of depth and flavor. The matchstick potatoes were addictively crunchy and made the small argula salad the dish was paired with look like a garnish. The steak definitely has center stage here.

Duck fat fried poutine, cheese curds and truffle gravy
Surprisingly, the duck fat didn't add too much flavor to the actual fries itself. However, the generous scoops of rich intensely truffled gravy more than made up for it. The gravy transformed the non-squeeky cheese curds into a cheesey stringy competition as we shared the tasty dish.

Charred broccolini with BC wild ramp, chili, lemon and Pandano cheese
The slight bitterness of the broccolini was offset by grilling it to bring out its sweetness. I couldn't discern the chili, as it was doused in an excessive amount of lemon. In the word's of Top Chef judges... "too much acid, needs more heat" LOL! The Pandano cheese added a nice creamy salty finish to the dish.

the DESSERTS We did their dessert menu justice.. by having all of the sweet desserts. Desserts are divided into sweet and cheese choices. We chose the sweet side of things as we were quite full.
Preserved Saskatoon berries in a jar
Fresh Saskatoon berries is layered with a rich, creamy smooth and salted marscapone cream, Saskatoon preserves and crushed graham crackers all in a little jam jar. For those who love creamy cheesecake like desserts, this one is for you, for all others, read on...

Vanilla bean creme brulee
A silky smooth creme brulee, rich with strong notes of vanilla. The caramelized sugar crust was a bit on the thick side, but it yielded with a satisfying crack. One of the best creme brullee's I've ever had.  Oh, the chocolate cookies were ok too.

Valrhona chocolate and espresso mousse
I love Valrhona chocolate, so this mousse was a bit disappointing as the espresso part of the mousse overwhelmed and dominated as the primary flavor. The chocolate and espresso mousse was layered with dense chocolate cake, Chantilly cream and served in a jam jar.

Complimentary Mother's Day fudge and roasted pecans
Thankfully it was complimentary, as the fudge was quite dry, though the pecans looked cute with a bit of pink sprinkles for the occasion.

Overall, an impressive showing both in terms of presentation, service and culinary talent. Quibbles - some of the pairings and sides need a bit or work, they should plate at least two-thirds of their dessert menu rather than cramming them into jam jars, and only order the Charcut board if you want an appetizer for about 20 people - unless you want to take home half a deli counter with you.  Just make sure you make reservations ahead of time, or you'll be having either a very early or very late dining experience.

Charcut Roasthouse
Address 101 899 Centre Street SW Calgary, AB
Phone(403) 984-2180
Hours varies, check website
CHARCUT Roast House on Urbanspoon


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