Cross-Posted from Calgary is Awesome.
CHARCUT has gotten a lot of positive buzz and fans since it opened almost two months ago in the swanky Hôtel Le Germain downtown. B. and I were in the area last month to check out Decidedly Jazz Dancework's production of 2010: A Tap Oddity (which was really good, btw) and so we decided to drop in and see what the fuss was all about.
CHARCUT is well-known for their house-cured meats (there's a window to their aging room where you can see all the hanging carcasses in the open kitchen - pretty neat), but I'd forgotten about their beer sommelier! The selection of beer is just as - if not more - extensive as wine on the liquor list, and Kirk was walking over to each table, introducing himself, ask them how the beer is tasting, and encouraging diners to ask him for appropriate beer pairings.
I was happy to see that some Dieu du Ciel beer had made its way on the list.
Ok, ok - so I know this is "Calgary is Awesome" but indulge me a little bit and let's go to Montreal for a minute. Dieu du Ciel is a popular brewpub in Montreal that churns out a huge variety of beers; at any given time they have at least a dozen types of beer on the menu. Some are quite traditional while others have the craziest flavours - the last (and only) time I went, for example, there was a sour cherry beer and a green tea beer. While most of the beers are only available on tap in Montreal, it turns out that they have a microbrewery just outside of the city that bottles some of the flavours and ships them - mostly to places in Quebec, but obviously across the country as well, to places like CHARCUT. One of them is the Route des Épices - a rye beer with peppery notes that sort of linger on your tongue. So. Good.
But back to the food: since there were only two of us - and B. wasn't particularly keen on trying bone marrow - we tried to maximize the variety of food that we could try by ordering the CHARCUT platter ($36)...
...and a side of grilled broccolini (tossed with olive oil and parmesan cheese, $8) because we had to get our veggies in somehow! This was a deliciously simple dish, though I would've liked a bigger portion.
This is the famous Pig Head Mortadella! They make it by taking ground pork sausage and mixing it with pistachios and truffles (among other things, I'm sure), before stuffing it in a pig's head then shaving off really thin slices. In contrast to what I'm sure is a very complicated and time-consuming process, the mortadella tasted very simple - not too salty, and it paired well with the Brassica mustard that came with it.
The salami was good, but a little bit dry.
B. didn't really like the Head Cheese, which is essentially a meat and vegetable jelly. However, I thought the combination of flavours and textures was really neat - the aspic, which was broth-based and had a texture somewhere between applesauce and Jello, held together a combination of tender shreds of meat and soft vegetables and herbs.
The duck ham/bacon was really good - it was difficult to believe that you could get such a fatty cut of meat from a bird! The meat was smoky and tender.
The surprise favourite was definitely the lamb heart croquettes; perhaps partly because they were the only warm item on the platter. There was no "offal" taste to them at all - if I hadn't known I would've guessed that it was just a "normal" meatball/croquette, though with a bit of a deeper/richer undertone. And of course, the aioli that came with it was great too.
I know that this opinion is probably going to make me unpopular, but while I enjoyed the food (and beer) at CHARCUT, it didn't wow me in the way that it has others. Granted, I didn't have the opportunity to try their other signature appetizers and their entrées, and I know their menu is constantly evolving. Even though I might not be itching to go back there right away, I definitely wouldn't mind tagging along if I was invited to go back again.
CHARCUT Roast House
101-899 Centre St SW
Calgary AB T2G 1B8
Open Mon-Tues 11 AM-11 PM; Wed-Fri 11 AM-1 AM; Sat 5 PM-1 AM; Sun 5 PM-10 PM. Reservations can be made by phone or via OpenTable.