There are few restaurants that live up to their hype, however, Charcut in Calgary does so effortlessly – or so it would seem to anybody dining there.
Located at Le Germain Hotel in Calgary, Charcut is a hot spot for dining at any time of the day – whether it’s for lunch or dinner it’s packed. Specializing in “urban rustic cuisine”, the emphasis is on meat – vegetarians really won’t find too many options and may be turned off by the meaty dishes being enjoyed by others dining around them.
The restaurant describes its focus as:
CHAR for the custom built rotisserie and charbroiler and CUT for the featured vintage-style slicer and hand-crafted charcuterie eating bar.
While there are many charcuterie options, there’s a nice balance of other dishes for those preferring something different.
The space is hip and modern, with large windows giving you a glimpse of Centre Street and people walking past. Light filters in to part of the room and bar area, while closer to the kitchen you have a cozier, dimly-lit setting.
Serving staff is very friendly and on top of every little detail. Your beverage lists and the menu are provided immediately so you have something to peruse and decide over right from the start.
What catches the eye is the interesting list of drinks and cocktails. The Pineapple Smash ($10) stands out due to its simplicity – Milagro tequila with freshly smashed pineapple and cilantro compote with soda on the rocks. It’s citrusy, refreshing and strong enough on the tequila to let you know you are drinking an alcoholic beverage.
The Bloody Bronx martini ($10) also demands attention – Tanqueray gin, with sweet and dry vermouth and Charcut’s blood orange bitters make for one strong drink. While you first smell the light citrus scent, with one sip you are hit with a “bloody” good-tasting drink.
The Smoked Sea Bream and Pancetta Croquette with preserved lemon remoulade ($15) is a delightful way to start your meal. The flaky croquette with a meaty blend of the sea bream and pancetta – nicely balancing each other in flavour – satisfies your initial hunger. The lemon remoulade adds a light citrus flavour that’s not over powering but a perfect complement to the fishy/salty croquette. The dish is served with greens and a sliver-thin crispy bacon piece.
The Spragg Farm’s Double Cut Pork Chop with Marscapone polenta, Okanagan plum and almond conserves ($27) is an attractive dish for the eyes. While cooked to perfection with a slightly pink colour, the pork chop fails to impress due to the high saltiness (we are thinking there must have been a one-time mistake in the kitchen as every other dish was perfection). The polenta is creamy and flavourful, and the plum and almond conserves add a touch of colour and balance with their sweetness.
A must-try is the duck fat fried poutine, with cheese curds and truffle gravy ($8). This dish wows the senses – from the gooey, cheesy topping to the highly flavoured French fries and gravy. A juxtaposition of crunchy and gravy- and melted cheese-softened fries makes for an interesting eating experience. This poutine is just salty enough to satisfy a craving for savoury food.
Dessert is Varinhona Chocolate Terrine – Dark Chocolate pate with tiny crumbled walnut praline and vanilla gelato ($8). This dish is all about combining three different textures – the heavier chocolate pate, crunchy praline and smooth ice cream. The rich, decadent chocolate demands that you let it roll on the tongue before swallowing. Accompanied by coffee, it ends the meal off on a high note.
Despite the overly-salty pork chop, Charcut in Calgary is a place that requires more exploration. The chef/co-owner team of John Jackson and Connie DeSousa are on the right track with this restaurant. Located at Le Germain Hotel, they are bound to get great word-of-mouth buzz from travelers spreading the good news far and wide.