It’s no secret that CHARCUT Roast House has been one for my favourite places for lunch. In fact, I’d been there for lunch at least five times last year (Visit #1, Visit #2, Visit #3, Visit #4, and Visit #5). However, I’d never gotten around to trying CHARCUT for dinner until last month. Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to try their pop-up restaurant, CHARPOP, but the menu at the CHARPOP event was totally different from the regular dinner menu at CHARCUT. Last month, when I had friends visiting from out-of-town, I was tasked with finding a nice restaurant for a celebratory dinner. Since one of my dining companions is gluten-tolerant and allergic to seafood, I thought CHARCUT would be the perfect choice as their menu is meat-centric and many of the items are gluten-free.
We started off with an order of the Lonzino ($9), which is an Italian-style bar snack made with strips of pork loin flavoured with fennel pollen, orange and black pepper. The Lonzino was basically like pork jerky. It was very savoury and the flavours were very well-balanced.
Next up were the Warm Olives “Cerignola and Arbequina” ($6), which were marinated in fennel pollen and lemon preserve. The olives tasted ok but didn’t really have a wow factor. For me, my favourite olives are still the Marinated Olives from Without Papers Pizza.
For our third dish, we had the House Baked Soft Pretzels ($8), which were served with kitchen pickles and a Bavarian cheese dip. The pretzels were baked a touch too long and so the outside was a little crispier and not as soft as we had anticipated. I loved the flavours of the Bavarian cheese dip. The kitchen pickles consisted of pickled cukes, carrots, and jalapeno peppers. The pickles were delicious except for the jalapenos, which were slightly frozen as they were probably placed too far back in the cooler.
Next was the Pig Head Mortadella and Brassica Mustard ($9). This is one of the signature items at CHARCUT. Connie DeSousa, the co-owner and co-executive chef of CHARCUT, is famous for being able to debone a pig’s head very quickly. Last year, she broke her own record and managed to debone one in just over two minutes during a demo at Eat Vancouver. The hollowed out pig’s head is then stuffed with hand-mixed pork, truffle, and pistachios. This dish was definitely the star of the show. The slices of mortadella just melted in our mouths. The flavours were really well-balanced and I was impressed I could actually taste the subtle flavour of the truffle. To me, this is a must try item at CHARCUT.
We also tried the Chicken Liver Terrine with Apricot Conserves ($15). I was really impressed at how good the Chicken Liver Terrine tasted. I was surprised the terrine didn’t taste liver-y at all. I would eat chicken liver more often if it always tasted this good!
By then, we were already fairly full from the starters and house cured charcuterie so we decided to order two mains to share amongst the four of us. The first was the Spring Creek Butcher Steak ($24). The steak was served with a chimichurri sauce, arugula and matchstick potato fries. Flavour-wise, this dish was spot on. I really enjoyed the bright flavours of this dish. However, the steak was way undercooked. I had asked for the steak to be medium-rare and it came out very rare to the point of almost being blue rare. Usually, I don’t mind my beef to be too rare. I often eat beef sashimi and steak tartare so raw beef doesn’t bother me. If a steak were to come out with the incorrect doneness, usually I would prefer it to be more rare than overcooked. However, in this case, we found the rare bite-sized slices to be too chewy and sinewy.
The kitchen staff sent us a gift order of their famous Duck Fat Fried Poutine ($8), which came topped with cheese curds and truffle gravy. Initially, I had decided against ordering this item because I wasn’t overly impressed with the Poutine from their Alley Burger Food Truck last year, which was prepared in a similar fashion. I’m sure glad we had the opportunity to try this Duck Fat Fried Poutine at CHARCUT as it was simply amazing and easily one of the best poutines I’ve had in Calgary. The fries were crispy and flavourful. I loved that I could actually taste truffle in the gravy. I’m definitely ordering this again on my next visit.
Our second main was the Fire Grilled Ewe-Nique Farm’s Lamb Leg ($29), which was served with shelling beans, fiddle heads, and topped with a gremolata. When the dish came out we were all totally surprised as it wasn’t quite what we were expecting. Given the name of the dish, we were actually expecting a bone-in piece of lamb instead of bite-sized medallions. Nevertheless, our biggest issue with the plate was the actual flavour, or the lack thereof. The flavours in this plate were very muted and a stark contrast to the Butcher Steak. The pieces of lamb were a bit chewy and not very flavourful. The fiddle heads were more cooked than we would have preferred and was stringy. At least the shelling beans were perfectly al dente. Overall, this was the least favourite dish amongst all my dining companions.
For dessert, we shared an order of the Meyer Lemon Pound Cake ($8), which was served with a limoncello salad and vanilla thyme gelato. To me, this dessert was totally forgettable. The pound cake was overbaked, very dry, crumbly, and devoid of any moisture. I was actually surprised they sent it out with a pile of crumbs next to the scoop of gelato. I’m not sure if they intended the pound cake to taste this way, but it was probably one of the driest pieces of pound cake that I’ve had. After the first bite, I was actually wishing that we had ordered a different dessert instead. The limoncello salad tasted fine and I actually really enjoyed the vanilla thyme gelato. I liked that this dessert wasn’t overly sweet. If the pound cake was actually more moist, this dessert could have been very delicious as all the flavours went really well together.
As well, we had an order of their Strawberry Passionfruit Sorbet. This dessert was actually not part of the regular menu. My friend had asked for a dairy-free and gluten-free dessert and this was what they had. All the desserts on the menu had contained either dairy and/or gluten. The sorbet turned out to be a winner! It was smooth, flavourful, and delicious. I loved the tanginess of the passionfruit in the sorbet.
Thank goodness for the complimentary bags of chocolate chip cookies that our server dropped off for us along with the bill. These cookies helped to turn our evening around and end the meal on a high note.
Overall, this meal certainly had its ups and downs. Though the service was very good, some of the dishes were real hits while others were misses. I was a little disappointed overall as I had high expectations going in and was hoping that this meal would be really memorable for my out-of-town guests. Since I was the one who chose the restaurant, I was really hoping that CHARCUT would execute our meal flawlessly. Unfortunately, this wasn’t quite the case on this visit. The highlights of this meal for me were the Pig Head Mortadella, the Duck Fat Fried Poutine, and the Chicken Liver Terrine. I definitely want to go back to try more of their charcuterie items as all their meat is butchered and cured in-house.
CHARCUT Roast House
#101, 899 Centre Street SW