It’s that time of the year again for The Big Taste, which has been taking place from March 1 to March 10 this year. For those unfamiliar, The Big Taste has taken place in Calgary for a number of years now. The concept is quite similar Dine Out Vancouver and the “Dining Week” events of other cities, where foodies and “value-oriented diners” get an opportunity to try new restaurants or revisit their old favourites. During The Big Taste event, participating restaurants feature a set menu at various price points, usually at $15 or $25 for a 3-course lunch, $25 or $35 for a 3-course dinner and $85 for a “Gourmet” tasting menu.
I used to be a big fan of these type of events. In fact, that was how it all started for me in becoming a foodie. Back some 8 years ago, I visited Vancouver during Dine Out Vancouver to try out a number of different restaurants after hearing some great things from my friends. A few of the restaurants had put out some outstanding dishes and it opened my eyes to food and dining at a whole different caliber. I’ll be first to admit, in recent years, I’ve become disillusioned by these type of events both here in Calgary and in Vancouver, because restaurants were starting to produce lacklustre food to keep up with the volume demands due to the increasing popularity of these kind of events. It was no longer about the restaurant showcasing their signature dishes at a slight discount for diners to experience (and be impressed with so that they become repeat customers) but more about mass production, meeting price points and churning out volume. I was tired of eating 3-course meals where I easily could have done without some of the courses because the food was uninspired. For me, it’s always about quality and never about quantity. As a result, I’d stopped going to these “Dining Week” events both here in Calgary and in Vancouver in recent years. In fact, I would try to avoid the restaurants that were partaking in the event during that period as I didn’t want to deal with a fully packed restaurant where the kitchen is just slammed and is just trying to churn out volume without much attention to quality.
This year I decided to give this event another chance mainly because my foodie friend and fellow food blogger, Anna of Anna’s Appetite, was interested in trying it out and also, because the restaurant scene in Calgary has really grown to a different level in the last two years with the opening of so many new restaurants by talented young chefs. After seeing an Instagram post by Connie DeSousa late last week of the “family-style” dinner CHARCUT was serving for The Big Taste, Anna and I decided to make a reservation as the food looked amazing. I was really comfortable choosing CHARCUT for one of my Big Taste dinners this week because I knew, of all the restaurants in town, they are really good at doing quality “mass-produced” set meals. I’ve been a huge fan of their daily Lunch All at Once set menu combinations (see my previous posts Visit #1, Visit #2, Visit #3, Visit #4, Visit #5, and Visit #6) and have yet to be disappointed. CHARCUT does not regularly offer a set menu for dinner (with the exception of their Chef Collaboration Dinners, which are a whole different thing) so I was really looking forward to their “family-style” set menu dinner for this event, which was priced at $35 per person.
We started off with an amuse bouche consisting of house-cured Lamb Ham and Shaved Gruyere on a crostini. This was a tasty bite to start off the evening.
For an appetizer served family-style, we had the Spicy Romaine and Persian Cucumber Salad and some Lonzino. I’d tried both of these items before at the Charpopluck collaboration event back in January.
The Spicy Romaine and Persian Cucumber Salad dressed with herbed yogurt, feta cheese and chilies was delicious. I liked how the spicy chilies were balanced by the coolness from the ribbons of cucumber and creaminess of the feta cheese. This combination of flavours and textures really worked well together. I wouldn’t hesitate to order this salad again if it was available in the future.
The Lonzino is an “Italian style bar snack flavoured with pepper, citrus, and fennel”. Basically , it was like sticks of pork jerky that were nicely presented in a bundle. Even though, I’m not a fan of licorice, I didn’t mind the fennel as it was quite mild and not overpowering at all. It was very savoury and the flavours were very well-balanced. I did find it to be a touch on the salty side, however.
For our main, we had slices of Roast Pork Loin with a Paprika Chili Rub and topped with chili oil. It was served with two sides – the Smashed Poplar Bluff Potatoes, which was topped with sour cream, garden rosemary, and house-cured bacon; and the Grilled Broccolini, which was topped with chili, lemon, and Padano cheese. The pork loin was tasty. I enjoyed the dark meat portion as it was tender and moist. I did however find the white meat portion to be a tad tough. The real star of the show here was the Smashed Poplar Bluff Potatoes. Both my friend Anna and I couldn’t get enough of it. I loved the richness of the sour cream but the house-cured bacon is really what made the dish. This is definitely a side I will order on every visit in the future. I think I like it even more than the signature Duck Fat Fried Poutine.
For dessert, we had Preserved Blueberry Cheesecake in a Jar. It consisted of vanilla bean cheesecake mousse layered with toasted graham cracker crumbs and was topped with a blueberry preserves. This was easily the best dessert I’ve had at CHARCUT to date. I loved that this dessert wasn’t overly sweet or heavy. I’d definitely order it again in the future. It was the perfect way to finish off the meal.
Overall, this was another solid meal at CHARCUT and definitely worth the $35 per person for the meal. The standout items for me were definitely the Smashed Poplar Bluff Potatoes and the Preserved Blueberry Cheesecake in a Jar.
CHARCUT Roast House
#101, 899 Centre Street SW