While just about every hotel these days has some sort of restaurant attached, I can’t think of too many kicking around that would be able to provide you with a charcuterie plate to your room. Located inside the stunning Hotel Le Germain, just a skip from the Calgary Tower, you’ll find CHARCUT Roast House. A restaurant it seems, with a story, a passion, and love of food.
Having a hunch that CHARCUT would provide Sarah and I with an evening worthy of our anniversary dinner, we made the journey from our hotel room to the restaurant in record time. There is really nothing like leaving 5 minutes before your reservation and arriving 4 minutes early. The restaurant, which faces the street, is dark and intimate, but with an open kitchen and lofty ceiling, the entire places is very comfortable.
With our house sparkling water on the table, Sarah and I looked over the daily menu. While they do provide a menu to tantalize you online, I’d use it like a guideline, as you never know what protein or vegetable may be chosen to star on the day you visit. With just about every dish sounding like it was worthy of a little drool, I was actually surprise how quickly we were able to put our order together. As well, I have to say CHARCUT started to remind us of our experience at Incanto; simple, clean, relaxed, fresh, and thoughtful. Maybe some diners in Calgary aren’t as adventurous in the nose-to-tail world as they are in San Francisco, but don’t be surprised if you spy a few BBQ pig heads in the kitchen.
Not entirely sure if my camera instigated our next conversation, we were quickly welcomed by chef and co-owner Connie DeSousa. Welcoming us to CHARCUT, she placed a cutting board of meat, warm cheese and bread in front of us. Without even a taste, I started to think that anyone who welcomes you along these lines; they’re good people! The meat was duck ham and came topped with shavings of Sylvan Star cheese, the bread was house made brioche buns, and the Staub pot was filled with another Sylvan Star cheese, that I’ve forgotten. As we created decadent, luxurious sandwiches of warm cheese and meat, I started to wonder if this free offering would put us behind the eight ball; I hadn’t planned to start with so much fatty goodness.
For our starters, we decided on something light and something heavy. For the light; Kitchen Pickles – Baked rosemary grissini. For the heavy; Bone Marrow au Gratin – Garlic brioche toast, parsley salad. The pickles were sliced into finger thick pieces, with one gigantic pickle arriving au natural. As pickle lovers, we both enjoyed the offering but found ourselves hitting the pickle wall near the end. Our heavy dish was ordered in honor of Fergus Henderson, and was a first for Sarah. The chunk of bone, about 7 inches long, arrived split and roasted to meaty goodness. <– I think I should patent that level of doneness. Don’t be swayed by the visions that may come when you think of marrow, as even Sarah agreed the warm, spreadable marrow hit us with an almost surreal level of flavour. This is what 90% of beef cuts wished they could attain. Finished with salt, and a sprig of parsley…well played CHARCUT.
With the restaurant filling up quickly, and our empty plates whisked away, I was surprised by another visit from Chef DeSousa. This time we discussed everything from travel to our anniversary. I don’t know about you, but I love any chef that will talk to me about food. It’s something that unites us all, and something that I can talk about for hours. Not wanting to take too much time, the chef eventually went back to prepare our mains. First to the table was our Charred Innisfail brussel sprouts, house cured bacon and lemon, and Duck fat fried poutine, cheese curds and truffle gravy. The sprouts were great, plain and simple. The poutine. Well that was another level all together. We found so much flavour in that container. Crispy fries with a fantastic gravy. My one complaint would be the cheese, which had basically melted away by the time it was delivered; I want squeak and some lasting structure to my curds.
Just after the sides hit the table, we were staring at our mains. Sarah, who was originally thinking about steak, was swayed in the end by yours truly and ordered the Spit Roasted Spring Creek Prime Rib. Deciding on something lighter, I went with Grilled Whole Fish Broxburn tomatoes, spinach, lemon olive oil. The prime rib arrived with a thin horseradish sauce, and roasted head of garlic. Not exactly what either of us expected, the meat had lost any beef flavour and tasted just like smoke. With all of the food being above and beyond at this point, we were both surprised and rather disappointed to find the meat so blah. The grilled fish was gutted and stuffed with herbs, making it moist, flavourful and straight up tasty…even the eyeballs!
With a body warming order of coffee on the table, we decided that our love of chocolate, peanut butter, and bananas would let us easily agree on Caramelized Banana and Chocolate Torte – Peanut butter gelato and peanut caramel sauce for dessert. Delivered by the chef, we were treated to warm wishes on the plate. The chocolate torte was rich, moist, and combined perfectly with the caramelized bananas and crunchy peanuts. A perfect size for a perfect dessert; I’m glad CHARCUT doesn’t forget about the sweet stuff.
If we take out the smoky prime rib, this meal was one of the best we’ve had this year. From the impeccable service, to the friendly and very warm conversations with Chef DeSousa, to the melt in your mouth marrow, I can easily see how CHARCUT has been named by enRoute as one of the 10 best new restaurants in Canada. I know I wouldn’t hesitate to visit next time I’m in Calgary, and I’d almost go as far as just driving down for another delicious plate of warm cheese.