Location: 101, 899 Centre Street SW
After nearly four years of talking about it, my best friend and I finally got around to going to Charcut. We first heard about Charcut while watching competitor Connie Desousa compete on Top Chef Canada. I really wanted her to win and considering her skills in the kitchen, I’d say she was, at least in my books.
My sister and a friend of hers went a couple days earlier and got the $25 and the $15 Lunch all at Once respectively. The $25 option included a mixed green salad (she said it was arugula) with house vinaigrette, daily rotisserie “spit-roasted and smoked” (she said it was pork), parmesan fries and a bag of warm cookies (two cookies) and a coffee to go (she got an Earl Gray Tea). Her friend had the Charcut daily soup (my sister can’t remember what it was but said it sounded weird but tasted good), a crostini, the daily sandwich on focaccia (again, she didn’t know what kind of sandwich), kitchen pickles, parm fries and a bag of warm cookies. The dishes were served on a wooden board, giving it a really rustic feel. And from what I gleaned about Connie from Top Chef, I’d say that was consistant with who she was as a person (also the website said they were aiming for rustic, so I guess they’re spot on).
Seeing these dishes reinforced my want to go there and try out the food. So today, on my day off in the middle of a week for the first time in a long time. We arrived at about 11:45 am and asked if we had reservations, which we did not. They responded that the main restaurant was full so we had the choice of sitting at the bar or in the hotel lounge. Neither option sounded all that appealing, but I figured the lounge would be more comfortable than the bar, but I let my friend decide. She ultimately chose the lounge, which worked out for me. I normally don’t like sitting at the bar because the bar stools are oddly uncomfortable and I have a tendency to fall off or do something stupid. We were seated in the lounge with random hotel guests milling about, sitting around us while we perused the menu. Being the indecisive person I am, I looked over the menu before hand and decided on a roasted garlic meatball sandwich with Quebec cheese curds, Sunday gravy and parm fries. Even after previewing the menu, my friend still had no idea what she wanted, but at last minute decided on the country sausage, slow cooked served with caramelized onions and a fresh baked brioche. It was one of the options that I had been considering so I couldn’t wait to see and taste it. When she ordered it, the waiter said that the sausage was a bit hot and I wondered what to expect.
The wait time was not unreasonable, but sitting in the hotel lounge was a bit odd. We had a lot of natural light and could see the Calgary tower relatively unobstructed from where we were seated, but the table height wasn’t quite right. I couldn’t cross my legs (probably shouldn’t anyways), my napkin was pinned to my lap, and had to bend over substantially to eat. My first thought when I saw my sandwich was, “how the heck do I eat this?” Then I looked up and saw my friend’s lunch and thought, “What the heck is that?!” We both stared at it for a good minute before the waiter came over and was about to ask how everything was when he saw her plate and was like “Wow…what is-I’ve never seen this before.” We all had a good laugh.
My first impression of my sandwich was that I wanted it to be more garlicky, but I feel like that may be more to do with my liking for garlicky foods than anything. I can understand why they wouldn’t want it to be more garlicky (bad breath mainly). After a few more bites, I found that it needed more Sunday gravy and figured that’s why they gave me a whole bowl of it to dip into if I needed more. The Quebec cheese curds didn’t squeak, which was disappointing, but they were so beautifully stringy and chewy that it didn’t even matter. The parm fries were simply that: fries with grated parmesan sprinkled over it. I had expected something closer to poutine or at least melting the parmesan and drizzling them on. They went great with the tomato jam, a great alternative to ketchup. It was sweeter than ketchup in someways, but the seasoning was spot on. And the kitchen pickle was really good too. But overall, I felt as though everything had a sweet undertone that eventually became unbearable. The more I ate of my sandwich, the heavier it felt and I would have really like to have had something a little bit more acidic to contrast and balance out the meal. In the last quarter of my sandwich I just took out the insides and ate them. I would not recommend this sandwich to anyone who is going out for lunch with their boss. It is very messy. I got gravy stuck under my nails somehow and that was a pain to get out. Surprisingly I finished everything else resulting in me being full until dinner and not really eating much because I was still full.
For the country sausage, I have no words. The skinny longness of it is not really that aesthetically appealing. Especially since it kinda curled under the plate. And then the brioche looked like a tiny, out of place pyramid in contrast to the length of the sausage. Caramelized onions are always delicious so I’m not gonna say anything about that, but the “hot” sausage was not hot at all and it was a lot drier than I expected, but maybe because I was thinking of the normally oily, fat saturated breakfast sausages and this was not what it was.
We didn’t end up getting dessert because I wasn’t really interested in getting cookies or any of the other desserts they offered (cheese cake and pudding).
Overall, this restaurant did not disappoint. However, though initially I complained about things being a little too sweet, it turns out that there was a lot of salt used too since I was constantly thirsty afterwards. I know now that this palate isn’t really to my taste. I’m not saying it’s bad in anyway, but I prefer something less rustic. Our waiter was very attentive and that was reflected in his tip. I’m happy to say that this place has had much better service than a lot of the places I’ve been to, so I’d have to rate it 3.5/5