In keeping with the 2012 birthday celebration tradition (not really, I just made that up right now, lol), we went for dinner at Charcut last night to celebrate Mark’s milestone 30th birthday (you can read about my birthday experience here).  I was really hoping we’d luck out and they’d have the amazing pork belly on the menu, but alas, it was not meant to be.  My heart actually broke a little bit because that pork belly was seriously one of the best things I’ve ever had in my entire life.  WHY CAN’T THEY JUST MAKE IT A PERMANENT ITEM!?  I enjoy the idea of a daily changing menu, but please for the love of holy bacon, some things are just meant to stay forever.  PORK BELLY 4LYFE.  I’m totally going to campaign for them to do this.

It’s a good thing I made a reservation because the place was packed for a Tuesday evening.  And I can see why.  It’s an excellent location near the downtown core for the power players to take their clients for dinner or to meet with colleagues to talk strategic insider business over a couple of pints and share plates.  The place was bustling, alive, and – I hate to say it – way too noisy.  We were seated at a table near the corner, but surrounded by three tables of boisterous diners.  It wasn’t very easy to keep up a conversation without feeling like I was yelling at Mark.  Sigh.  Are we unhip?

Now, to the food.

Complimentary plate from the kitchen.  I believe the server said it was a chicken liver mousse.  I don’t do well with pate-y textures, so I let Mark have both of the bites.  He indeed confirmed that no, I would not like it, but he seemed to enjoy it just fine.

One of the appetizers we got were the steamed clams in pale ale broth, with roasted garlic and Portuguese peppers and grilled house-made foccacia bread.  Oh, and house cured BACON chunks.  OMG.  I recently discovered that I actually like clams, and these were amazing.  Yum!  I really loved the subtle beer flavour of the broth (a nice surprise from the usual white wine broths) and the Portuguese peppers gave it a nice kick.  I happily dunked my grilled foccacia in the broth and made sure to spoon out every last piece of bacon.  It would’ve been a shame to let even the smallest bacon morsel go to waste.

Mark also wanted to try the East Coast Oysters and luckily, we could order them individually.  I’m weird with textures and I don’t like the idea of having sea-flavoured snot in my mouth, so Mark got two oysters – one BBQ and one chilled.  The BBQ one actually came with a roasted tomato mignonette (I guess the roasted part is the “BBQ” portion?), with a side of fresh horseradish.  Mark’s verdict?  Good times.

For his main, Mark got the Share Burger CHARCUT Style (roasted garlic sausage patty, cheese curds, with a fried egg) on house-made brioche bread.  Mmmmmm…. brioche.  I tried a bite and the combination worked perfectly for me, even the cheese curds (they were barely noticeable).  Something different from the ordinary beef burger, that’s for sure.

I got the butcher steak with the chimichurri and matchstick potatoes.  Mark had this last time and I really liked the chimichurri, so I thought I’d try it out.  I found the matchstick potatoes, while tasty, to be way over-salted – one of the bites I took, the only thing I could taste was salt.  Other than that, I requested the steak be done medium and it came medium – bonus points!  It’s not often that a restaurant gets the temperature of the meat right.  It was a bit chewy, but very lean, which is how I like my steaks.  If only the potatoes hadn’t been so salty, I think this would’ve been a home run.

We got the same sides as last time – duck fat fried poutine with cheese curds and truffle gravy (no cheese curds on the side this time, I was feeling adventurous), and the crisp romaine lettuce with pickled shallots and mint yogurt dressing.  Mark actually said something interesting, along the lines of, “this is expensive lettuce”, but it’s SO easy to screw up something as basic as salad.  I’ve had some pretty horrific salads in my lifetime, salads that were not nearly as pricey as the one at Charcut.  Whether it was wilted or just plain old lettuce, the greens being overdressed (or gross dressing altogether), I would rather pay for a perfectly executed, simple salad.  And this is what this salad is to me – a perfectly executed, simple salad.  The poutine on the other hand, while delicious, was over-salted.  Whoever was manning the potato frying station was too heavy-handed with the seasoning.  This was actually quite disappointing as the poutine is SO amazing, but many of the bites were like – EEK too much salt!

By the end of it, both of our bellies were ready to bust open.  Yes, the food is on the pricier end, but they don’t skimp on the portions – we barely finished the salad and couldn’t finish the poutine (and it’s not one of those things you can take in a doggy bag).

Overall, another good experience at Charcut, but still sad that there was no pork belly and the issue of the over-salting on a couple of the items.  By the time we were finished, we were ready to get outta there as the noise level had significantly increased (I’m thinking on account of many drinks having been consumed by that point by the tables surrounding us).  I think the next time I go there, I’m going to do whatever it takes to make sure I go on a night with the pork belly, and maybe try to get a table that’s a little more isolated from the crowd.

To conclude the evening – what else?  MAPLE BACON DOUGHNUT TIME.  This was my special birthday doughnut for Mark.

CHARCUT Roast House
100, 899 Centre St SW
Calgary, AB
Phone: (403) 984-2180
http://www.charcut.com

Jelly Modern Doughnuts
100, 1414 8 Street SW
Calgary, AB T2R 1J6
Phone: (403) 453-2053
http://jellymoderndoughnuts.com

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