Restaurant Review: Charbar

>> Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Calgary has done an amazing job rezoning East Village these last couple years and what a difference it has made. I can barely recall what the area used to look like and that’s not a bad thing. As part of the restructure they’ve decided to keep part of the area intact such as the Simmons building, which used to be an old mattress factory and was left vacant for a long time. Everybody was excited to find out how the cultural landmark would be repurposed and we were all extremely excited to hear of the collaboration between Charbar, Phil & Sebastian and Sidewalk Citizen Bakery – I could barely wait till they opened their doors.

Atmosphere: Wonderful redesign of the old Simmons building in East Village. Rustic and edgy, the open dining space plays great textures and colors against each other to allow the old brick building to shine new again. Plus it features an elevator!

Price Range: Mids $10s - $30+

Food & Wine: Just perusing the menu, you can note that there’s a distinct difference between Charcut and Charbar. Even though they’re sister restaurants, Charbar has a South American theme to it which is a welcomed addition to the Calgary food scene. An item that was not to be missed was the Tripe Chips with fried rosemary and served with a creamy spicy aioli. The chips themselves reminded me of Chinese shrimp chips, something I grew up eating. Those were super addictive, so were these. I could have easily eaten nothing but for the whole evening. Trying them on their own really allowed the subtle flavour of the tripe to shine through which melded perfectly with the fragrant rosemary. However, for those who aren’t used to tripe, there’s the spicy aioli on the side to help provide that bit of a kick.

Next up was the Ceviche Mixto served tableside, which was a nice twist. I’m always intrigued when there’s interaction during a meal. The server highlighted the various ingredients that went in to the ceviche including, onions, fresh fish, clams, cilantro and cancha or toasted corn. It was a very traditional ceviche and reminded me of ones I’ve had in Chile and Argentina, especially with the use of corn. The tiger’s milk, aka the sauce, as I’m told is the most coveted from this dish. It’s truly the essence of this dish and people in South America will fight over who gets to drink it. Luckily for us, you can ask for some Sidewalk Citizen bread to dip in to the sauce so that everyone may enjoy and no fighting is required.

We also had the opportunity to sample the Vegetable Ceviche, which I probably wouldn’t have normally ordered, but I’m glad we got to try it because it ended up being one of my favorite dishes that evening. Made with charred onions, tomatoes, avocados and pickled cucumbers in a tomato guazpacho, which is a soup typically made from vegetables and served cold. The dish was extremely refreshing and light, while packing tons of flavour. It’s an ingenious way of showcasing the freshness of the vegetables themselves and the fact that they can be more inspired than the typical salad.

I enjoyed the simplicity of the Grilled Garlic Shrimp. They were perfectly cooked with the light char on the shrimp bringing out the sweetness of the meat. It’s a great appetizer for those looking for something to share. Another great dish to share was the Sausage skillet with housemade Chorizo and Morcilla (blood sausage). I am a huge fan of both; with the blood sausage having a slight edge due to the fact that I can’t readily find a good blood sausage in town and this one was delicious. Don’t get me wrong the chorizo was nicely spiced and amazing, but there’s just something about the morcilla, could be the fact that it was made in house.

For our main, we decided to share the Ultra Dry Aged NY Strip Steak. Our server mentions that the steak is normally served plain, sauce and sides are recommended which is another traditional aspect of South American cuisine. The steak itself was well cooked, I don’t normally order NY strip so it was nice to try a different cut of steak with its own distinct flavour profile. We ordered the Fried Roman Broccoli to accompany the steak. It was topped with mint and the spicy aioli that also accompanied the tripe chips. Aside from broccoli in tempura, I don’t normally eat broccoli fried, so it was definitely a unique side.

Although we were extremely full, I can never ever say no to dessert, especially when I saw the Bourbon Canned Peaches and Cream, which is a play on peaches and cream while using soft serve ice cream. I really enjoyed the flavour combinations in this dessert and found it to be the perfect amount of sweetness since I’m not a huge fan of the extremely sweet. One thing that would have put it over the top for me is if the peaches were caramelized, however I’m not complaining because I would definitely order this dessert again.

Since its summer, my wine for the evening was a nice rose from Provence in France called Cotes de Provence. I thought the light citrus notes went well with both the seafood and meat dishes that night. A nicely balanced wine with lingering fruity notes and rounded body, great for the patio too!
My Pick(s): Vegetable Ceviche, Tripe Chips, Morcilla Sausage

Overall: You can find it all here at Charbar, beautiful surroundings, amazing atmosphere and delicious food made by top notch chefs. for those who don't know, head chef Jessica Pelland lived in Argentina for a short while! Not to mention they’re also flanked by awesome local merchants and I love how they incorporated that in to their menu (they serve both Sidewalk Citizen bread and Phil & Sebastian coffee). It really is a one stop shop and I’m so glad that they decided to turn the old Simmons building in to what it is today. I can’t wait to drop by again and hang out on the rooftop patio overlooking the river.

618 Confluence Way SE
Calgary, AB
(403) 452-3115

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Easter Tylor July 31, 2015 at 2:40 PM  

I have visited this place several times and I love their lobster dish the most. In other words, this is the best I have ever had. Thanks for time to write a review about them. Good luck from

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