Jaime and I haven’t hung out in a while. For our girls’ night out, she picked Charbar because she loves checking out the newest hot spot.
Jaime is the most inquisitive and intelligent food lover I have ever met. There were a lot of items on the cocktail menu that Jaime and I were unfamiliar such as lillet blanc, carpano antica formula, and amaro montenegro. Our server Stephanie went the extra mile to describe the ingredients and how the drinks and food were prepared. Jaime asked so many questions, I jokingly reminded her that Stephanie is paid per hour.
After careful examination of the cocktail list and a flurry of follow-up questions, Jaime decided on the Aldeano ($13). She enjoyed it and thought it tasted like caramelized citrus.
I picked the cocktail with the most alcohol, the Corpse Revivier #2 ($13). My cocktail was surprisingly light, lemony and floral. Despite the the 2.75 oz of alcohol, it didn’t taste boozy. I could feel my face glow with revitalization.
We shared the Pistachio and Avocado Bruschetta ($12) with two slices of grilled, buttered sourdough bread. The dip was cool in temperature, buttery, and nutty from the generous amount of pistachios. This would be the perfect appetizer on the patio on a sunny afternoon.
The Fried Roman Broccoli ($12.00) was one of my most favourite dishes. Jaime said it reminded her of the Fried Cauliflower at Nuba, which I concur, as it is fantastic. The combination of the crunchy broccoli, hint of mint, fresh lemon and spicy aioli was a unique taste sensation.
If you love saganaki, order the Blistered Provoleta ($13). Jaime almost burnt her hand squeezing the gorgeously broiled lemon over the cheese. Stephanie told us because the cheese has been aged, it makes the texture extra stretchy, giving it wonderful texture. The cheese was so good, I didn’t eat it with the bread, as I wanted to just enjoy it as is.
Another standout dish was the Clam Pie ($20). I make my own dough at home and I think, a pretty good pizza. However, Charbar’s pie put my pizza to shame. The buttery crust was crunchy and delicious from the top to the bottom down to the crust. There was a creamy layer of goodness underneath the crispy top layer that was thick, soft and seductive on the tongue. The clams on the top were fresh and covered in a salty mint sauce that was new to me. I didn’t see any clams in the pie, only the garnish on the top, so perhaps there was clam puree in the sauce.
Let’s go to the wine list. This is where Stephanie stole my heart. I was deciding on a glass of wine and Stephanie went to get me two samples. I ended up picking her favourite, Orin Swift Cellars ($15, or $75 for bottle), an Argentina wine that was smooth with a soft finish. Jaime spotted Orofino Beleza ($95) on the wine list, her favourite wine.
Jaime opted for dessert while I ordered a bottle of Village Wit White Wheat Ale ($7.00). The top of the crepe was brûlée-like. The dulce filling was warm and sweet. Stephanie ordered us a side of ice-cream to go with the crepe, which I thought was the perfect pairing. The soft cold vanilla ice-cream was a nice contrast to the crunchy and rich crepe.
I mocked Jaime for her drink beverage, hot lemon water. I called her paw-paw (Chinese translation – grandmother), as hot lemon water is a popular beverage for older Chinese women. She was the one laughing the next day, when I had a hangover.
I’m not sure what to take from the negative reviews I read on Yelp and Zomato about Charbar. The wine and beer prices were reasonable in such an unique and gorgeous building. My beer was $7.00, Jaime’s favourite wine sells for about $45 at a BC liquor store and is sold at Charbar for $95, which is a reasonable mark-up.
The food is unique and the cost to make a similar dish at home would be more than what you pay at the restaurant. The side dishes and shareable appetizers are $9-$13, and pizzas and burgers are around $20.00.
There are higher priced dishes. A lot of other customers were ordering the $120 seafood platter and the $100 steak for two, but if you’re on a budget like I am, there are plenty of main dishes for a more affordable night out.
I don’t think my positive experience was unique either. Everyone I know that has eaten at Charbar enjoyed the food. I saw a customer go up to an employee and thank her “for always taking such good care of me when I’m here with my clients.”
Charbar is new and I can only imagine the difficulty in starting up a large restaurant business with so many staff, cooks and servers. I know there should be kinks but Jaime and I didn’t experience any fault or flaws.
I’d like to thank Stephanie for her excellent recommendations and knowledge of the cocktail, wine and food menu. I would like to also thank the people behind Charbar for bringing to Calgary a treasure. Charbar is going to put Calgary on the map now for food destinations.