Address: 295 York Ave
The trend reports declaring vegetables the most fashionable food group of the year don’t completely factor in the prairies’ innate love for meat. Thankfully, the restaurant group behind Carne has. Wow! Hospitality’s 529 Wellington has been setting a gold standard in its stately riverside mansion since 2001. This newest addition is assuming a firm position competing with successful steak chains downtown.
Modern chophouses specialize in steaks and chops, and offer an array of cuts of meat: veal, pork, poultry, and lamb as well as fish and seafood. Carne Italian Chophouse is just this style of new wave meatery, where a porterhouse can be enjoyed with a side of gnocchi. With Executive Chef Michael Dacquisto drawing on his own heritage and recipes, meat preparations get the Italian treatment too, making veal Marsala and osso bucco tempting choices.
The luxury ingredients and high standards of excellence of a premium steakhouse are on full display. À la carte eating lets diners choose a grade of meat (ranging from premium to super premium), veggies, and sauces. This mix and match eating counters the new generation of establishments that discourage substitutions in favour of a “chef knows best” sort of acumen.
In step with fashion, the menu leads to a sprawling collection of small and large plates, including an all hits pasta list to share or as legitimate entrées. Old and new school veggies (yes, there is kale) are extraordinary. Fried Brussels sprouts are anointed with salty pancetta and sweet balsamic syrup.
Tuna tartare, beef carpaccio, and fresh oysters are raw luxuries, fresh and superb. Fried briny capers, shallots and a peppery bite of arugula dress delicate slices of beef, while tuna tartare delivers a hit of chili, sesame and nori, offering some Asian flair. Oysters are pure and perfect.
Hot starters are equally divine. Tender chicken livers, a steakhouse favourite, are brightened with delicately flavoured tomato and balsamic red wine gravy. Diver scallops, paired with spiralled and puréed butternut squash could be an entrée. There are four, generous sized. A delicate mix of micro greens and walnuts added give this dish impressive dimensions.
Ultimately, though, a steakhouse must be judged on its meat, namely the beef. Carne is proactive. Chef Dacquisto sources Alberta AAA Prime and Wagyu hybrid beef from Alberta, USA and Japan. Tableside questions are answered with enthusiasm, revealing a depth of detail. Each box of Wagyu comes with a certificate of authentication revealing the animal’s name, its ancestry and its stats, giving a new level of understanding to where your food comes from.
Canadian Wagyu tenderloin has the appearance of most; don’t be fooled. The ultra-fine marbling achieved from its special upbringing packs each bite with juiciness so remarkable, it nearly defies description. A rib steak for two, beautifully charred and tender fills an entire plate, and could feed more. The pork and veal chops follow suit, yielding flavourful tender bites.
Even after one of those big steaks, desserts are still a must. Creamy rice pudding may be an old school comfort, but it wasn’t topped with pistachios, coconut and begonia petals in our house.
Dining on succulent steaks in luxurious rooms doesn’t need a trend report to gain favour: neither does having vast amount of choice. Just remember to order simply, and let the meat shine.
Carne is open Mon-Thu 4:30 pm-10 pm, Fri-Sat 4:30 pm-11 pm, Sun closed.