Although Ami Cohen, the owner of Salchicha Meat Bar on the ever-lively Granville street, is originally from Morocco where his mother was a chef, he and his Yemenite wife for a long time were living in Israel, where different cuisines and flavours has influenced his cooking.
At Salchicha’s media dinner, we could see a fusion menu that would take us to a culinary journey from the Middle East to the Mediterranean, with a great variety of meat products and dishes, such as cured meats, home-made sausages, smoked chicken, beef kebabs and many more.
I was quite fond of the interiors, which were rustic but elegant with exotic touches of the owner’s culture, and all were designed by chef Cohen himself. The pickle jars could be spotted all over the dining room, but they were not merely decorative as the Libyan inspired pickles were an integral part of the main flavour profile.
First we were presented the Salada Platter ($12), a quartet of cold dishes seemingly inspired by the mezze platter in Middle Eastern cuisine, consisting of Tabbouleh , Hummus, Arabic salad and Baba ganush. All quite refreshing on the palate, my favorite is Baba Ghanoush as I have always loved roasted eggplants. I think they could use a little bit more salt and pepper to brighten up from the subtlety. Along with the platter, some Focaccia bread freshly baked in-house was served with 3 different types of dips: Harrisa, Sahuog and Tahini ($6 for the bread and 3 dips). The bread crust is hearty but not hard, the inside is soft but still has a friendly texture to chew on.
The Beef Kebab ($13) was served on cinnamon sticks, but I felt that the burned sticks didn’t do much to the dish. I could taste that the beef was fresh had a nice charred flavour to it, but it was a bit dry and could use a tab bit more of seasoning. However the rustic mashed potato underneath was quite tasty.
The Chicken Skewers ($8) came with 2 skewers and a house-made chipolata mayo. The sauce was nicely made but the chicken breast used on the skewers got dry quickly if they were not eaten immediately. Maybe using chicken thigh could be a bit better? I do like the nice touch of adding fresh tomato slices on the side, and properly seasoned. Overall I found whole dish a little underwhelming for the amazing story behind the restaurant.
The Couscous Maraguez ($14) is a Moroccan style stew sitting on a bed of couscous, and topped with a couple Maragues sausages. The stew was cooked with Harissa sauce and the sausages were made with fresh Alberta Lamb. I really like the flavour combination and its visual appeal, as well as the spices in the couscous, but the sausages and the source are a lot less spicy than I expected. Overall it was a good dish as all the components were nicely prepared, but it definitely could be a little bolder!
The Shakshouka Maraguez ($13) definitely looked familiar when it came as I’d had the same dish at Cafe Medina. A couple Maragues sausages and a coupel poached eggs were sitting in a spicy tomato sauce on a sizzling hot cast iron pan. The flavours are bolder with tomato, chili, and onion in the sauce and the richness of the runny egg yolk definitely added richness to the sauce. The sausages were a little dry however. But for me the spiciness could be a little more intense.
It was interesting to see an Antipasti platter ($7), and I appreciate that the chef was thoughtful to add more vegetables to the meat-centric dishes. While seeing the traditional Italian Antipasti vegetables like eggplant, zucchini and bell pepper on the plate, I wasn’t sure about the carrot and yam, which are quite unconventional with their crunchiness. I’m sure some people will like the texture contrast in their food and I often do so in a lot of dishes, but for Antipasti I really prefer it soft, which is much better for eating with bread and deli meats. But that’s just my personal preference. I would totally swap carrot and yam for asparagus, mushroom, and onion.
I quite enjoyed the dessert, the Malabi ($5), which is a small corn flour and milk cake topped with rose water, maple syrup, coconut shavings and crushed peanuts. It looks like a pudding but the texture is a little denser. It is not super sweet, but all the aromatic elements sing well together, ending the meal on a lovely note.
I admire the ideas behind the fusion menu and I think the dishes will be likeable among people who are new to the genre of Middle Eastern Cuisine. It is a meat bar but their healthy approach of putting a lot of vegetables and using locally sourced products is quite refreshing. However for me the flavours could be much bolder. When it comes to dishes that are comparable to Cafe Medina or Jam Jar, I definitely expect more spices and flavour combinations from Salchicha to stand out more.
* All food and beverages in this review were complimentary. Opinions are on the reviewer’s own. *
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