3625 Dutch Village Road
It's just after 7pm at The Anchor. A guy with shaggy hair is behind a microphone "check, check, check"-ing out a quick soundcheck before settling in behind a keyboard as the night's entertainment. The Anchor seems to pack itself with purpose outside of its basic function as a restaurant, hosting live music, a weekly trivia night, even a karaoke night. If the food wasn't good, there'd still be lots of reasons to drop by if you live in Fairview.
The food, though, is good.
By the time I get my drink, the music is underway. It's a good volume, still quiet enough to talk over. The Rum Runner's Cup ($11) is a mix of Mount Gay black barrel rum, a charred squash syrup and lime juice, served on the rocks with garnish of pickled squash speared with a spruce twig. There are a lot of creative cocktails on the menu, but in this case the final product lands closer to a common rail drink than I'd like, the ice mellowing out the syrup and lime a little too thoroughly, the lingering flavour just the peppery sweetness of the rum.
The menu itself is an interesting intersection of simple ideas and creative strokes courtesy of chef Richard Julien. Some ingredients get repeated throughout so a bit of careful consideration when ordering is a good idea—the Brussels sprouts in the appetizer are the same as those with the duck. Pickled vegetables in the root salad, the carrots and even those tucked under the slaw with the chicken all feel pulled from the same jar. A smoked sour cream is drizzled on several plates and duck aioli makes a few appearances. What's great, though, is that it's all quite tasty.
The root vegetable salad ($9) has a lovely combination of zingy pickled carrots and sweet beet with nice textures added—curls of candied parsnip and crunchy fried quinoa. There are more pickled carrots in the heirloom carrot appetizer ($9), but here it's relentlessly tart combined with pickled turnip. A drizzle of molasses doesn't make much impact, and after a few bites it's a vinegary bore.
The Brussels sprouts, meanwhile, are fucking fantastic, easily one of the city's great small plates. They are a bargain at nine bucks, a goddamned miracle at half-price during The Anchor's happy hour. Blackened and charred, the sprouts sing with warm, crisp earthiness. Salty flakes of prosciutto, shavings of candied lemon and a drizzle of creamy smoked sour cream add depth and brightness, rounding out the flavour, a truly complete dish.
The sprouts make an appearance with the duck gnocchi ($22), too, which itself is given a fry in duck fat resulting in fat potato-y clouds with deeply browned crusts.
The red cabbage slaw on the two-piece fried chicken meal ($20) is a nice break from some of the heaviness of the mains, crisp and light, flecked with dried apricots and cranberries, given an additional solid crunch from lightly toasted almonds. The chicken itself is fried nicely, very moist. The buttermilk marinade could use a bit more substance and crunch, but is seasoned with punch.
Thick slices of maple-brined chicken and smoked ham are the foundation for the club cristo ($12), which is dipped in egg and fried golden brown. Duck aioli adds a delectable richness to each bite. The aioli ($2) is also served with the fries ($6), seasoned with that same wonderfully heavy hand as the chicken.
Every community deserves a great restaurant—one of those places that are a combination of good food, great service and that x-factor that just makes it feel like it's a real deal part of a neighbourhood. It's nice to see one dropped anchor in Fairview.
Write your own review of The Anchor here