Seeing as outings are less commonplace now, the ones you do take, have to count. And this is case in point. Today we were at the well received Straight and Marrow, a restaurant known for using lesser known animal parts and unsung ingredients, and featuring it on a plate. Basically the way I like to eat: the weirdest and most different menu items available. Although be warned, you are paying a premium on the scarcity.
The space is narrow with there being even less room now due to covid restrictions. The bar is behind plexiglass, should you sit there. Similarly the chefs work at the back behind plexi, but within plain sight, plating and staging with precision.
When it came time to order, we looked to their specials board, ordering 3 out of the 5 options based on protein alone! Frog, skate (similar to a sting ray), and pork in a cocktail. The latter was called the Porkolada. A tropical cocktail made slightly savoury with bacon rum and finished with a prosciutto crisp. It basically tastes like a sweet piña colada with pineapple, orange juice, and coconut. I just wish there was more bacon flavour in the mix. I expected and wanted it more savoury like a haiwanian pizza.
My guest got the Bent, Not Broken cocktail; featuring Tanqueray No. 10 gin, vodka, lemon infused lillet blanc, and charred rosemary olive oil. It is stirred, not shaken, and twice burnt. This one is a show stopper with a torch and a fire show. The result: a strong basil finish with oiliness.
His next one was the restaurant’s name sake drink: The Straight & Marrow, that came with a story. The creative bartender combined wine and left over beef broth on a whim and thus this one of a kind cocktail was born. Marrow infused mongrel, B&B, orange, lemon, beef stock, red wine, Miss Betters black pepper, and black cardamom bitters. It was described as being complexed, and it delivered on that. This was a drink that kept changing in your mouth. It started savoury and rich with plenty of warmth form the bone marrow. Then ended, leaving you with a refreshing last note.
From there my guest took his drink to the Inverse Boilermaker. This was a more classic stiff drink, made with Bulliet bourbon, spiced porter reduction syrup, and fig.
As for food, the following is what we ordered, in the order that it came in. This is the fried skate wing with celeriac slaw, guanciale-tomato vinaigrette, and brown butter powder. Skate is like a mantra ray. Its flesh is similar to white fish, but more fibrous. You didn’t taste it, but instead the batter that coated it. The skate had a clean flavour, and a safe one for those fearful of trying something new. It reminded me of a dressed up fish and chips; just missing the tangy tartar sauce. Commercial, subtle, and easy. It just needed some salt.
If the skate wing was like fish and chips, the Frog N’ Grits was like fried chicken. It was prepared with a Creole sauce made with lardon, garlic scapes, and green onion on creamy polenta. With the small bones it ate like chicken feet, but what little meat you got was super tasty for a small plate. I found the garlic scapes noteworthy, they reminded me of green beans, in fact I thought they were until I had to write this review.
The Tongue in Cheek was a clever name for this plate centred around beef tongue. Crispy Beef Tongue, Braised Beef Cheeks, and a Root Vegetable “Risotto”. If you didn’t know this was tongue meat, you wouldn’t be able to tell that it was with the way it was sliced and presented, like art. As for how it ate, the initial flavour reminded me of spam, salty then gamey before it dulls and blends in with the diced vegetables. This was as memorable as the others, especially in comparison to the bone marrow below.
This was a large bone dressed with Chicken Cracklin, Pickled Shiitake, and Porcini Dust. You dig and gouge fatty oils from the halved bone and smear it over a hard crostini. It is so rich and sumptuous that you really can’t have too much, therefore it is best to share. I do suggest that you elongate your bone marrow experience by adding on the Cognac Luge option to your dish.
You order a shot of cognac to be able to take by way of a bone slide. To do this you need a friend. You hold the hollow bone to your lips and have a buddy pour the cognac into it. You then slurp and sip the liquor that mixes with the excess fattiness that is still left on the bone. The activity itself has you concentrating on precision and less on the flavour of the spirit. But it is still worth it as the feat is just as fun as the drink.
In short, this is a unique restaurant with a one of a kind concept. A great interactive dining experience that has you trying something new that you may otherwise not get to, or know that you even wanted to.
Straight & Marrow
1869 Powell St, Vancouver, BC V5L 1H8