How many times have you walked past this blue establishment besides Ox and Angela on the bustling 17th Ave and wondered what it is called? I always had the urge to go into the restaurant and ask the staff “what’s the name of your restaurant?”, but ended up feeling ashamed of my ignorance. Until one day my friend recommended “Cleaver” to me. Then, I made the connection. Haha, how obvious was that?!
The 50-seat restaurant only opens for dinner on weekdays and brunch on weekends to busy crowds. (It is a good idea to call beforehand to check the hours if you’re planning to come on weekend. One time we arrived for Sunday brunch, but the restaurant was closed without notice) The space was carefully crafted with exposed pipes, weathered wood, bare metal and industrial pendant light fixtures to achieve the rustic look of an old warehouse.
It was not difficult to discover all sorts of quirky touches at the corners of the restaurant, e.g., the rows of hanging cleavers behind the entrance and the big cow’s head painting on one wall.
The lively bright chatter and loud music in the background created a casual, pub-like ambiance; however, the noise level was too high to engage in conversation. It was so loud that the server had difficulty hearing what we ordered.
Specializing in European style cuisine, the restaurant served a handful of small plates, sliders, sharing meat dishes, salads, sides, cheese plank and desserts – all made from scratch!
A few dishes from the supper menu caught our attention. Kev and I ordered 2 small plates to share to begin with.
First up was the confit chicken wings ($14). Added with a dash of fresh citrus, the chicken wings took on an acidic taste. I was expecting a spicy kick from the charred jalapeno, but was disappointed by its lack of heat. The meat was dry and dull. Nothing special.
Next up was the bone marrow chimichurri ($18). The phrase “God’s butter” has been used to describe rich, decadent bone marrow. It perfectly depicted what we experienced that day! Rubbing the soft, buttery marrow onto the grilled bread, then topping it with the zesty chimichurri sauce… O.M.G. So masterfully harmonized, rich and comforting. Such a sinful dish!
We waited for almost 20 minutes before our trio sliders ($24) made it to the table. For a moment, we thought they had forgotten us. (Maybe they did?) Out of the 4 flavors of sliders, we picked spiced lamb, beef, and soft shell crab. My favorite was the deep fried soft shell crab, served with a refreshing combination of yuzu aioli and cilantro. As for the beef slider, the meat was overly well-done, and the cheese and ale sauce was a little boring. Prepared with harissa, lime creme fraiche and tomato jam, the spiced lamb yielded a sweet tomato flavor and a spicy fragrant note, but the strong gamey smell of lamb remained noticeable.
By the time our last dish, the double dipped duck fat fries ($6), had arrived, we were 80% stuffed. The curry aioli was exploded with exotic flavor, but it ended up being too heavy and intense to eat with the greasy fries. Pairing with something a bit more appetizing like tomato sauce or spicy sauce would be more ideal. Too bad they didn’t have any tomato sauce in the restaurant (can you believe that?). I was extremely disappointed by the soggy, mushy fries 😦
At an expensive restaurant like Cleaver, I have high expectations on the quality of the food and service. But both were lacking on the day we visited. The staff was friendly, but the service was slow. The food was unsatisfactory and overpriced. An average bar can make better wings, burgers, and fries.