Weslodge Saloon: Making the Case for Meat

As I sat down at Weslodge Saloon on Toronto’s King Street W to enjoy an array of assorted meats (duck, lamb, pork, rib eye and hen — each braised, smoked, marinate or fried to perfection) I heard someone say, “Is it bad to eat this much meat?”

In a time when the vegan and vegetarian lifestyles — and their promises of cleaner, healthier diets — are converting meat-lovers daily, I thought to myself, “Is it?” After my first bite of succulent lamb rib, I reassured myself, “Of course not, silly.”

Don’t get me wrong. Consuming a daily platter of meat is sure to cause long-term damage, but I say, “Meat eaters unite! Moderately.”

And so, with this in mind, I recommend taking inspiration from Weslodge’s executive chef Stuart Cameron and chef Kanida Chey and try something a littler meatier for your next gathering.

“Our goal is to cook really familiar foods using the best ingredients made in-house and do it with a level of technique that isn’t typical. It’s an approach that allows us to reinvent the classics and highlight the extraordinary flavours of the premium meats we have always been serving our guests.”

We’re coming out of a long winter, and this is our last hurrah before summer salads and fresh juices. And why not think outside of the butcher box?

The Cutting Board at Weslodge is filled with distinct cuts of meat you wouldn’t usually think to use. And they’re crowd-pleasers because of this. The lamb ribs are rubbed in a coffee and bourbon mixture, slow-cooked over night, and then covered in a house sauce and a pistachio crust. You may think ribs are ribs, but this is not so when you swap pork for lamb, which is richer in flavour.

Marinated in bourbon and cayenne pepper for a day and then sous vide for several hours, the crispy hen had everyone at our table reaching for more. And why not ditch chicken for hen? The flavour is familiar, yet a welcome change. This meat was complemented by the bourbon and cayenne pepper and amazed guests in a way I don’t think chicken ever could.

The pork shoulder was marinated in soy, white vinegar, bay leaf and sweet lemon/lime soda and slow roasted for an Asian-inspired twist. The rib eye was dry-aged for a minimum of 38 days and was beyond juicy and tender. And the Muscovy duck sausage was the biggest surprise to many. Most of us had never tried duck sausage before. Have you?

But what is a platter of meat without a side of carbs? Mac n’ cheese was smothered in a béchamel and buffalo ricotta cheese sauce and topped with a bacon crumble. And an array of comfort food would be nothing without buttermilk biscuits filled with hints of spicy jalapeño. As a palate cleanser, our taste buds were treated to fresh Cuban slaw filled with julienned pickled jicama, carrots and apple.

If you’ve got a good butcher nearby and know a few meat lovers, there’s no reason you can’t take notes and recreate this protein-filled masterpiece in your own home. Or, if you’re now craving the real deal, visit Weslodge Saloon at 480 King St., W Toronto, the shareable new platter is $29. Be sure to arrive on an empty stomach.