It's a pretty big gamble to name your restaurant Wurst. If it's good, it's funny and ironic. If not, well, it's still funny, unless you're the owner. About a month ago, I was invited to the grand opening to see whether irony was alive and well. Since it was the same week as Father's Day, and my dad's birthday, and Dad is Hungary-born and German-descended, I couldn't think of anyone better to accompany me to check out one of the few Bavarian spots in Calgary.
Funnily enough, Wurst has taken over the spot at the corner of 4th Street and 25th Avenue in Mission that was Wildwood, and before that, the Gasthaus, so although it's certainly evolved, it's not a huge departure from the previous tenants, like a sushi or even French restaurant would have been.
Visually, there are links (especially to Wildwood) too. It's kept the same concept, with the more formal restaurant (which is pretty but not stuffy, combining twinkle-lighted trees and wood furniture) upstairs and the beer parlour down. You can rent a 'stall' for your favourite beer stein if you plan to be a regular, and there are massive wood tables with benches as well as some smaller booths filling the basement space.
The event menu featured items that were cocktail-appropriate rather than entrées, but most everything we tried is on the regular menu.
There were two lamb dishes, a slider that was Dad's favourite item of the night (I really liked it as well), and shredded lamb in an egg-roll wrapper that was much more gamey. Given a choice of the two, take the slider.
A short rib profiterole was one of the more unique hors d'oeuvre items I've encountered. Though short ribs aren't my favourite cut of beef, this preparation showcased their good points, as the meat was tender and the profiterole was firm enough to hold up underneath so it didn't make a mess, which is always a good quality in a canapé.
The venison corndog was fine, but for the amount of effort (and probably money) spent sourcing the venison, neither of us found them all that special. I like my corndogs cornier, and there was nothing particularly distinguishing it from any other gourmet corndog.
The pretzel buns, which are probably my favourite kind of bun in the world, were literally the size of my head. Dad and I split one, and we still didn't finish it. The size didn't compromise the texture, and they were a little on the sweet side - possibly honey-brushed. Some people will love that, some won't. I prefer them saltier, but fortunately, their homemade soft pretzels answered that call, so really, between them and the pretzel buns, you've got something for both sweet and savoury palates.
The pretzels themselves were fabulous - a nice balance of soft and chewy, and marvellous in the cheese fondue. Long-time readers of my column know that I'm a total fondue snob. I've yet to find a restaurant in Calgary that makes a better cheese fondue than my own, but Wurst might be it. Their version is tangy and creamy and a lovely complement to the salty pretzel.
Of course, we had to try their namesake meat, which was miniaturized - Dad thought it looked like a breakfast sausage link - but that may well have been just to fit cocktail proportions. Flavour-wise, they were nice and mild.
The charcuterie meats were very well done, some that obviously air-dried. Dad tried a paté that I missed, and he said it was excellent too. Though I didn't see any that night, their à la carte menu online lists some very traditional German items I'll be excited to try on a future visit - landjäger sausage and leberkese meatloaf.
For desserts, we sampled a mini fruit tart which was quite nice in flavour, from the fresh fruit to the nice buttery pastry. In terms of composition, the balance was a little off, as there was too much tart, and too little whipped cream. Even Dad, who doesn't much care for chocolate, liked their chocolate mousse, as it was quite light and not overly sweet.
Overall, Wurst is closer to Best. Irony is alive and well, and the one redeeming factor of publishing this column so late is that I can tell you Dad enjoyed it so much that he's already been back with Mom and some friends, and they all loved it too.
Wurst Restaurant & Beer Hall
2437 4 Street SW