Chef Jason Leizert of Kelowna's newest restaurant, Salted Brick
Chef Jason Leizert goes hog wild
A veteran chef who honed his knives at Vancouver’s Save-On Meats, Boneta and, counter-intuitively, at the all-vegetarian The Parker, Jason Leizert is now Kelowna’s resident tip-to-tail expert. If I needed proof, I found it recently in a plump pork chop, served with a farrago of braised cabbage and apple, that put paid to a wintry day. In Leizert’s deli cooler more evidence lies in state: carefully cured hams, salamis, lardo and a majestic duck prosciutto are on display for those of us who want to take something delicious home.
Cold cuts, which food snots call charcuterie (which might just be baloney), enjoy a lengthy heritage in the Okanagan. Old world butchers with the names of Illichmann and Reiner and their peers, made sausages and cured meats for us for decades. And at the nearby Micro Bar + Bites, which surely is why the German word gemütlichkeit (warm, friendly, cosy) was invented, chef Evelynn Takoff makes a fine charcuterie board too - the duck salami and paté are exquisite.
Pork chop, Chef Jason in the curing room, meats curing and aging
But no one has staked a claim like Leizert to such a diverse offering of cured and smoked meats. And for that matter, fish – we’d heard that some smoked steelhead was transcendent, however it wasn't on the fresh sheet the day we visited. In its place we found a classically prepared skate wing in a brown butter nage with new potatoes and capers. We began another lunch in the open-plan, brick-lined room, with blue cheese stuffed dates (50 cents a pop) and cold pours of Thirsty Beaver (it was Valentine’s Day, after all), before proceeding to a superb brisket sandwich on baguette ($8), and a ploughman’s lunch ($10) with some excellent local cheeses featured next to salami. And next to us, elegantly coiffed ladies who lunch were tackling enormous green salads (a steal at just $8) licked with a discreetly delicious vinaigrette, also winterized with house-cured country ham, blue cheese and egg.
The Salted Brick describes modern Okanagan dining, both in its sourcing of local ingredients (such as North Thompson farmer, John Clops' naturally raised pigs) and a short but dynamic wine list, but also in its design, which is a model of functionality. It was designed by Jorin Wolf and built on a modest budget: along one brick wall lies a banquette that runs the length of the dining room. Opposite is where chef Leizert whirls between his Rational oven, fridges and prep station. Much like a sushi chef, he’s available for consultation and commentary at any time, and service from the alternating squad of Jennifer Phillips and the wonderfully named Celeste Ego was as friendly and quick as lunchtime requires.
We heard a few sighs as later arrivals took their first sips of roasted carrot soup with goat cheese, but we reserved ours for housemade pickles, marinated mushrooms and another round of salami. My dining companion, normally loquacious, became silent in her savour.
prêt-à-porter charcuterie, the WC at Salted Brick, pig's head, skate wing
HOURS - Sunday to Tuesday, 10 to 6, and Wednesday to Saturday, 10 to 10
PRICING – Very reasonable
243 Bernard Avenue, adjacent to the Paramount Theatre
Jamie Maw has written about food for 25 years, and is a National Magazine Award winner. He is also an inductee in the British Columbia Restaurant Hall of Fame.