Straight & Marrow is the product of chef and owner Chris Lam’s Asian heritage combined with his nose-to-tail dining philosophy. Serving a menu of often over-looked offcuts and offal, Straight & Marrow opened in 2020 in the space previously occupied by Bistro Wagon Rouge on Powell Street. It is a cosy, intimate restaurant. The long and narrow space very likely inspired Straight & Marrow’s name.
The Meat and the Marrow
The restaurant’s name also inspired the eponymous Straight & Marrow cocktail. It is made with bone marrow infused brandy as well as beef stock. It actually doesn’t taste overly meaty or savoury because of the balance provided by the other ingredients which include Benedictine, red wine, and black pepper, as well as orange and lemon. Another wine cocktail is the Rey de Fuego. Served in a spice rubbed glass, this cocktail contains a warming chili-thyme syrup. The mix of Blanco Tequila, grapefruit, lime, and sparkling wine makes it an excellent aperitif.
Straight & Marrow is informed by serious, thoughtful food philosophy but there is still a lightness and sense of whimsy to the menu. For a restaurant partly named for the jiggling, savoury, creamy edible insides of an animal’s femur, of course they have Bone Marrow on the menu. Pickled shiitake and arugula salad brighten this rich dish. To illustrate the whimsical, rascally nature of Straight & Marrow’s menu, when you’re finished eating the marrow, you can add a shot of brandy and take it via the bone luge. Straight & Marrow is not a particularly large restaurant so this shot-taking instantly becomes a dramatic point of interest for all of the guests. Once you see another table order a round of bone marrow shots, you’ll want to try too.
Getting to the Heart of the Matter
One of my absolute favourite dishes of all time is tartare so I had to try Straight & Marrow’s iteration. Chef Chris has created a Korean Beef Heart Tartare. Heart works very well in a tartare because it has a more muscular chew than chopped filet mignon, for example. Darkside had a beef heart tartare on their menu but they are closed now so Straight & Marrow is the place to go if you want to try heart. Served with rice crisps and pickled daikon, Straight & Marrow’s tartare is texturally playful. Another dish equally defined by its textural contrasts is the Soft Shell Crab. The deep-fried crab comes on a bed of crunchy green cabbage, topped with a salty prosciutto crisp. The creaminess of the dish comes from the avocado tomato salsa and the crab butter aioli.
Straight Feasting and the Best Brisket
Straight & Marrow doesn’t have an appetizer section. All of the dinner dishes are listed together so you can pick and choose what you would like to taste, try, and share. Other dishes on the menu that caught my eye but I didn’t get a chance to try include the Scallop Mac & Cheese, the Reuben Gnocchi, and the Roasted Lamb Belly. Before continuing onto maybe my absolute favourite dish, it was time for another cocktail.
The Thai One On is a creamy, cool Bourbon-based cocktail with coconut, ginger, and kafir lime leaf. The egg white used also adds to the silky mouthfeel created by the coconut. The slight sweetness of the Thai One On pairs well with the savoury umami bomb that is the Beef Brisket. This dish was my favourite. The brisket is fork-tender and juicy and, on its own, would be delicious but pairing it with the salsa verde risotto is what makes this dish truly memorable. It is bright and fresh. Chef Chris even adds a lime crème fraîche and a green onion and tomato salad. The dish is garnished with an unusual ingredient, escamol, which is also known as Mexican caviar. It is edible ant pupae and larvae that adds texture as well as a nutty, creaminess to the dish.
Continuing to weave whimsy into the menu, Straight & Marrow has a surprising and creative dessert: the Hoof Wing and Fin Mille Feuille. It is made of puff pastry with chicken liver mousse (yes, it is a dessert!) and a fish sauce caramel. Then the whole thing is dusted in duck fat icing sugar. It might sound strange but the flavours work excellently together. The fish sauce caramel is an ingenious combination of salty, savoury, and sweet.
The flavours and textures at Straight & Marrow are playful, and the ingredients used are often overlooked or misunderstood. Chef Chris has created a menu well suited for sharing with each bite offering a surprise.