– Words and photo by Allan Reid
I have, pre-COVID, ordered an entire roast of beef or pork from Roast, arranged for it to be ready for pick-up at just the right time for me to rush home ahead of dinner guests, whom I impress as I pull out the beautifully crusted roast from my oven, where I’ve been keeping it at a proper serving temperature.
I get oohs and ahhs as I slice into the hot, juicy, perfectly cooked meat, and I’ve never failed to hear rave reviews as the roast quickly disappears before my eyes. If I were not so honest, my guests would never know that I didn’t cook it.
Roast was one of the first tenants in the Victoria Public Market when it opened in 2010, occupying a sliver of the former ground floor of the historic (1921) Hudson’s Bay Company building on Douglas Street between Fisgard and Herald. The market offers a back-to-the-concrete industrial vibe, populated by meticulously marketed trend-forward specialty shops and eateries, offering high quality goods and fast foods that aren’t “fast food.” Roast fits this mood perfectly.
Black metal caging above sight level draws the eye to glossy wooden tables behind sleek rail-fencing. Two succulent roasts sit ready for slicing on the butcher block counter, while chickens roll on spits behind. The intoxicating aroma of roasted meat, hot herbs and spices wafts through the market air. The beef roast is pleasingly pinkish-red inside, the pork is lightly cooked through.
I order the Porchetta Sandwich (pork) with salsa verde, a broccolini stalk and provolone cheese, and then watch as my portion is hand carved into slabs, and chopped into smaller bite-size pieces that are piled high onto a large butter-topped roll. I have come with a bevy of friends, among whom we sample, in addition to my own sandwich, the Roast Beef Sandwich (all sandwiches are $12), the beef and pork Arrabbiata Meatballs ($11) and a Roast Beef Bowl ($15). Bowls include a choice of two sides in lieu of the bun.
With my first bite, I immediately regret the bun, which is cold, too dense and too white. It dominates the sandwich, detracting from the meat, which is just warm. I find myself wishing, first that the bun had been toasted, and then that the whole sandwich had been heated, either in a TurboChef-style speed oven, or on a panini grill. I am longing, at least, for the provolone to be melted.
My companions offered pretty much the same complaint. One might expect the sides served in the bowl to be cold, but the anticipated contrast of hot meat was sadly missing. A side order of Roasted Potatoes ($6) were, likewise, just warm.
On the other hand, the meatballs were well received. Six or seven two-bite balls are served in a cup and covered with Arrabbiata sauce. Arrabbiata is Italian for angry, for this red sauce is often a quite spicy. But this has a rather mild temper, which is cooled further by the salsa verde and the finely grated grano padano cheese.
Despite my disappointing sandwich, I will still, without question, order a whole roast to take home for a celebratory feast. Prepared roasts can be ordered by the pound online for pick-up or curb-side delivery at a cost of $12-14 per serving (assuming 6-8 oz/person), and they are, from my past experiences, exquisite.