Sült is a strangely difficult and complex little word. Troy Barnaby, owner and chef of Sült Pierogi Bar, notes on the bottom of his menus that the word crosses most northern European languages. Though it seems that no two languages agree on its meaning, all do agree that it has something to do with food. And so this odd little word suitably sums up Barnaby’s epicurean passion to transform a typically unremarkable eastern European staple across a variety of exotic flavour-scapes.
Pierogis dominate Barnaby’s menu—there is little else to be had—but there is nothing one-dimensional about Sült. This menu is a road map worth following.
Though I’m a BC boy, I lived for more than twenty years in central Alberta where pierogis are a fact of life and a source of pride. I’ve had them filled with cheese, bacon, sauerkraut, and even blueberries. I’ve had them pinched, rolled, boiled, and fried. I’ve had them fresh made and commercially frozen. But I have never before experienced anything like the flavours and textures that ooze out of each of Barnaby’s creations.
My seven pierogi Sampler Plate ($13) featured one of each of the six standard options and one of the daily feature pierogi.
Standard pierogis include the Squeak, with roasted garlic, cream cheese potatoes and three cheeses, and the Gold, with curried Yukon potatoes and onion. Both of which are as standard as pierogis get at Sült. The remainder are far from standard. The Nova is filled with red chilli and fennel sausage, marinara, garlic sourdough stuffing and ricotta and asiago cheeses. The Terra has spinach, mushrooms, garlic onions and feta cheese. The Rude Boy features jerk chicken and roasted yam, and the Carne A-Suh-Dude includes chipotle-garlic braised beef, refried beans and asedero cheese. The feature pierogi for my visit was the AOC, created especially for the Art of the Cocktail seminars. It was filled with sun-dried tomatoes, garlic potato, pesto, and feta. All seven pierogis are served lined up in the order that they appear on the menu on a long rectangular plate atop the shredded sauerkraut and crumbled bacon for which I paid an extra dollar-fifty. To the side is a generous smear of sour cream. One sampler is plenty of food for one person. If the sampler seems a bit much, or if you are not so comfortable having a riot of flavours mangling your sensitive buds, then single variety pierogis can be ordered in any multiple of three for just $3.30/trio.
Alternately, Sült’s Sultry Original plates offer specific pierogis accompanied by sausages, vegetables, sauces, and/or cheeses. Sweet, smokey, spicy and savoury are all on the menu.
Sült’s decor is a downscale mix of industrial and rustic with a hint of neoclassicism in the wallpaper that leads to the kitchen and restrooms.
Colours are black and white, and surfaces include painted and unpainted brick, drywall, steel, rough wood, plywood and even PVC piping. One may choose from a hard plywood booth within the front window, a window bar with stools, or long and communal PVC structured picnic tables with thick rough hewn wooden tops and benches. Sült is spacious with high ceilings and an expansive open central area that suggests this restaurant is accustomed to long lines. The menu boards above the central counter, which stands before the kitchen pass-through initially suggests a fast food experience—order at the counter, take your tray and find a seat—but that is not the case: Sült offers full table service.
The ambience and spaciousness of the place, the rudimentary but sturdy furnishings, the abundance of inexpensive, starchy, eat-with-your-finger food, and the good selection of local brews suggests to me that Sült would be a great place for a young crowd of boisterous revellers to mill about while noisily banging their steins on those rough-hewn tables and scoffing down mountains of pierogis. Alas, this romantic vision of Northern European extravagance was only a fantasy. Perhaps my buds got a little over excited. In the future, I may be safer to stick to the Squeak. But I won’t. I like it when my taste buds dance.