2551 W. Broadway
Open for Dinner: Tuesday to Sunday, from 5:30 p.m.
Signature Drink: It’s all about wine…
Signature Dish: Beet & Vodka-Cured Hamachi
Dinner & drinks for two: $200+
Same name, with a whole new game
Under the former direction of Chef Rob Feenie, it used to be one of the priciest menus in the city, in a room that smacked of nouveau institutional chill. The food was wildly inventive and often amazing, but untended farmland tends to go fallow, and the lack of presence of the main draw (Feenie himself) led to a slump in food and service.
Fast-forward to today, and you have a hot New York chef (Daniel Boulud) stepping in and creating a menu that is now put out by an even hotter team. Executive Chef Dale McKay (who used to work under Gordon Ramsey) is young, highly talented and obviously passionate about what he does. That passion, in turn, is passed through to the rest of the kitchen and front of house teams. The result is a smooth, seamless waltz between service and food. It’s still high on the price point, but the room is now a warm, small boudoir of a space that cossets diners, instead of confining them, and the attentive (and pre-emptive) service is pretty easy to get used to.
Little pouffes for your purse, multiple drapings of heavy linen over well-space tables, a velvet-curtained entry way (although this did feel a little claustrophobic) and closed sheers across the windows all create a feeling of privacy, intimacy and luxury. In fact, the atmosphere so strongly suggested “boudoir” that I was almost surprised not to find some private “lounging” areas at the back.
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My group of three decided to go for the three-course prix fixe option, normally $98 per person. The only other options are the six-course tasting menu for $135 (a vegetarian version is available for the same price) and the nine-course grand tasting menu for $175. A la carte is just a dirty thought here.
Before we could even order, however, we were served a complimentary trio of canapés, all based around butternut squash. Turns out this, as well as a gratis bowl of lemon madeleines post-meal, is du rigueur here. The canapés were fantastic. Hamachi maki sat over some butternut squash foam, a squash velouté soup was creamy and flavourful, and a small squash terrine smacked of foie gras or some such richness. I was digging it.
Our three-course menu was four pages long, with at least five selections per course -- you can’t complain of not having enough choices. Nova Scotia lobster bisque was poured out tableside over artichokes, lobster mousse and tarragon froth. Beet and vodka-cured hamachi was just amazing, topped with white sturgeon caviar and horseradish cream. A pheasant and foie gras terrine combined tiny pickled mushrooms with meat so rich that it was almost indistinguishable from the foie—a little of that definitely went a long way.
My main of duck in a ginger-pomegranate glaze was delightful, especially the tiny duck spring rolls that just melted on the tongue and lovely yam-banana puree. One friend’s duo of prime beef was very nice, although her habit of ordering it well-done rather ruined the flavour for me. I think the dish would fare better if more pink was allowed to remain in the flesh. Then again, anything done more than wounded and bloody is too much for me, so you decide.
Desserts were not so much of a hit. While my deconstructed apple pie was to die for, with its cinnamon froth, mille-feuille sticks, vanilla diplomat cream and fresh apple confit, a chocolate-mocha “bar” with espresso-caramel ice cream and a chestnut-chocolate sundae with ginger gelato were flavour pairings that left us all untouched. Sometimes, innovation can be taken a bit far for certain tastes, mine included, but, hey, one woman’s “no way”…
This isn’t the place to go for a rowdy girls’ night out, but if you’re looking for a romantic and intimate setting, whether for couples or groups, with adventurous and innovative food, stellar service, and that certain je ne sais quoi—then this is definitely your ticket.
The Many Sides of Pinot: Pinot Noir Icewine
One generally doesn’t think of Pinot Noir in the same category as Muscat or Riesling, but its potential as a great dessert wine is well known in wine circles and for good reason. The darker berry and caramel palate of most Pinot Noir icewines make them the perfect accompaniment to dark chocolate desserts or as a stand-alone sipper post-supper. One to try: Paradise Ranch 2005 Pinot Noir Icewine, $50.01 at BCLS or VQA stores. The cranberry, cinnamon and pecan aromas are enough to incite a night full of lust.
On Saturday, February 21 at 5:29 p.m. sharp, Vancouver’s first outdoor light-as-art show, Illuminate Yaletown, kicks off). Enjoy the dance, music, displays and fireworks before going into the Fire and Ice Cocktail Party at the Hamilton Street Grill (1009 Hamilton St). Three cocktails and three hors d’oeuvres for $25. For more info, call 604-331-1511.
The Refinery (1115 Granville St) is offering a special Valentine’s Day menu for $69 per couple. Explore France, Italy, Spain and B.C. with cheeses like brie de meaux and taleggio, mussels with chorizo, prosciutto di Parma and some Okanagan goat cheese cake with caramel almond crust. Call 604-687-8001 or visit therefineryvancouver.com
Figmint (500 West 12 Ave) has launched La Petite Grande Bouche (Little Big Mouth), a special prix fixe option made up of items from the a la carte menu. Get two courses for $30 or three courses for $35. Options include white onion and Riesling soup with soft poached egg, braised lamb cheeks, ricotta gnocchi and dessert. Call 604-875-3312 or visit figmintrestaurant.com.
Food in Brief
Andrey Durbach’s Parkside Restaurant (1906 Haro St) will be closing on March 1 and re-opening later in the month as a second location of his popular La Buca Trattoria. Durbach stated the economic downturn is behind the refit.
Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks has announced the winner of their 2009 Cookbook Awards—Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, by Jennifer McLagen. After seeing the tantalizing photography, you might wonder why you have stayed away so long…