Saturday, 29 December 2012

“On pointe” at the Pointe Restaurant at Wickaninnish Inn

The Pointe Restaurant at the Wickaninnish Inn

Tastiness Factor: 4/5

Atmosphere: 4.75/5

Service: 4/5 (For the resort as a whole, a resounding 5/5!)

Locavore Approved? YES (sustainable and locally caught seafood, focus on seasonal ingredients, many ingredients prepared right in house including bread and bacon)

Because we did not have enough time off to make the long trip back to Newfoundland for Xmas again this year, we wanted to do something a bit different over the holidays this year.  It has been a busy few months for the both of us, so the idea of a mini-getaway was very appealing.  We immediately thought of the great time that we had a few summers ago in Tofino on Vancouver Island and, after a brief google search for “Xmas getaways Tofino”, we stumbled across the holiday package offered at the Wickininnish Inn.  This Inn, which holds the prestigious “Relais et Chateaux” designation, has been named “Best Resort” by Travel and Leisure Magazine and, having now experienced it for myself, it is very clear why.  This place is top-class in every respect, with service far above any place I have ever stayed.  I strongly encourage you to discover this extraordinary getaway for yourself if you are able.  The Holiday package that experienced was a very special treat that we will never forget. 

We had several meals at Wickaninnish’s Pointe Restaurant courtesy of our Xmas package (one dinner, two brunches and a Xmas drink).  The atmosphere at Pointe is unbeatable.  The restaurant is built on side of the resort overlooking the water and it juts out of the building such that you are almost sitting on top of the crashing waves.  And crash they did.  Winter is storm season in Tofino and, even though the weather was relatively mild while we were there, the waves were very impressive to watch from our perch at Pointe. 


In keeping with its status as a Relais et Chateau destination, Wickaninnish Inn prides itself in fantastic service.  The service that we received from the resort staff was without a doubt the best that I have experienced thus far.  Fortunately, the service at Pointe followed suit for the most part, although there were a few minor blips that occurred over the course of the meals/drinks that were a bit substandard compared with the rest of our experience at “The Wick”. 

Our first dining experience was a brunch at Pointe on Xmas Day.  We were both pretty hungry and therefore decided to order some of the larger brunch items.  There was a special brunch menu that day, offering dishes with a seasonal twist.  There was a myriad of dishes to choose from, whether you were in the mood for sweet and decadent (eggnog-dipped French Toast with deep fried ice cream), to light a healthy (oatmeal with cranberry compote) to somewhere in between (pulled pork benny, hamhock hash).   Unfortunately, service was not quite up to snuff during this visit, although, in credit to our server (who was quite friendly), it seemed that he had many patrons to look after at that time.  My water glass was not refilled once (I polished off my husband and then had to chase down another server to get it filled), and I did not get the sweetener or the ketchup that I requested.  Our dinner was also quite slow coming out of the kitchen. 


Here were our Xmas picks:

The Pointe Breakfast- My husband, being a breakfast purist, went with the standard breakfast.  I trust his opinion entirely on this one, as he has had many a bacon-and-egg breakfast in his time.   Fortunately, he had only good things to say about the Pointe Breakfast.  It came with your choice of egg, bacon or sausage, a piece of potato rosti with a lovely tomato jam and homemade toast (rye, sourdough or whole wheat).  On the side was a lovely strawberry jam that he absolutely devoured (along with my serving!).  Very basic, but very well done for a breakfast purist like my hubby.




The Tofino Omelet- This was a special offering for Xmas brunch (nothing like it on the regular menu) and special it was.  The 3-egg omelet was stuffed full (and I mean full) with fresh salmon, smoked salmon and shrimp.  This is one high-class omelet!  The fish was accompanied by cream cheese for extra richness.  As if this was not good enough, they also had sprinkled deep-fried capers on top which added the perfect crispy, salty bite.  On the side was confit potatoes (these were just ok) and then I added a side of the homemade toast (loved the poppyseeds in the whole wheat toast!).  Overall, a very special brunch for a special Xmas day.



Next in line came our holiday drinks which we enjoyed at the “On the Rocks” bar, which is an extension of the Pointe Restaurant.  They have quite an extensive cocktail menu, including two whole pages of Holiday drinks.  I chose the “Wreath and Mistletoe”, made of gin, cherry brandy and lime juice with the martini glass rim covered in sugar and pistachio dust.  It included just the perfect amount of sweetness with nice holiday flavor.  My husband ordered a drink from the regular cocktail menu, that was supposedly made of whisky and infused with house-made cured bacon.  Unfortunately, he really did not like his drink at all and doubted that it was actually the one he ordered (he did not taste any whiskey).  Also, it took almost 20 minutes to get the drinks after ordering.  




Fortunately, our Xmas meal to follow was a far bigger success.  Service was I had come to expect from “The Wick”.  Attentive, knowledgeable, friendly and timely.  Our waiter had great confidence in describing our dishes and making recommendations.  The menu, being largely meat-based, was tailored to suit my pescatarian needs.  Dishes were served in a timely manner and water glasses were refilled often.  And, with the waves crashing against the rocks just beneath us, who could ask for more?  Here is a detailed look at our holiday fare:


Quinoa with cranberry (amouse-bouche)- this was probably the most unique amouse I have ever had and it was delectable.  The texture of the quinoa was lovely, and the cranberry added a nice holiday touch.  Even my husband who is usually not one for “health food” like quinoa loved this little mouthful.



Salad and shrimp- This simple and light dish, made with local shrimp (I was told by the waiter that the “chef would rather die than to use frozen shrimp”) was a nice start to the meal.  The side striped shrimp were served on a lovely bed of fresh frisee and served with  a tasty mayonnaise-based dressing drizzled on the side so that the frisee stayed crisp. 



Ham croquette- This was the second dish on the standard Xmas dinner.  Fried and served on a sweet and sour broth, It seemed like a bit of an odd way to incorporate Xmas ham into the meal, but one cannot argue with success as my husband thoroughly enjoyed this dish.  He found the broth especially flavorful and licked up every last bit from the bottom of the bowl (figuratively of course!).  Although I cannot comment on the taste, I did find the dish rather unattractive, especially as a holiday dish.  A little dash of color would have added a lot to the visual appeal.



Potato-wrapped oyster- For my pescatarian replacement for the ham croquette, I received quite a treat.  I was told by the server that this was the chef’s signature dish and that he had competed with it at last year’s Golden Plate Awards.  As someone who does not like oysters, this dish was fabulous.  First of all, it was beautiful visually, with the potato wrapped like golden straw around the cooked oyster.  Beneath the oyster was a mountain of a sort of slaw, then at the very bottom there was an exquisite pool of a light cream sauce.  This dish contained multiple layers of complexity that worked beautifully together.  I would eat an oyster prepared this way again any day!



Cranberry sorbet- What a nice surprise to have a pallet cleanser as part of our Xmas dinner, especially with such festive flair.  The sorbet itself was lovely, but what really made it for me was the pieces of spicy candied ginger over top.  Loved it!



Turkey dinner- what would Xmas be for any carnivore without the turkey? This version of the traditional Xmas meal featured all of the fixings including dressing (my husband's favourite part of the meal), cranberry sauce (big and juicy whole cranberries), mashed potatoes, a huge mound of Xmas dinner veggies (turnip, carrots, brussel sprouts) and of course turkey (both light and dark). I was quite impressed at the portion size- certainly not your typical fine dining size but very fitting for a splurge on Xmas. I appreciated how the chef kept this one straightforward- why mess with tradition?


Arctic char- this was the Xmas dinner substitute that the chef kindly created for me.  It was derived from a dish on their regular menu, with a few twists to make it "Christmassy".  This dish was an absolute winner for me.  The Arctic char (caught locally) was cooked perfectly and was topped with beautiful ribbons of butternut squash (so pretty!). Underneath was a light puffed barley and a sweet butternut squash purée. What really set this dish apart was the black garlic purée that was artfully smeared under the fish.  This was quite a bold move by the chef as this purée gives a huge garlic punch.  With the other subtle flavours of the dish, it acts as an amazing contrast.  It is also extremely beautiful next to the orange squash purée. I felt like a princess having such a phenomenal dish prepared just for me!   




Dessert- After such a phenomenal main, this was unfortunately a big miss for me and my husband certainly concurred.  I actually thought that this would be my kind of dessert (I am not a sweet fan), as it was made of squash.  Pointe specializes in unique desserts, and actually has a seperate category of desserts entitled "unconventional", which features "non-dessert" type ingredients (beet, smoked tomato").  Strangely enough, the few strands of squash on the plate were the only part of the dessert that I actually enjoyed. The other elements on the plate , an awkward combo of chocolate, ice cream and pea shoots (yes pea shoots) just did not work together.  The worst part however was an off-puttig transparent jelly-like substance sandwiched between the base and the ice cream. Not sure what its purpose was but after taking a bite of it, I could not finish the rest of the dessert.  An unfortunate end.



 Although it ended on a bit of a low, the complete meal was a success in my opinion.  The service was spot on (they redeemed themselves after the lukewarm brunch service), the atmosphere was second-to-none and most courses were both delicious and festive.  The Xmas dinner was a strong finale to our very memorable holiday in Tofino.  

A big thanks to the Wickaninnish Inn for making our holiday so special.


The Pointe Restaurant at the Wickaninnish Inn on Urbanspoon












Wednesday, 26 December 2012

The Perfect Christmas Eve Dinner in Tofino at Spotted Bear

The Spotted Bear Bistro

101 4 Street  Tofino, BC V0R
(250) 725-2215

Tastiness Factor: 4.5/5

Atmosphere: 4/5

Service: 4.5/5

Locavore approved? YES- very dedicated to using seasonal and local produce and proteins, menu tweeked regularly based on what is fresh and available

On our trip to Tofino in the summer of 2011, we had heard great things about the Spotted Bear but had already had our reservations made (Sobo, Shelter) so sadly had to foego eating here but vowed that it would be on our list the next time. 

So now that we are on trip #2 to Tofino for a little Xmas getaway, I called ahead and booked us in for Xmas Eve dinner at the Spotted Bear.  The chef here has worked at many renowned establishments including Vancouver's La Crocodile and Lumiere before branching out on his own to open this small restaurant in Tofino.  

The Spotted Bear is located in the heart of the tiny surfing vilage of Tofino on the west side of Vancouver Island.  Tofino is known for its very friendly and laidback atmosphere, making fine-dining pretty much obsolete.  Although there are a number of good food destinations in the city, you can pretty much walk in anywhere in jeans and be in good company.

The atmosphere at the Spotted Bear fits in very well with Tofino's relaxed vibe.  It is a very small space, with an open kitchen occupying almost half of the restaurant and a space for no more than 25 guests at the back.  The decor is rustic and minimalist, but also very warm and inviting.  Not an ounce of pretention here.


The service that we received on our visit was certainly above average.  I called the night before our reservation to ask if we could make it a bit later, and received a very apologetic email reply the next day saying that we were their last table for Xmas Eve but that they could change it to any other night of our choosing if we so wished.  After our visit, they emailed me again to let me know that I had left my purse there and then made themselved available on Boxing Day when they were not even opened so that I could pick it up.  During our meal, we had a very friendly server who, despite us being their last table on Xmas Eve, did in no way make us feel rushed and was was very knowledgeable about the menu.

The menu at the Spotted Bear is quite small but varied, and offers something for every palate.  From what I have read on other reviews, the basics of the dishes remain similar, but the details change based on seasonality of ingredients.  There is certainly a very "wintery" feel to the current menu, featuring veg like kale, greens and beets.  Here were our choices for the evening:

Beet Salad- One could argue that this dish is probably way overdone these days (difficult to find a menu that does not have one on its appie list) but I guess I am just a sucker and cannot help but keep order it again and again.  And I am glad that I did not stop this trend at Spotted bear.  Their version included not only beautiful yellow beets, but also the freshest of local greens, sweet crystaized pumpkin seeds (loved these!) and a generous helping of crumbled goat cheese. Certainly one of the most generous servings I have seen, and I could have easily ate another plate!  If I had to give one criticism, I would say that they were perhaps a bit heavy-handed on the citrus dressing but that did not stop me from finishing every last morsel:) 



Tuna Tartare- Just as I keep ordering beet salad again, my husband cannot resist getting tuna tartare wherever it is offered.  This was a unique take on this popular dish, as instead of asian flavours, it went more italian with a soy truffle vinagrette.  Although my husband likes truffled and happily polished off the appie, he was not completely sold on this unique flavour combination.  I tasted a bite, and must admit that the truffle flavour was very pronouced and perhaps a bit overbearing.  The tuna, however, was very fresh and the presentation in a mason jar was charming.



Wild Salmon- I spent a while debating between this dish and the seafood Pho which has gotten such rave reviews, but I am SO glad that I settled on this dish in the end.  This was definately among the best fish dishes of the year for me.  The very generous portion of salmon was cooked perfectly (the middle was still rare as it should be!) and left plain and simple to let that its natural flavours shine.  Beneath it was an African-spiced isreali couscous mixed with leeks, beets and the sweetest, most succulent grape tomatoes I have ever had (would love to know the chef's secret!!!).  The side of kale balanced out the dish nicely and added great visual contrast.  



Pasta- My husband is on a bit of a pasta kick lately, and the addition of braised chicken and chilies sold him on this dish.  He really enjoyed the flavours of the dish, especially with the coating of fresh parmesan overtop (he even polished off most of the kale!).  The chicken nestled amounst the moodles was tender and juicy.  A simple, yet well-executed dish.



The portions were quite large, and therefore we both had to forego dessert for the evening.  We were already very satisfied by our delicious meal at Spotted Bear and ready to go home to wait for Santa's arrival.  We look forward to returning in the summer to see the magic that the chef can make with a totally different set of ingredients.  Until then, we will hold onto very dear memories of our Xmas Eve dinner at the Spotted Bear.  

Spotted Bear Bistro on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Fond Holiday Memories at the Shangri-La

Shangri-La Hotel Chirstmas Party- A Sneak Peak at Market by Jean-George

1115 Alberni Street  Vancouver, BC V6E 1A1
(604) 695-1115

Tastiness Factor: 4./5

Service, Atmosphere, Locavore Approved- N/A 

My husband's Xmas party was held this year at the Shangri-La, where resides Market by Jean Georges.  This review is based on the catered dinner that we were served at the party and therefore, does not truly reflect a meal at Market itself.  I did note though that the dishes that we were served were found on their regular dinner menu.

I cannot really speak to the service or the atmosphere at Market as I doubt that service for a group of 40 people, held in a banquet room, is reflective of the Market experience.  I must say though that the whole evening went very smothly and that all of the staff that I encountered seemed very experienced.  

We were treated to a three course dinner, with a set appetizer, choice of 3 mains (meat, fish, veg) and a set dessert.  In my past experiences with similar group dinners, I have never been impressed by the food.  It is usually free, so you cannot really complain about the mass-produced feel of the meal.  

I was pleasantly surprised to have a much higher-quality meal at Shangri-La's attempt at banquet-fare.  The main dishes came right off their main menu and both taste and presentation were on par from what I would expect from a high-end non-group dinner.   Here is the run-down of the meal:

Appetizer: Arugula Salad with Goat Cheese- nice, light opener but a little "cookie cutter".  When have you gone to a group dinner or baquet and not had the stereotypical salad?  This salad was certainly a notch above most mass-produced salad, made special by the very fresh arugula and the top quality goat cheese.  A little creativity would have been nice though.


Main 1 (Seafood option): Sablefish with scallion-chili compote and thai basil- This was my choice- how could I resist the buttery goodness of sablefish!  But, to my surprise, sablefish was not the star of this dish.  Althoough it was cooked to perfection and very well seared, it was the scallion-chili compote upon which it sat that makes me rave about this dish.  Sublime!  Unlike the first course, this is certainly not your average banquet fare!


Main 2 (Meat): Beef tenderloin with brocolli and chili- All hail this dish!  Not only did my husband really enjoy his steak but, to my great surprise, he ate his brocolli!  It takes a miracle worker of a chef to accomplish this feat.  I have been trying for years without any luck.  And he actually ate every piece and enjoyed it! 


Main 3 (Veg): Gnocci with carmelized squash- I did not get to try this dish but others at the table who ordered it said it was just "OK".  The consensus was that the taste of the squash was very mild and that the dish lacked flavour (why is this the case in so many of the vegetarian options at these kind of gatherings?).  The gnocci however were said to be light and fluffy.  

Dessert: Apple tart with ice cream- Simple yet well executed.  The seasonal apples were thinly sliced and placed on top of a nice light pastry base.  A nice refined take on apple pie.



My husband and I had a lovely evening at the Shangri-La.  The service that we experienced was top-notch and the food was very good overall for a meal produced on a larger scale.  I look forward to returning to have a meal at Market to really get the whole Jean-George experience!

Market by Jean-Georges (Shangri-La Hotel) on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 8 December 2012

An Homage to Sustainable Seafood at C Restaurant

C Restaurant
1600 Howe Street  Vancouver, BC V6Z 1R8
(604) 681-1164
Tastiness Factor: 4/5
Atmosphere: 3.5/5
Service: 3/5
Locavore approved? YES- pride themselves in local, sustainable seafood and also used a remarkable array of seasonal produce in their dishes (turnips, parsnip, arugula, squash, etc)
C Restaurant has intrigued me for some time now.  When I first moved to Vancouver and lived in Yaletown, I remember taking a walk along False Creek and seeing the restaurant and saying "I gotta go there!".  I LOVE seafood of all types and the fact that "C" sits right on the water with a ton of fresh fish all around it is obviously a huge draw.  When I returned from my walk, I went online to look at the menu, and was both perplexed and dismayed to see that its ratings on the popular restaurant rating sites (Urbanspoon, Yelp, TripAdvisor) unanimously gave "C" poor reviews.  But why?
It is because of this bad press and also some negative "word of mouth" reports from others that it has taken me this long to make it to "C".  With some many amazing restaurants popping up around Vancouver and my ever-growing restaurant wishlist, why would I waste my time and money on a place that has potential to be bad?
And then came the Groupon.  It seems that the 10-course Groupon that they offer at regular intervals is a main attracting factor for many (you can tell just based on the online reviews from the last 2 months).  For someone that likes deals as much as I do, it is hard to turn down a $250 meal for half the price.  So I took the "plunge" into "C".
Before I continue, just a note of caution on using the Groupon- you must reserve by phone (not online) and BOOK EARLY!  If you don't you will never get a weekend spot, as they only allow for so many Groupon customers each night (if you are not already aware, every Groupon has a fine print!). Some have also said that those with Groupons get treated to a worse experience because they are not full-paying customers, but I do not believe that this was true for our experience.
Because we had to change our reservation late a few weeks before our scheduled weekend spot due to a work commitment, we ended up being stuck with a Wednesday night.  The restaurant was surprisingly full for the middle of the week.  It is quite a large space (2 floors) with a nice view of False Creek.  Unfortunately, our table was on the other side of the room from the window and I felt a bit cramped.  On the far wall where we are sitting, there is some rather awkward wood panelling that os not very visually appealing, and I felt that our little table for two was squat right into it.  I may have had a much different feeling about the atmosphere had we been at another table.


But worse than the atmosphere was the service.  If this was Earls or Cactus Club, I would have been fine with it.  But when customers are paying the kinds of prices they are charging at "C", there is a certain degree of finesse that is expected that is lacking here.  Fortunately, we did not have the problem of slow service that has been voiced by many on the online reviews and blogs (the progression of the meal was actually well-done), but certain other things just missed the mark.  First of all, our main server, while nice enough, always seemed a bit rushed.  He never took the time to go through the menu with us when he took our order and did not really have too much advice to offer when I asked him about menu suggestions.  He certainly did not seem passionate about the restuarant or its food.  Additionally, the servers who brought out our dishes almost had the "deer in the headlights" look.  It seemed as though it was everyone's first night on the job.  They did try to describe the dishes but sometimes they had things a bit mixed up, and mis-naming some of the dishes components.  The mix-up that sticks in my mind the most (there were several) We were  told that the veloute was sweet pea when it was actually parsnip.  The lines of communication are obviously breaking down somewhere along there way...
While the atmosphere and service both get a thumbs down (or at least thumbs sideways) in my book, I cannot discredit the talent of the chef and his team.  Overall, the meal was certainly top-notch and could rival many of the fine dining establishments in the city.  The presentation especially was very elegant and for the most part, the dishes were well thought through and well executed.  I felt that the first half of the meal was more succesful than the latter half.  Here is the play-by-play account:
Dish 1: Arancini- This generous-sized amuse-bouche was unique and certainly an "amuse" for the "bouche".  The arancini (basically a fried risotto ball) was crispy on the outside and oh-so creamy on the inside.  The smoked onion soubise it was resting on had subtle Indian flavours, an interesting choice with a traditionally Italian dish, but surprisingly it worked very well.  The shrimp wrapped around the top was a nice touch.  The presentation was playful, with the arancini and sauce nestled in the top of a mason jar.


Dish 2: Arugula Salad- This had the potential to be boring, but fortunately ended up being quite delecious in its simplicity.  The small pieces of roasted squash, so fresh and sweet at this time of year, added both flavour and texture.  It was also topped with crisp prosciutto for saltiness, and a lovely mild cheese to round it out.  Arugula is also is season at this time so the simple flavours of this salad were just enough to elevate its freshness to the next level.


Dish 3: Veloute-  The soup was poured tableside overtop a few dainty croutons, crisp sage and mushrooms at the bottom of the bowl.  I was confused when the veloute came out of the pot a subtle orange color after our server had labeled it as a  "sweet pea veloute" but, after consulting the menu and my taste buds, I concluded that it was actually a parsnip veloute.  That little blunder aside, this was a delicious and well-placed course.  The veloute was rish and creamy, and the serving size was enough to get your fill but not too much that it got sickening.  I really enjoyed the crispy sage, which actually maintained much of its crispness even when it was submerged in the veloute.  I am not usually much of a crouton fan, but ended up being one of the stars of the dish for me, as they were full of buttery goodness and added another textural component.


Dish 4: Albacore Tuna Cru- My husband was most looking forward to this dish as he absolutely loves raw tuna in any way, shape or form.  I had flagged other later dishes as ones more likely to be my favorite, but this one really blew me away.  The tuna itself was extremely fresh and had a mouthwatering taste and consistency.  It was served very simply (as it should be) atop a think slice of pickled cucumber with a few shimiji mushrooms layed over the top.  A very visually beutful dish. The only prounounced flavour on the plate was a few dots of chili jam which added the perfect little bit of heat but did not detract from the tuna.


Dish 5: Seared Scallops- My husband loves scallops so chose to stick with the original offering and of course he let me try a little bite! The scallops were a bit overcooked for my liking, but I really liked the squid ink and black truffle puree underneath.  The crisp calamari on the side was a nice textural element.


Dish 5 Upgrade: Lobster- The reason I chose to upgrade on this was actually not the lobster itself, but what it was served with.  The promise of nettle gnocci was too much to resist and the gnocci ended up being the best thing on the plate (and one of the highlights of the meal in fact).  They were soft and fluffy, with the subtle taste and color of the nettle- yum!  Also on the plate were the cutest little turnips (so pretty) and a salted meringue (could have taken or left this).  I thought the lobster itself was a but overcooked but the portion size was generous as far as lobster is concerned.


Dish 6: Wild Salmon- This one was a bit of a disappointment, especially since I had expected it to be one of my favorites.  Again, the salmon was not cooked properly, with the edges being overdone. It was served over a whiskey chowder that had little flavour.  The only part of the dish I really liked was the piece of crisp salmon skin that had been rolled up into a cone like a seashell- very visually appealing.


Dish 7: Baked Sablefish- I had flagged this as one of my favorites (I LOVE Sablefish!!!) and fortunately I was right.  The sablefish was cooked very nicely and served with delicious cubes of maple turnips.  There was a vibrant orange carrot puree at the bottom of the dish which was absolutely beautiful.  The only criticism I have would be the walnuts which added nothing to the dish and were a distraction from the beauty of the plate.


Dish 7 Upgrade: Roasted Tenderloin- My husband, the carnivore, wanted some meat after all of those fish courses so he opted for the $15 upgrade.  The meat was cooked to perfection, but for this point in the meal, there was WAY too much of it, especially with the mashed potatoes, onion and spinach as accompaniments.  He was unable to finish it.  The wild mushrooms were lovely though (I eagerly helped finish those off)!


Dish 8: Blue Cheese Cake- I do not think it is fair for me to comment on this one as neither me or my husband likes strong cheeses, and you really have to love cheese to enjoy this dish.  It is not really a cake, but more of a very large piece of blue cheese, with little else except some black pepper almonds (they tasted cadied to me).  Could not get on board with this one.


Dish 9: Pistachio Mousse- This one was a bigger success than the cheese "cake" for sure, and a nice light finish to a large meal.  I did find the mousse a bit tasteless (pretty color though) but the little cookie at the base was tasty.  Overall, nothing special.


Dish 10: Macaroon- I would not really call this a "course" per say (this is really a 9 course tasting menu) but the little one-bite gingerbread macaroons were a nice end to a holiday season meal.


Despite a few low points in this tasting menu, the food at "C" actually exceeded my expectations. The fact that the service is not up to snuff is quite tragic and I think that it is this that keeps bringing this place down.  I feel that the chef and his team are done a disservice by the management team, who really need to get their act together and do a complete overhaul on the service aspect of "C".  If they could succeed in bringing their elevating the service to the level of the food, I really think that this "C" could begin competing with the heavy-hitters of the Vancouver food scene.

<a href=""><img alt="C Restaurant on Urbanspoon" src="" style="border:none;padding:0px;width:200px;height:146px" /></a>

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Vancouver's Upscale Vegetarian Revolution Part 1: Heirloom Vegetarian

Heirloom Vegetarian

1509 West 12th Ave



Tastiness Factor: 4.5/5

Atmosphere: 4.5/5

Service: 4.5/5

Locavore Approved? CERTAINLY!  Seasonal ingredients (yams, carrots, squash, mushrooms) with nightly specials featuring the best of the season.  Much of the produce purchased locally.



I have been waiting for this place to open for a long time now.  It is in my neighbourhood of South Granville and I have been watching its progress very closely ever since I first saw the sign a couple of months ago.  A few months ago as I was walking by after my yoga class, I peaked in the window and the manager kindly invited my in to see the space and even offered me a drink!  What a way to welcome your neighbour!  And, now that I have eaten there, I recognize that this gesture was a premonition of the good things that were to come...

I am saddened by the fact that I did not dine at Heirloom until over a month after its opening (my work month in Victoria put me behind the eight-ball). Right after returning from Victoria, I made plans with two friends also living in the neighbourhood to go check out its dinner offerings.  Heirloom is opened for both brunch and dinner (until 1am), 7 days a week.  

For those of you who ate at the mexican restaurant that used to be in Heirloom's location (Primo's), this place has underwent an extreme makeover and you will likely not recognize the space.  In my mind, the space they have created is absolutely prefect for the restaurant's ceoncept.  The white walls, white tables and white accents perfectly compliment the vegan/vegetarian cuisine that is served.  Very clean.  The little patches of exposed brick add a little extra character.  I also loved the Bosc Pear crate-like piece hanging at the back of the restaurant.  As a whole, it does justice to the whole concept of fine-dining vegetarian while maintaining simplicity and warmth.  


As I experienced the day I passing by after yoga, this place evidently strives for good service. On our visit, we were served by a training server and a supervising server.  Both were excellent.  Very attentive, very friendly, and both knew the menu extremely well.  I was very impressed at the dish descriptions given to us by the training waitress.  The dishes here are quite complex, with many types of vegan "creams" and other garnishes that she was able to roll off her tongue like a pro.  They refilled our water constantly before it had run out (big points for the water by the way- love the addition of cucumber!).  For such a new restaurant, these guys have customer service pretty well mastered.

The chef at Heirloom is Georgia Morley, a holistic nutritionist who apparently worked as a private chef for one of the Lululemon founder before coming to Heirloom.  She has designed a menu complete with something to please every food preference, from vegan to gluten free to "plain old" vegetarian.  There are deep fried treats, hearty stews, light salad and vegetarian takes on old favorites.  She has really done a tremendous job of appealing to a broad range of tastes and has been extremely creative in using vegan replacements for cream and butter that are extremely flavourful.  Not an easy task.

Based on the advice of our kind servers, we ordered 4 dshes to share between the 3 of us.  I am glad we chose to do so for several reasons.  First of all, we got to taste more of the superb dishes.  Secondly, contrary to popular belief, vegan food can actually be quite rich due to the "good fat" from nuts and avocado that is used for flavour and texture. To eat an entire plate of some of these dishes would have surely left you stuffed.  

Here is our meal rundown:

Dips with fried bread and veggies: This dish (meant for sharing) includes two delectably rich dips, one walnut and one beet, served with fried bread triangles and an assortment of seasonal veggies as dippers.  We enjoyed both dips very much (the beet was my favorite) and the presentation of the dish, with the miniature carrots and watermelon radishes, was beautiful.  My only suggestion would be to serve more of the veggies and less of the fried bread which can be quite heavy with the richness of the dips.


Yams with avocado cream: DELICIOUS!  My favorite dish.  Although this is also meant for sharing as there is probably 3 whole yams on the plate, I could have probably eaten it single-handedly!  The yams were served in big chunks, peel intact, and seasoned with delicious sea salt.  On the side was a luscious avocado cream, perfect in both flavour and color.  Such a simple dish, but so amazingly good! 



Foraged mushrooms with walnut crostini: Mushrooms have become one of my favorite of the fall vegetables.  So many varieties and such great texture.  This dish is all about local, foraged mushrooms, done in a rich vegan "cream" sauce.  The thinly-sliced walnut crostini is light in contrast.  Again, this dish works very well for sharing and may be a bit rich for a main dish for one diner (although I would have given it a god shot had I had the chance!).


Black bean chili with cocoa and cashew-cilantro cream: This was the special of the night, and was the one dish that could have been conquered by one person as a main.  The thick stew, full of black beans and corn, had a subtle taste of cocoa that added another dimension of flavour to an already delicious chili.  It was served over a generous portion of brown rice, and topped with a delicate cashew-cilantro cream, that added both color and flavour.  A simple dish cleverly elevated to the level of fine dining.


I have seen several reviewers describing Heirloom as "costly" and "overpriced", but I beg to differ.  I was actually blown away by the value for this high class service, classy atmosphere, and quality and quantity of food (the three of us were unable to finish the 4 dishes and asked for take-away boxes).  With tax and tip, only $25/person!  That is a steal in my books.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish Heirloom a warm welcome to South Granville! Although this area has seen the downfall of many a restaurant in the past, I am confident (and hopeful!), that Heirloom is here to stay.  

I can't wait to pay another visit this new South Granville success story soon!!!

Heirloom Vegetarian on Urbanspoon


Friday, 30 November 2012

Juice Truck- New Smoothie Alert!!!

Normal 0 0 1 141 806 6 1 989 11.1287 0 0 0


If you haven't been by the Juice Truck in a few days, you have been missing out!!!  I addition to the reintroduction of the Banana Bread smoothie, the Green Smoothie had made its debut.  And it is awesome! 


The Green Smoothie is perfect for those yearning for a yummy treat, and also looking to get a few servings of veggies in while you are at it.  Perfectly seasonal, it features winter greens (spinach and kale), avocado (for creaminess), banana, dates (my favourite part!) and ginger, all blended in a base of coconut water.  Nutritious and delicious!!!  I would have to herald it as one of my favourite JT smoothies so far, and that is heavy praise!


I was also fortunate enough to snag the last Culvercity salad. Today's version- spinach, mixed greens, yams (yummmmm), quinoa (amazing), black beans, carrots, beet, cauliflower and avocado, with a chipotle-ginger dressing. What more could you ask for in a salad???



Now on a somber note- Aviya, the friendly female face on the JT team, worked her last day on the JT today.  Although she will be missed by all, she is off to start another phase of her life, and I am sure that she will succeed at whatever she does:)  All the best Aviya!!!!


Monday, 26 November 2012

High Hopes Turn into "Yew-Ge" Letdown

Yew Restaurant and Bar

791 West Georgia Street  

Vancouver, BC V6C 2T4

(604) 692-4939

Tastiness Factor: 2.5/5 (based on my dish alone, I would have given a 1/5, mostly because the ketchup was good)

Atmosphere: 4/5

Service: 3/5

Locavore Approved? YES- have to give them the points for this category due to seasonal ingredients and sustainable, locally caught seafood

I am not usually one who gravitates towards hotel restaurants but after enjoying a nice brunch and then having a phenomenal tasting menu at Hawsworth, I decided that I should keep a more open mind.  

Yew Restaurant and Bar, on paper, has major appeal to me for several reasons.  First of all, they pride themselves in using local ingredients and only sustainable varieties of seafood which is their house specialty.  Secondly, they are one of the only fine dining establishments to offer completely vegan menus for both lunch and dinner.  Right up my alley.  Or so I thought...

Yew had been on my wishlist for quite some time so when my uncle called to let me know that he and his wife would be visiting from Oakville, ON for the weekend, I thought that it would be the perfect place to take them for Sunday brunch.

Let's start off with the positive.  The room itself is modern and stylish.  There is a lot of seating, both at tables and booths and a stately fireplace on the far wall.  The glass placemats were a nice touch, as were the fresh oysters on display at the front of the expansive open kitchen.  If only the rest of the experience had been as impressive...

The service was where it started to go downhill.  While the hostess that greeted us at the entrance was very welcoming, that is where the good service stopped.  Throughout the whole meal, I felt as though we were being rushed along by our server.  He seemed very insistent on taking our order within moments of us being seated, even though I thought we were making it quite evident that we wanted to chat for a few moments before delving into the menu.  The way that he was "helicoptering" around our table made me quite uncomfortable and detracted from the conversation that I was having with my relatives who I had not seen for quite some time.  After about 10 minutes, he had obviously had enough of trying to be polite and basically interrupted me in mid-sentence asking for our orders.  It was the same at the end of the meal- a few minutes after giving us the bill, he came again, almost demanding for our payment immediately.  And all of this rushing, despite the restaurant being only half full!  I really do not understand what the great urgency was.  This poor service left me with a bitter taste in my mouth even before tasting the food.

Speaking of the food... 

I was of course very intrigued by the vegan menu items on the menu.  Unlike at lunch and dinner, there is no seperate vegan menu, but there are at least 4-5 menu items on the brunch menu that are vegan.  There were many non-vegan menu items that sounded quite appealing on paper (Beet Benny, AlbacoreTuna Nicoise), but I figured that I should try one of their vegan dishes.  Anywhere that offers exclusively vegan menus must have pretty amazing vegan food, right?  Or so I thought...

I decided on the Scrambled Tofu, a popular brunch choice here in Vancouver.  I have had really goof version (the Naam) and really bad versions (Central Bistro), and went in with high hopes for Yew's version.  

When my plate arrived, the first thing I noticed was everything on my plate, including the scramble and a few panfries, were sitting on a bed of liquid.  At first, giving them the benefit of the doubt, I thought that perhaps this was some kind of broth to add flavour?  For the first few bites, I tried my hardest to like it but could not.  The scrambled tofu itself was bland (the only flavourful element was the sundried tomatoes) and the fact that it was swimming in a pile of water (yes, that's all it was, water) was downright repulsive.  To make matters worse, I then stumbled across a hair mixed in amongst my panfries that was much too short and too dark to be mine. Because I was having such an enjoyable conversation with my relatives that I did not want to spoil, I choked most of it down, but in any other situation I would have (and should have) returned this straight back to the kitchen.  If they were doing quality control back there (which they should be when they are charging upwards of $20 each/dish for brunch), they definately missed mine. Very dissapointing.  



I like to think of myself as an optimist so I will end on a more positive note.  I did appreciate the gift of a plate of fresh mini-doughnuts that were brought to the table (2/person) prior to our meal. They were warm, with a fluffy texture, and served with a nice guava dipping sauce.  They were enjoyed by all.  Also, my husband ordered the Southern Benny, made with pulled pork, topped with chili hollandaise and served on cornbread, and he quite enjoyed his dish.  My aunt ordered the Egg White Frittata and my uncle, the Huevos Rancheros, which looked decent enough but nothing to write home about.  


So could this be a case of me ordering the wrong thing and/or someone in the kitchen had a bad day?  Perhaps, but it was not that my dish was just "not good", it was actually terrible and it should never have been allowed out of the kitchen that way.  For a place who is trying to set itself apart by offering vegan menus, their vegan food should be and not like many other places where the vegan dish is an afterthought.  

After the dust settles a bit (and my tastebuds recover), I am willing to give this place one more try, perhaps for dinner this time.  

Great company in a nice atmosphere, but with rude service and unpalatable food- I expected more from Yew.

YEW Restaurant + Bar (Four Seasons Hotel) on Urbanspoon