Yumminess Factor: 4.5/6
Locavore Approved? Yes (seasonal tasting menu constantly evolving to reflect local and seasonal ingredients, bonus points for a commendable number of organic wines made using sustainable practices)
Hawksworth has been high on my wish list for a while now and so it was my top pick for our third anniversary dinner last weekend. It is a relatively new hot spot in Vancouver (opened in mid-2011) but in that short time, has managed to win a multitude of awards for its food, most recently 7 different Vancouver Magazine restaurant awards. The awards reflected excellence not only in food, but also for wine (Best Sommelier), atmosphere (Best Design) and service (Premier Crew). It is evident that these guys really really have all bases covered.
I managed to make it to Hawsworth for brunch in early 2012 and, after a great experience, knew I had to make a return trip for dinner. The brunch and dinner exeriences are quite different, with a much more casual feeling at brunch (I went in my Lulus after the gym and did not feel out of place), and a much more refined feeling for dinner.
Hawkworth is located in the Hotel Georgia right in the heart of downtown Vancouver. The hotel is reminiscent of a more sophisticated and formal time and makes you feel as though you have stepped right into an episode of Mad Men. The restaurant is composed of 4 rooms, which each have a slightly different ambience. We sat in the Art Room, which, with its artwork from local artist Rodney Graham, made it very fitting for a locavore like me. My husband, who has been here with his work coleagues, prefers the Pearl Room, which is ornate and stately.
Obviously, the food at Hawskworth is top-notch (I will get to that next) but this establishment must be first commended for its superb service. Our server offered a lovely balance of formality and approachability, which is difficult to acheive. Most impressive of all was our sommelier. We chose to go all out and do the wine pairings with our tasting menus and therefore, were treated to a very detailed description of each wine. The sommelier was also more than happy to answer all of our questions. His genuine passion for wine and his impressive knowledge really helped to make this meal a memorable one. I also really appreciated the wine pairing selections. There was a nice mix of local and foreign wines, most of which were organic and made at small, unique wineries specializing in a variety of techniques. I will certainly be hunting down some of these wines at my nearest specialty wine store.
Last but certainly not least is the food created by David Hawsworth and his team. As previously mentioned, my husband and I chose to have the tasting menu, comprised of 6 courses that highlight seasonal ingredients. There was not doubt that this was a summer menu. As a whole, it was light and refreshing, just perfect for a warm summer night. The progression of courses was also commendable, with each course flowing very nicely into the next. The plating presentation was superb and reflected the simplicity of the summer season. As with the service, attention to detail is obviously paramount.
Dish 1: Vanilla cured fluke. It was as light as the summer breeze, with very subtle flavours that were the perfect tease for the palate. I learned that the fluke was imported from Korea specifically for this dish (no, not local, but a sign that this chef knows what he wants and will go to the ends of the earth to get it!).
Dish 2: Yellowfin tuna tartare. My husband and I agree that this was a standout. the tartare was topped with a light-as-air jalepeno foam and some brioche croutons which added a perfect textural contrast. The fennel salt at the side of the plate was very subtle, but added another layer of flavor to the dish.Dish 3: Citrus confit side striped shrimp. I am not a fan of dishes with broth or the flavor of lemongrass so I was a bit apprehensive about this dish. Fortunately, my worrying was for not as chef Hawsworth gave us yet another successful dish. The star of this one for me was the artichoke agnolotti, which were light and fluffy, and stuffed with a divine artichoke filling. The colours in this dish were beautiful, and the broth poured tableside added a nice touch. A real piece of art. Dish 4: Soft poached egg. We agreed that this was an upscale version of bacon and eggs for breakfast. It was an interesting choice for the middle dish (I would love to know the chef's inspiration for this one, perhaps a little summertime cheekiness?), but we both loved it. It is a very fun dish, as you must break through the crust bread top to discover the perfectly done, runny egg at the bottom of the dish. You have the choice of paying a $10 supplement to add truffles, which I highly recommend you do. I really appreciated Hawksworth's playfulness with this dish. Dish 5: Milk fed veal loin/grilled sturgeon. The veal that my husband had is the actual dish on the tasting menu but because I do not eat meat, I asked for a substitute (they charged $5 for the substitute which seemed a bit petty to me but I was impressed that the sturgeon dish that I received was specially desiged to go with the tasting menu and was not the same sturgeon dish that appeared on the a-la-carte menu. My sturgeon was cooked beautifully and was served on a beautiful tomato salsa that was exploding with the flavours of tomatoes which are now in season here. My husband also really enjoyed his veal, which was served with parisienne gnocci (we joked that this must be an incredibly upscale wasy to say "french fry!") and asparagus. Dish 6: Dark chocolate. Although this is what the dessert course is called on the menu, I think it would be better named "dark chocolate +++". The dish was literally a party on a plate with many different elements including vanilla bean ice cream (my favorite part!), chocolate cake, some colorful cremes and more. It may sound and look a bit confused and disjointed at first, but it magically all worked together beautifully and was a very whimsical end to a summer meal. We also very much appreciated the lovely Happy Anniversary white chocolate ornament. Our whole experience at Hawsworth was about as close to perfection as one can get. Vancouver is very fortunate to have such an establishment to call its own. Needless to say, we will be returning to Hawsworth in a couple of months to see what master chef Hawksworth has up his sleeve for his fall tasting menu.