Yew Restaurant and Bar
791 West Georgia Street
Vancouver, BC V6C 2T4
Tastiness Factor: 2.5/5 (based on my dish alone, I would have given a 1/5, mostly because the ketchup was good)
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.
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