Sunday, 29 September 2013

Cuchillo- Introducing Vancouver to Latin American Cuisine

261 Powell St  
Vancouver, BC V6A 1G3
(604) 559-7585

Tastiness factor: 8.5/10

Atmosphere: 4/5

Service: 3.5/5

Locavore Approved? An honest effort- Not a real focus here but they do seem to make an effort to include some seasonal/local produce.  Cuchillo is more about authenticity than locally-sourced fare and, lets face it, we do not grow quite the same produce as they do in Latin America.  On their current menu however, I do make note of many seasonal items, including heirloom tomatoes, corn, jicama, cucumbers and different varieties of peppers. Also, although I did not notice any Oceanwise logos on their menu, I was told that much of the fish they use is purchased locally.  

I am not generally accustomed to walking into places where there is a skull above the door and I fear that if I had walked past Cuchillo's storefront without knowing what they were all about, I may have just kept right on walking.  I guess this is another one of those times when you cannot judge a book by its cover.

Cuchillo is located on the border between Gastown and Chinatown, an area that is still "coming into its own" as one of Vancouver's hottest neighbourhoods.  With its proximity to the infamous Downtown Eastside (probably not a place you want to find yourself at night!), you have to tread a bit more carefully around these parts.  I recommend heading down by cab as Cuchillo can be a bit difficult to locate (even with that glowing skull) and driving there is plagued by lots of one-way streets and pedestrians who seem to think that the road is one big crosswalk.  We certainly learned our lesson after we were 15 minutes late for our reservation after driving around the block at least 10 times trying to find parking!

When we did finally walk underneath the shining skull and in through the large front door, we knew that all of the parking hassle (and almost knocking over a pedestrian or two!) would all be worth it.  The inside was quite a contrast from the restaurant's small and unassuming exterior, with its very high ceilings and floorspace that stretches back as far as the eye could see.  A long communal table down the middle gave the illusion of the room appearing even deeper than it actually was.  We were seated at some high bar tables on the sides which we preferred for our couple's night out (I would specifically ask for one of these tables the next time).  In the back of the space is the very large open kitchen as well as a semi-open space with even more seating.  Hubby was a big fan of the brick walls which gave it an edgy yet sophisticated vibe.

Although there is certainly no shortage of seats here at Cuchillo, they had no trouble filling each little nook and cranny of the space AND still having a line-up waiting at the door.  I highly recommend making a reservation at least a week before if you wish to visit on a weekend to avoid disappointment!

With such a large restaurant and so many guests, polished service can be difficult and we did notice a few service "hiccups" on our visit.  While our server was extremely friendly and very helpful in helping us navigate the menu, it was obvious that she was run off her feet.  She would sometimes go AWOL for a while, then resurface apologetically to refill our water glasses or ask us if we wanted more food.  For the first couple of plates, the food arrived at our table within minute and then later on we waited upwards of 15 minutes between dishes.  Although the inconsistent would not stop me from recommending Cuchillo to others (I already have!), I wonder if perhaps they are a bit short-staffed, which would be understandable considering how much great press they have gotten since opening just a few short months ago.  My guess is that their service will markedly improve over the next several months as they catch up with the demand.

Cuchillo has quite a unique drink menu, with one side devoted solely to tequila flights (how cool is that?).  If we knew even the first thing about what makes a good tequila, we would have given it a try but in the end we decided to go with a cocktail.  Fortunately, the cocktail list also had lots of interesting choices, with a variety of cocktails to suit every taste.  Hubby stuck with tradition and went with a Mojita which was beautifully presented (look at all of those layers of colour!) and was wonderfully refreshing.  I chose the Figo Figo, made with fig jam, lemon and topped off with egg whites.  I feared that the jam might make it too sweet for my taste but, as I was assured by our server, it was not overly sweet at all and was a lovely intro to the meal.

Figo Figo

The food menu consists entirely of sharing plates although this was not totally obvious to us at first.  We were a little confused about "La Mesa" section which is composed of entree-priced dishes  (most over $20) which is not typical of most sharing-plate restaurants.  In the end, we decided not to order "La Mesa" dishes as we wanted to try a greater variety of dishes and also because it would be difficult to decide on one or two considering our different food preferences (carnivore and pescatarian).

Here is a run-down of our dishes from the evening:

Grilled Baby Husked Corn- Our first dish was from the "Antojitos" section of the menu, which the name given to Mexican street food (it literally means "little cravings").  These were recommended to us by our server who raved about how good they were.  When they arrived, we actually had no clue what to do with them, and she kindly instructed us to eat it from the bottom, husk and all, and eat right up to where the tiny little corn kernels end and the husk becomes fibrous.  Not only was it awesome to discover a completely new variety of corn that I had never encountered before, but it was also very fun to eat and almost addictive!  I loved the char flavour from grilling the husk's exterior as well as the melted butter for dipping at the bottom of the dish.  Hubby and I could have easily managed to go through a few more orders of these. A real conversation starter!

Chipotle Sea Salt Dusted Fry Bread- Our second dish, also from the "Antojito" section, was Hubby's dream come true- plain and simply, fried bread!  What made this dish unique was its cornmeal exterior which made it crunchy on the outside to contrast its soft and chewy interior.  While the bread itself was delicious (Hubby pretty much ate all four pieces himself!), we felt as though it would have been even better had it been served with a dip to jazz up the flavour a little more.

Jicama, Cucumber Y Asian Pear- This was one of the most refreshing salads I have ever tasted.  I loved everything about it- the crispness of the raw ingredients, the muted flavours of the jicama and cucumber and the hint of sweetness from the pear.  I am on a mission to try to recreate this winner at home! 

Lois Lake Steelhead Trout- This ceviche, made with locally sourced fish, was unlike any ceviche I have had before.  The trout was cut in long, thin slices instead of being diced, and was layered together with shaved cucumber, chayote and lychee and finally tossed in light herb dressing.  The subtle flavours of the ingredients complemented each other perfectly making for a wonderfully light and refreshing dish.  Loved it!

Wild Mushroom Y Huitlacoche Salsa- I give the folks at Cuchillo major kudos for coming up with a super-creative and super-tasty veg option in their taco line-up.  It would have been much easier for them  to do a version of the standard "grilled vegetable"option that you find at most taco joints, but instead they really kicked it up a notch with meaty mushrooms and chickpea tempeh hummus (wild!).  The hummus was thick and hearty and was able to hold its own against the earthiness of the mushrooms, The toppings were served on two homemade corn tortillas with perfect texture and corn flavour.  This was hands down the best vegetarian taco I have ever had!

Morita Chili BBQ Pulled Pork Taco- This was Hubby's choice of taco from the 5 different taco options on the menu.  The homemade corn tortillas were piled with mounds of pork and then topped with a mango papaya salsa and refried beans.  Hubby loves the flavours in the tender pork as well as the refreshing fruit salsa.  Another taco success!

What a great "couple's night" out we had at Cuchillo.  I have a feeling that this restaurant will continue gain popularity as it is offering a style of cuisine that no one else in Vancouver really does (or at least does well).  By filling this new niche with its awesome Latin American food in such a fun atmosphere, Cuchillo is sure to continue on its path of success.  You just gotta check this place out for yourself!

Cuchillo on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 26 September 2013

A Weeknight Out in Kits at Salt Tasting Room

2585 West Broadway



It is not often that Hubby and I go out to eat on a weekday night.  With our very busy schedules, we are lucky to see each other during the week, let alone go out for the evening.

But sometimes it pays to take the extra time to venture out as we decided to do tonight.  Fortunately, Salt Tasting Room offers the perfect setting for a nice weeknight "escape".

Salt Tasting Room has been around for quite a while in the notorious "Blood Alley" in Gastown and have earned themselves a great reputation for their excellent wine, cheese and meats (the.  Recently, Kitsilano has recently been graced by the opening of a second Salt Tasting Room that Hubby and I decided to check out.

This sign in front of their Kits location sums the concept up perfectly!
You will find Salt's small storefront just past Macdonald on West Broadway.  Inside, it is quaint but the space is well utilized.  As you walk in, you pass by the open kitchen/bar.  Instead of the standard individual tables for 2-4 people, there are two perpendicular communal tables that wrap around the perimeter, making the room feel larger.  The walls are covered with giant chalkboards on which the menus are written.  Overall, the room has a very laid back feel, perfect for unwinding after a long workday.

Service is friendly, personal and efficient.  Our server (the only one working on this Wednesday evening) was extremely knowledgeable about all of the different cheese and meat options available that evening and gave us some great recommendations based on our tastes.  Because I was feeling lazy and did not feel up to perusing the wine list to choose my flight of wines (three 2oz glasses for $15, great deal), I asked her to do the picking for me.  With only a few questions about my tastes, she was able to choose wines that were just to my liking.  The other bonus about the service at Salt is that it is very speedy.  Without the need for cooking, tasting plates can be assembled quickly and served within minutes of ordering.  Our meal from start to finish took less than 45 minutes, wine and all!

The menu at Salt consists primarily of meat and cheese boards serves with condiments.  Guests can custom design these tasting boards by choosing combinations of meats, cheeses and condiments from the back wall (about 8-10 choices of each which change regularly.  Hubby and I were not overly hungry and were looking for more of a snack and therefore we got one board between us with two cheese (Albert's Leap, an aged goat cheese and an Applewood Smoked Cheddar) , one meat (a Sopresseata) and 3 condiments (guiness mustard, a fruity mostarda and pickled green beans).  Boards are served with unlimited bread to enjoy your selections.  What better way to stimulate good weekday conversation than sharing simple, top quality ingredients paired with wine?  What made it even better was the fact that we got out for under $50 (before tax/tip).  Very reasonable!

What better way to stimulate good weekday conversation than sharing simple, top quality ingredients paired with wine?  What made it even better was the fact that we got out for under $50 (before tax/tip).  Very reasonable!

So if you are looking for a quick weekday bite out with your hunny but are not willing to skimp on quality, why not pay a visit to Salt Tasting Room?  With its unique concept, relaxed atmosphere and dedication to quality food and wine, you may find yourself venturing out more often to add a bit of pizzazz to your weekday routine!

Salt Tasting Room on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 22 September 2013

An Afternoon at Fraser Common Farms with Forage

The locavore movement is hot right now and I love it.

Some of the city's most established restaurants have been using local ingredients since the very beginning (ex. Bishop's, West) but nobody really ever made a big deal about it.  Now, chefs are shouting "local" off their rooftops for all to hear.  It is the new buzz word, the hottest trend.  And, fingers crossed, I think it is here to stay.

With this shift towards the locavore concept, many new "local-centric" restaurants have popped up in Vancouver over the past year, including Forage located downtown on Robson.  Forage is now approaching its one year anniversary, and it is quite impressive what it has accomplished in such a short time.  From its "Green Award" at the Vancouver Magazine Awards, to it weekly local Meat Draw, to Chef Whittaker's appearance at a number of events supporting local food, Forage has quickly made its mark on the Vancouver dining scene.  Click here to see the review of my last visit to Forage.

Last weekend, Hubby and I had the pleasure of joining Chef Whittaker of Forage for a celebration of local food at Fraser Common Farms in Langley.  Fraser Common Farms is most well known for its salad greens which are supplied under the name of Glorious Organics, which make weekly deliveries of its freshest greens to many of the best restaurants in Vancouver.  This al fresco dinner was a fundraiser for a new educational centre on the Fraser Common Farms property and therefore was a great way to support the local food movement and be treated to an outstanding meal with the freshest of ingredients.  How could I not attend?

The first sign that this would be a great evening was that the wine and beer were already freely flowing by the time we arrived at 3pm.  The (free) wine was supplied by Backyard Winery, which is located literally just down the road from Fraser Common Farms.  Some grapes grown on the property while other varieties are brought in from the Okanagan.  On this particular occasion, they were offering their Sauvignon Blanc which was not overly acidic as some Sauv Blancs tend to be and therefore worked well for both sipping and for pairing the dishes of the evening.  For red wine lovers, they brought their Meritage which I also enjoyed.  Hubby chose to to try the local beer made by R&B brewery located in East Vancouver.  I highly recommend giving both these wines and beer a try, both to support our local producers and to discover how fortunate we are to have such great products so close to home!

Nothing says a day on the farm like wine and beer served in mason jars:)

As we sipped our local wine and beer on what turned out to be one of the most beautiful late summer evening that one could ask for, we were treated to some of Chef Whittaker's finest pre-dinner snacks.  He has composed some outstanding charcuterie complete with locally-made sausages from Gelderman's Farm in Abbotsford and some local cheeses.  Accompaniments included a raw honey straight from Chef Whittaker's backyard (he has his own bee hives!), mustard, potted fruits as well as some amazing pickled carrots, green beans and peppers (my favourite part!).  With a glass of wine in one hand and some cheese and honey in the other, in addition to some local musicians strumming away with some great tunes, I was hard-pressed to think of a better way to spend an end-of-summer Saturday afternoon!

When everyone arrived, there was a quick introduction to the farm and to the schedule of events for the afternoon and then it was off for a tour of the farm and some foraging.  Our kind and knowledgeable guide for the tour was one of the lead farmers at Fraser Common Farms.  He knew every nook and cranny of the farm and was very enthusiastic in answering all of our questions about the farm and what lived and grew there.  We learned about the streams that run through the farm in the cooler months (they had all dried up after such a hot summer!) and the salmon that spawned there.  We visited the greenhouse that housed some of the new seeds that were being prepared for planting and it was here that we got to try a bite of a spilanthes, also known as the toothache plant, that turned your whole mouth numb for several minutes (wild!).  We visited some chickens that not only lay eggs but also help to get rid of unwanted pests which serves as nature's answer to pesticides.  My favourite part of the tour was getting to pick some ingredients for our meal including kale (3 different varieties), black chilies, chickweed and purslane.  The latter two are wild plants that many weed out of their garden but that are actually incredibly tasty and are harvested to use for salads and garnishes.  I just loved learning about all of the different crops that they have on their many acres but it seems as though we did not even  scratch the service of what there was to learn before we had to head back to deliver our foraged items to Chef Whittaker.
Chickens of all shapes and sizes!
Rows full of all sorts of goodies!
Hot peppers (dare ya!)

After our little walk and having seem all of the amazing produce growing at Fraser Common Farms, we had built up quite an appetite and could not wait to discover what Chef Whittaker had in store for us.  Fortunately, the menu had been posted so that we could start to anticipate what a fabulous meal it would be.

It was a special treat to watch Chef Whittaker prepare our meal in his quaint outdoor kitchen.  Although he was obviously very busy, he was very kind in taking the time to chat with us about what he was preparing and to let us sample some of the ingredients beforehand.

Cioggia (aka candy cane beet)

Shortly after, we were seated at the long, communal table in a big open space just in front of the main farmhouse and dinner service began.  Here are the amazing dishes that Chef Whittaker prepared for us:

Centrepieces with vases made by a local blacksmith

Cucumbers with mint yogurt, black chilis and purslane- Who knew there were so many different types of cucumbers?  This salad included three different varieties of cucumbers including bread-and-butter pickled cukemelons (look like mini watermelons, so cute!) that we had sampled earlier that day at the Trout Lake Farmer's Market.

Celebration and wild greens with cherry dressing and chioggia beets- As mentioned, Fraser Common Farms owns the brand of Glorious Organics who are experts in the world of greens of all shapes and sizes and therefore, no meal at the farm would be complete without a green salad!  And Chef Whittaker kicked these greens up a notch with a sweet summer dressing, colourful cioggia beets and stunning edible flowers (also from the farm of course!).

Duck fat roast potatoes and rosemary- For all those meat-eaters out there like Hubby, there is nothing better to accompany meat than vegetables cooked in meat drippings!   Talk about sheer decadence!

Honey-glazed roast vegetables- Although everything was amazing, this was my personal favourite and I definately went back from seconds (and thirds and fourths)!  The medley of squash, carrots, parsnip and beets were roasted with raw honey from Chef Whittaker's backyard.  Heavenly!

Hay-roasted Gelderman's pork with mustardo fruit- I myself am not a meat eater but Hubby happily dug right into his thick and juicy slice of pork.  My fellow diners raved about the smokiness of the pork from its roast on the hay and how well it was balanced by the sweet mustard sauce.

Watermelon- This little pre-dessert was so clever!  Not only was it super refreshing on this warm summer evening but we were also asked to put all of our seeds in a jar so that they could be used to grow next year's crop.  I cannot wait until I get to eat watermelon grown from these seeds next year!  

Wacky cake with roast apple and pear and verbena jelly cream- This dish was prepared by the pastry chef from Forage who accompanied Chef Whittaker to help with the meal. This flourless souffle-like dessert was chocolaty and light, and was full of big chunks of fresh fruit from the farm.  It was topped off with a beautiful cream made with lemon verbena, a perennial shrub, to give it unique farm flair.

I cannot even begin to express how much I enjoyed this night at Fraser Common Farms.  I cannot think of any better way to spend one of our last sunny Saturdays of the summer.  I am so thankful to all those at the farm who taught us about all of the amazing food that they grow for us all to enjoy, and would like to commend Chef Whittaker for his support of local farms such as this one.

Thank you all so very much for such an unforgettable evening of all that is local:)

For more information on Fraser Common Farms, see here.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

A Little Taste of Vegetarian Heaven at the Parker

237 Union St  
Vancouver, BC V6A 3A1
(604) 779-3804

Tastiness Factor: 9/10

Atmosphere: 4/5

Service: 4/5

Locavore Approved? YES- Locally-driven menu that changes regularly based on what is available at local farms.  Our meal was full of the flavours of late summer and was a tribute to all of the produce that is available at this time of year.  Some dishes on the menu had ingredient substitutions which I love to see as it usually means that the chef is responding to the weekly (sometime daily) variations in available fresh produce.  This is what vegetarian cuisine is all about!

The Parker has been on my radar for a long time now.  A vegetarian restaurant, with Top Chef's Curtis Luk as head chef, topped off by an impressively extensive cocktail/bar menu?  Why has it taken me so long?

Well, there are a couple of reasons.  First of all, it has been quite a busy summer of eating, with some pretty stand-out dinners including the First Harvest dinner at Lummi Island (see my blog post here), after which we had to take a little "eating out holiday" to give the bank account a little chance to rejuvenate itself:)  After that, there was the trip back to Newfoundland, and then the several weekends in a row of work, and then- poof!- it is September already!  Secondly, I have been trying to figure out for a while now how to get meat-loving Hubby to agree to going to this completely vegetarian tapas restaurant.  It was just last week that I came up with the perfect plan- dinner at the Parker with the promise of a trip to the new late-night sausage and beer parlour, Bestie just around the corner.  He just couldn't say no to that!  And so the weekend after Labour Day, myself, Hubby and 3 of our good friends headed to Chinatown for a night of vegetarian and sausages.  It was bound to be an adventure!

The Parker is located on Union St., a tucked away little road in Chinatown that is also home to other small restaurants including Harvest and The Union.  They have a nice big sign that makes them stand out , especially at night when the sign is lit up.  Inside, it is quite a small space, with the bar and open kitchen on one side (you can watch chef Luk's every move!) and tables on the opposite wall.  Decor is simple yet stylish, with wooden tables and accents, slick black chairs and mirrored walls.  Seating is quite limited, and even after 9pm on this Friday night it was jam packed, so I would recommend making a reservation, especially for a party larger than 2-3.

I was quite impressed by the quality of the service for such a small restaurant.  First of all, I have to give them big time credit for being so kind as to hold our table for 30 minutes past our reservation time while we waited for our cab to arrive at our friends house where we had gathered to have a few drinks beforehand.  When I called to let them know that we were running late, they were very gracious and then they warmly greeted us in all our tardiness when we arrived.  Much appreciated!  For dinner service, we were fortunate enough to be served by the owner himself who was very helpful in our drink selection (so many choices!) and then in putting together a dinner for us by giving us just enough of all the dishes on the menu to satisfy us.  Our water glasses were always full, and, after just a bit of a wait before our first dishes were served, the rest of our dishes arrived with perfect timing.

There are separate menus for food and drink, the drink menu being 4 and a half pages to the the food's page and a half.  Drinks really are not just a second thought here!  The drink menus includes a cocktail list with a great variety of choices, that is organized from the lightest to the heaviest (very helpful, thank you!).  There are also several pages of wines and "bubbles" (by the glass and by the bottle), with a full section of big reds and pinot noirs, dispelling the myth that these cannot pair well with vegetarian cuisine.  We went right for the cocktail list which had many very intriguing options.  I chose La Pastesque (the name means watermelon in french), a vodka-based cocktail with pernod, watermelon and mint.  After my first sip, I remembered feeling like perhaps the drink was a bit too weak as the flavours were quite muted but as I kept drinking, I came to love how refreshing it was and really appreciated the subtle sweetness of the watermelon.  Hubby ordered a classically-prepared Old Fashioned which he enjoyed so much that he ordered a second and convinced another of our friends that he had to order one as well.   Other choices at our table were the Jasmine made with gin, triple sec, campari and lemon (the least favourite of the lot) and the Vesper made with sparkling wine, gin and lemon (well-balanced and pretty too!).

La Pasteque
Old Fashioned
The Parker's focus is on tapas-style dishes that are meant to be shared.  The menu is quite small (10 dishes) and therefore, it is ideal to go with a group of 4-5 friends so that you can try every dish on the menu.  What better way to discover a new restaurant?  It says on the menu that two dishes/person is recommended, but I think this is a bit conservative.  Between the 5 of us, we shared every dish on the menu and were by no means stuffed when we left (hence the trip to Bestie's to appease the boys- see my next post for the details!).  I really enjoyed giving the reigns to the server in letting him bring out enough of each dish to share between all of us and he did a great job.

Here is a run-down of our meal (and the whole menu!).  The stared (***) dishes were our faves:

Fresh Fig with Mint (amuse bouche)- A simple, light start to the meal, with a very clean and classy presentation.  Figs are at the peak of their season right now and are delicious just the way they are!

Summer Fling Salad- This salad changes daily depending on what is the freshest (LOVE THIS!)  On the night that we visited, we were treated to 20 (yes, 20!) different kinds of shoots, blackberries and fennel tossed in the prefect amount of light vinaigrette.  Nothing says summer like a salad with the freshest of ingredients!

***Tofu Fritter- This was a substitute dish for the lentil dish on the menu on this particular evening and I really think they should add this one to the menu!  Chef Luk deserves major credit for making the tofu seem a little less "scary" in fritter form so that Hubby would try it.  And, to my great surprise, he actually liked it and dug in for seconds. The tomato sauce and beans made this dish super interesting, but it was the black bean sauce that put it over the top.  Chef Luk, do you intend to start bottling this stuff?  If so, put us down for a case!!!

Chilled Aubergine-  I had mixed expectations of this dish going in as I LOVE aubergine (eggplant) but generally dislike dishes served with broths.  Fortunately, it was a very tasty dish and the broth actually added great flavour so I was glad it was there.  Bonus- I got to try a new vegetable that I never tried, or even heard, before, called "deadly nightshade".  Upon looking it up on my go-to resource for just about anything, Wikipedia, I found out that it is quite an interesting perennial herbaceous plant that has uses in both alternative and Western medicine, and that some parts of the plant are quite toxic.  Luckily, I am still alive and I think that I will continue to leave this one in the hands of the experts like Chef Luk!

***Panzanella Salad- Any restaurant that does not have some variation of a tomato salad on their menu right now with the tomatoes being so sweet and juicy are really missing out.  The Parker put together an incredible salad that succeeded in both letting the tomatoes natural flavours shine through, and then kicking it up a notch with the creamy sheep cheese and a black pepper puree.  Thanks for giving these tomatoes the respect they deserve:)

***House-Made Dan Dan Noodles- This was a table favourite for sure, and was Hubby's #1.  The noodles had a wonderful texture, and they soaked up the peppercorn sauce very well.  Although I also liked the dish a lot, I would say that the tofu "croutons" did not add much to the dish and we all would have just preferred more of those awesome noodles!

Socca Provencal- This dish was composed of chickpea flatbread topped with greek flavours and vegetables found in your average greek salad (zucchini, tomato, olives).  Although the flavours worked, it was not a favourite and more difficult to share as the flatbread was quite flaky and did lend itself well to cutting evenly.

Tortilla Nueva- This was quite a creative dish and was certainly not what I expected to get when I read the menu description.  Each little "tortilla" was a rolled up omelette of sorts with added texture from the potato.  In contrast to the previous dish, this format made the dish easy to share.  In contrast to most of the other dishes however, I found it a bit lacking in flavour and I thought that the crispy almond pastry on top was a bit out of place.

***Bi Birn Bamp Bowl- This was one of my personal favourites.  As previously mentioned, I am not usually much of a fan of broth but, as with the aubergine dish, this black tea dashi broth really worked to elevate the dish.  The presentation of the dish was beautiful, with a perfectly runny egg on the top that exploded with yolky goodness when it was mixed with the other components of the dish.  This dish was one of the more substantial dishes with the rice and the meaty mushrooms.

House-Made Cavatelli- This dish ended up being different than the dish described on the menu.  It was supposed to be served with a tomato-olive relish but instead, the fresh pasta (delicious and perfectly cooked) was served in a butternut squash puree.  The colours of the dish were visually stunning and its components were a nice introduction to the fall ingredients that are now making their way back to the market (squash, broccoli).

***Chilled Corn and Coconut Soup- This dish was initially the only dish on the menu that was not going to make it onto our tailored tasking menu due the fact that it is not really a sharing plate.  However, when we finished our other dishes and still had room in our bellies, we requested a bowl so that we could honestly say that we had tried everything.  And thank goodness we did!  Corn is so sweet at this time of year, and the corn flavour was wonderfully front and centre in this dish.  I was shocked that this soup was entirely cream-free, as it was decadently creamy (the secret=avocado and chèvre, what a combo!).  On top was a bit of shaved peach that complemented the sweetness of the corn beautifully.  The only thing that I felt was missing was a bit of crunch for some texture.  Overall though, this dish was a big winner.  If you love fresh corn on the cob (and who doesn't?), this dish is a must!

Homemade truffles- It was as if this dessert was created for us!  Five wonderfully rich truffles artfully arranged on the plate, one for each of us to enjoy.  A lovely end to a great meal!

What I love about the Parker, among other things, is its success at making vegetarian food accessible to all.  Hubby, who is a tried and true carnivore, was not exactly thrilled about going to the Parker, but after the meal, he readily admitted that it far exceeded his expectations (especially the Asian-inspried dishes) and that he would most certainly go back a second time.  Chef Luk and his team know how to take the most vegetarian of ingredients (tofu, greens, eggplant) and transform them into something very tasty while still preserving their integrity.  Now this is talent!  I cannot wait to take Hubby up on his offer and return soon to the Parker for another little vegetarian taste of heaven:)

The Parker on Urbanspoon