Sunday, 16 August 2015

A Lukewarm Experience at Mission Kits

2042 W 4th Ave, Vancouver, BC V6J 1M9
(604) 739-2042

Tastiness Factor: 8/10

Atmosphere: 4.5/5

Service: 2.5/5

Locavore Approved? YES- Their website does not lie.  They really do offer "well-sourced ingredients...that give guests a full experience of the bounty of the region".  Our tasting menu was produce-heavy and showcased some of the highlights from our farmer's market at this time of year.  A nice selection of BC wines is also available, either as pairings or as a bottle to enjoy at the table.  

It is so refreshing to see so many good new restaurants popping up in Kits.  First there was Au Comptoir and Anna Lena, both of which are pretty darn good and seem to be thriving.

After positive experiences at these new joints, I was ecstatic to hear about Mission, opening up in the old August Jack location on West 4th.  I was even more excited when I heard that the kitchen would be led by Curtis Luk, a Top Chef Canada contestant and the chef at the Parker where he did an amazing job serving upscale vegetarian fare that even carnivore Hubby loved!  And there is more- the owner, sommlier and manager at Mission is none other than Chase Macleod, who has done a fabulous job at making his previous venture, Fable, one of Vancouver's most beloved restaurants.  Rounding out the group is bartender and cocktail master Justin Darnes, who has worked at some impressive European hotspots like London's Savoy hotel, and more recently at Gaston's Pidgin.  What a dream team!

There is no doubt that they did an amazing job fixing up the old August Jack space, giving it a much more refined and classy look.  While there certainly is a bit of an upscale feel, the 60-seater is not too formal or pretentious, and therefore still caters to the Kits demographic.  The light wood finishes give it a soft, friendly feel, and the mural at the entrance with the cartoon-like drawings of fruits and veg adds a nice touch of playfulness.  The great bar on the far wall rounds out the pleasant space.

Although the space was welcoming and comfortable, the service put us on edge to say the least.  It started off OK, with a very friendly bartender who chose a great drink for me after I have him my likes/dislike list and whipped a refreshing non-alcoholic cocktail for my friend who was expecting. Unfortunately, it went downhill in a big way after that.  I am totally fine with the fact that we were over 20 minutes late getting seated since we made our reservation that day and kindly squeezed us in.  It was when we actually got seated that things went sideways, first with a very pushy server who would just not take "no" for an answer when we declined (multiple times) the wine pairings with the tasting menu.  After that, the overwhelming service blunder was the speed of service- SO SLOW!  At 11pm, we were only 2 courses into our 6 course tasting menu (we ordered around 9:30pm). It was at this point, likely due to our chorus of yawns, that our server casually asked "would you like us to speed it up a bit"?  like this was a normal pace for a 6 course tasting menu.  Really???  I am not sure why the service was so painstakingly slow, but I did notice that they seemed generally short-staffed in terms of servers (Chase MacLeod himself was hustling all night delivering dishes, while trying his best to act as a host and check in with his guests).  Perhaps with so many tables ordering the tasting menu, they were also a bit short in the kitchen?  Whatever the reason, it is quite a shame that the service had not been better as this would likely had given us a much more positive perspective on our evening.

The food here at Mission got mixed reviews at the table.  The dishes seemed to appeal more to myself and my friend who eats primarily pescatarian (we chose to try the vegetarian tasting menu), and less to the men who enjoy their meat.  Some of the dishes (like the Cauliflower Porridge) was quite enjoyable from my perspective was I can understand why it would certainly not be for everyone.   Other dishes, although quite vegetable heavy (Textured Potato, Foraged Mushrooms, Toasted Walnut) was stellar and even the gents were drooling over it.  Overall, it is clear that the folks in the kitchen know their stuff and are capable of putting together some awesome flavour combinations using vegetables as the canvas.  Although I would try the tasting menu again, the a la carte menu may be the better option for a picky/carnivorous diner.

Here are the dishes we enjoyed in our 6-course tasting vegetarian and classic tasting menus (both $65).  There was quite a lot of overlap between the menus with only 2 courses different between the two.  We really appreciated the "extras", including the amuse, a lovely pre-dessert and some decadent sandwich cookies as a parting gift.

Amuse Bouche

Wild Salmon, Sorrel, Shrimp Blini

Fava bean hummus, sourdough rye beignet, summer vegetables (vegetarian tasting)

Oyster and Pork, Bitter Greens

English peas and baby turnips with flaxseed crisp and romesco (vegetarian tasting)

Cauliflower Porridge, Brassicas, Farro

Textured Potato, Foraged Mushrooms, Toasted Walnut (AWESOME!)

Duck, Turnips, Anchovy, Roasting Jus

Stuffed walla walla onion, charred onion butter, summer squash (vegetarian tasting)


Goat Milk Ice Cream, Beet, Caramel (Farmhouse Cheese is an alternative for those with less of a sweet tooth)

Sandwich cookies for the road! (Much appreciated!) 

Overall verdict?
I am really a bit torn about what to say.  While I did really enjoy many of the dishes and liked the setting, the service really left me with a bad taste in my mouth.  I also worry that some may find their very veg-forward menu a bit too green, even for the Vancouver crowd.  It is still early days for Mission, and I really hope that they find their stride.  Based on our recent subpar experience, however, I think it may be a little while until we make our way back.

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