Friday, 25 September 2015

Expectations Far Surpassed at Big Trouble

237 Union St, Vancouver, BC V6A 3A1
(604) 336-1698

Tastiness Factor: 10/10

Atmosphere: 4/5

Service: 5/5

Locavore Approved?  100%!- These guys are locavore's through and through.  Their menu is chock full of BC produce (our salad was picked that day at a nearby farm), as well as sustainable seafood and ethically raised meats.  Not only that, but, as our server explained when he greeted us, they are committed to the environment, striving to be a zero waste establishment.  Kudos to you Big Trouble! 

I was dismayed to learn of the closing of the Parker over on Union St., and disappointed to have missed on opportunity to get back before its demise (see a glowing review of my first visit here).  Vancouver had certainly had some success with high-end vegetarian in the last few years and The Parker was one of the frontrunners in making vegetarian food accessible for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike.

Fortunately, there is a silver lining to the Parker's closing- the opening of its equally impressive replacement, Big Trouble.  Although not vegetarian, Big Trouble puts a very strong emphasis on local products including lots of fresh fruits and veg and remains very skilled in its preparation.

Hubby and I chose to go out on a limb and head to Big Trouble for our anniversary meal 6 short weeks after it opened its doors, knowing that it was a bit of a gamble this early in its existence.  It made us nervous when we passed by on our way to grab a pre-dinner drink at the near-by Union and saw only a handful of tables occupied.  I must admit, we almost called off the visit completely but in the end, we fortunately persevered.

When we returned about an hour later at around 8:30, there were about 10 others there which, for this  tiny space, is almost half full.  The atmosphere has not changed much from its Parker days.  It has a VERY small "kitchen" at the far end, which is pretty much a stovetop and an oven with just enough room for the chef and the sous chef to work their magic.  Fortunately, we snagged a table right in front of it, and I had a grand time watching them prepare our dishes with the utmost care and precision.  In addition to the 24-seat indoor space, which they have jazzed up with some cool "XX' lightbulbs, they have added a cute little outdoor "patio" space with room for about 4-6 in the summer months.

On the night of our visit, there was a single server for the whole restaurant who frankly did a better job than most restaurants do with a dozen servers.  He greeted us as soon as we arrived, got us our drinks right away and came back to take our food orders within 5 minutes.  Throughout the meal, he checked in on us regularly and we waited no longer than 5-10 minutes between dishes.  He did this all while looking totally relaxed and taking the time to joke around with us when he stopped by.  Other restaurants a thing or two from place- with only 2 kitchen staff and 1 server, they have it running like a well-oiled machine!

The food certainly did not disappoint either.  They offer West-Coast fare, with a touch of Asian influence in most dishes.  Hubby and I chose the Chef's Tasting Menu which was an absolute steal for only 29$/person.  It included 4 dishes from their small 8 dish plus a dessert.  All dishes are served to share in the order that they came out of the kitchen.  The kitchen is more than happy to tailor the Tasting Menu to preferences/food restrictions/allergies.  Because we were sharing and Hubby wanted some meat, we stuck to the regular menu which included one meat dish, but I had more than enough to enjoy from the other dishes.

Here are the dishes we enjoyed:

Biodynamic greens, shaved veg, sherry vin- I just loved this simple salad, with its generous portion of the freshest greens you could ever taste (picked that day we were told, 15 different varieties!), lightly tossed in an oil and vinegar dressing.   So simple and so delicious- why mess with a good thing?

Wild spring salmon, cucumber, pickled shimejis- All dishes of the night were exceptional but this one takes first prize.  The first bite was a bit of a surprise since I was not expecting cold salmon.  The chilled slow-cooked spring salmon was very delicate, and reminiscent of sashimi, and paired with  the perfect accompaniment of thinly sliced cucumber ribbons in a creamy sauce.  I loved the cute little pickled shimeji mushrooms that added a touch of sweetness.  I would eat this day in and day out if I could!

Peking quail, beets, wild rice- Hubby adored the quail (prepared like chicken wings!), while I happily chowed down on the beet tartare and the beetroot puree which were to die for.  I did not feel like I was left out of this one at all!

Sake marinated sablefish, braised daikon, dashi- I am not usually a fan of broth-based fish dishes but this dish totally turned this prior opinion on its head.  The perfectly-salted dashi broth married perfectly with the expertly cooked sablefish, and infused great flavour into the accompanying vegetables (snow peas and turnips).  After this dish, I am a broth convert!

Chocolate mousse with coffee crumble, strawberries and basil-  This had all the components of a winning dessert- chocolate, fruit, and not too sweet. A perfectly light yet satisfying end to a perfect meal.

A chocolate truffle each to say farewell:)

Overall Verdict?
Big Trouble is Vancouver's newest hidden gem, but I suspect (and hope) that it will not stay secret for long.    We could not find fault with any aspect of this place, and the food was nothing short of stellar.  Thanks for the perfect anniversary meal that far surpassed our highest expectations!!!

Big Trouble Chinatown Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Showing off West Coast Seafood at Supermarine

1685 Yew St, Vancouver, BC V6K 3E6
(604) 739-4677

Tastiness Factor: 9/10

Atmosphere: 4/5

Service: 4/5

Locavore Approved? YES- "Sustainable, seasonal and fresh.  We're proud to represent our local farmers & fishers and we strive to use the best local produce, seafood, and meats we can get our hands on."  This line, front and centre on their homepage, says it all.  Why there are not more restaurants around Vancouver that focus on seafood I cannot understand, since we are surrounded by such plentiful waters.  Fortunately, Supermarine has recognized the void and is showing off all of our all that our region has to offer, from land to sea.  

I was very sad to hear of the passing of one of our favourite brunch spots (RIP Abigail's Party).

In this case though, change has been been good, with the birth of Supekrmarine.

We had the great pleasure of visiting Supekrmarine back in July, just 3 weeks after it opened its doors.  One always takes their chances when they visit so close to opening, knowing that there may still be a few kinks that need to be worked out.

But Supermarine defied the odds, and in all aspects, from the food to the service to the ambience, there was hardly a kink to be found.

Lets start with the atmosphere, which is Vancouver through and through- relaxed and comfortable, with a dash of hipster thrown in for good measure.  The room is very reminiscent of its previous life as Abigail's Party (why mess with a good thing?) except for a bit of a different seating scheme with a few booths thrown in against the far wall.  They have a small patio out front to also increase capacity.  I am quite partial to the cute little bar in the back where there is seating for a few more eager customers.

As for service, I really enjoyed being served by the charming and down to earth wait staff that we encountered throughout the evening.  A truly gracious crew.  There was a bit of a long wait between courses and they forgot to bring one of the dishes we ordered but their overall positive attitudes more than made up for these small blunders and we left feeling very well hosted.

Although the menu is not set up in a sharing-plates format, I would highly recommend going this route instead of the typical appetizer and main (although I sure this would be enjoyable as well).  The secret here is to try as many dishes as possible as there are so many great ones to choose from.  Hubby and I chose to share a bunch of the "snacks" and "starter" items since they appealed to us more than the "mains" but the mains being delivered to the tables next to us looked amazing as well.  The great thing about this place is that you will find whatever suits you, from a little bite with a cocktail to a full-on three course meal.  For those with don't eat/dislike seafood, there are also a few meat and veg options thrown in.

Also, be sure to check out the cocktail menu, which offers a very nice selection of diverse cocktails, from salty to sweet to bitter.  Our server gave us a succinct rundown of the list when we arrived so we knew exactly what flavours to expect and allowing me to choose one that suited my tastes to a tee.

Here are the great dishes that Hubby and I shared the night of our visit:

Octopus chips- A nice crispy treat to start off the meal, or to pair with a cocktail (or two).

Citrus Cured Trout- This rich and buttery fish was given a light summer twist using the juice from pea pods (I did not even these made juice?!).

Confit Herring- This is a dish for true fish lovers, as the herring has a very forward "fishy" flavour.  The use of accompaniments is really smart, as the romesco helps take an edge off the strong flavour of the fish, while the hazelnuts and sourdough crumbs added a nice contrasting texture.

Steak and Oyster Tartare- Hubby was itching for a little meat with all of that seafood and this dish was right up his alley.  The hanger steak was combined with oysters from nearby Cortes Island, and topped with shaved jerky (a carnivore's dream!).  

Seared Humboldt Squid- This was my favourite dish of the evening.  Squid (one of my new favourites) ran throughout the whole dish, with thin pieces on top of a chickpea fricassee that contained little cubes of squid "chorizo".  The textures and flavours just knocked it right out of the park!

Kale, Honey, Garlic, Rosemary- Because of my obsession with kale, I had to order this side and thought I would have it all to myself.  To my surprise, Hubby dove right in once he took one bite of its honey-infused sweetness and the crispy little garlic slivers overtop.  Thank goodness for the generous portion!

Overall Verdict?  
Welcome to Kitsilano Supermarine!  Everything about you, from your stellar cocktail menu to your expertly-prepared local seafood to your down-to-earth service and atmosphere, make us so happy to call you neighbour!  We will definitely be swinging by again in the near future:)

Supermarine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato