Tastiness Factor: 10/10
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:)
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!!!
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