Sunday 17 March 2013

Forage- An Ode to Sustainable Dining

1300 Robson Street
VancouverBC V6E 1C5
(604) 661-1400

Tastiness Factor: 9/10

Atmosphere: 4/5

Service: 4.5/5

Locavore Approved? Enthusiastically YES (This is their main focus, and they give a nice description of their dedication to sustainability on the website.  Their menu reflects seasonality and highlights local ingredients.  We were even told that we could be given all of the names of the fisherman and farmers if desired.  Love it!!!)

I am actually a bit embarrassed to admit, as Little Miss Locavore, that I had not heard of Forage until about 2 weeks ago when I stumbled across it on the Internet.  I was reading an article about how Fable has been voted one of Vancouver's best new restaurants (which I completely support!) and when I scrolled down the page, the name "Forage" caught my eye.

Forage has a philosophy that is explained in detail on its website.   They recognize that "local' and "sustainable" have become trendy here in Vancouver but they are proud to describe themselves as such.      As they rightly point out, sustainability will be the reality of all food in the years to come as natural resources become more scarce, and fortunately more and more consumers want to know where there food is coming from.   Forage bills its food as being casual and unpretentious yet innovative, which I think describes their offerings perfectly.

They have located themselves in the Listel Hotel, which also has a commitment to environmental protection and sustainability.   The entrance is right onto the street and is quite visually appealing from the sidewalk.  The inside is modern and chic, with the tables positioned around a large bar.

Although I have seen some past negative reviews of service, the service we received was second to none.  Our main server Sebastian was extremely enthusiastic and attentive, and those that brought out the dishes did a great job of explaining each one.  Spacing between the dishes was right on the mark.

All wines and beers at Forage are local and the selection is quite commendable, especially in terms of beers.  They also offer some house-made cocktails on which I cannot comment as we had wine and beer.  

The style of dining is quite unique.  It can be thought of as tapas to some extent, but guests are encouraged to order a few dishes to share, and then decide on others later instead of ordering all up front.  Sharing is encouraged, but my husband and I ordered our own dishes due to our differing tastes and this worked just fine.  The menu is broken up into several sections, and picking a few from each category is recommended for variety.  Although there are recommendations, there are no rules and you can just make it up as you go depending on what you are feeling like next.  The kitchen will then prepare to order.  I really enjoyed this.

Here were our picks:

Kale and Apple Chips- This little starter dish, in the "Snack" section of the menu was the perfect little nibble to accompany my wine.  Usually, bar snacks heavy and indulgent whereas this was the complete opposite.   The kale, which made up the majority of the dish, was light and crispy (not sure if it is baked or fried?) and nicely spiced.  They do tend to get a bit salty if you eat the whole plate like I did, but this is admittedly a sharing dish (I couldn't resist!).  The few apple slices overtop gave a nice contrasting sweetness.  Finally, a nice bar snack that does not weigh you down!

Cracklings and Popcorn- This was a husband's choice of snack which he paired with a local chocolate porter.  Although admittedly not as healthy as the kale, it was a very light bar snack with great flavors to really warm up the palate for the meal to come.  The popcorn really took on the flavor of the surrounding pork cracklings.  Again, this may not be the best choice if you are watching your salt intake but is sinfully delicious, while still leaving you with plenty of room for your meal.

Roasted Pan Bread- As I have noted previously, my husband loves bread, especially warm and cheesy pan bread.  Forage's version with Golden ears cheddar and spiced honey immediately caught his eye as a "must-order".  Again, this dish is certainly intended, but that did not stop my dear hubby from devouring the ENTIRE pan.  OK, to be fair, I have a bite off the end of one piece to get the flavor and I  loved the spiced honey on top as it had a bit of a "kick" to it which I did not expect.  The bread, like all of our dishes, was piping hot out of the oven when it arrived at the table, for which the kitchen and servers should be applauded.  It is almost certain that my husband will be ordering another panbread, likely all to himself, on our next visit!

Local mussels- After the feast of carbs, my husband wanted a lighter dish and the mussels, which were the special of the night, seemed to fit the bill perfectly.   For $12, this dish was a complete steal.  The local mussels were huge and juicy, and were surrounded by a broth made of ale (timely for St. Patrick's Day weekend!) and  bacon.  As if this wasn't enough,  the mussels were served with a side of frites with horseradish aioli.  I am not usually the wife who picks at her husband's fries but I have to admit that last night, I did perhaps steal a few (or more than a few...).  These fries were plump and crisp (you could almost hear the "crunch" as you sunk your teeth in!) and the horseradish aioli was the perfect accompaniment.  If you are a fry lover, these are a must (they come with a few of the other dishes too, like the burger).

Spiced grains with autumn vegetables- This was my pick for the main, as quinoa is my favorite grain and I love to try different preparations.  I have to say that this is perhaps the best quinoa dish I have EVER had.  The quinoa was tossed with wheatberries, giving it more of a hearty texture, and mixed with a perfect combination of middle-eastern spices (the cumin flavor really stood out for me) and small, cubed pieces of rot vegetable.  The addition of the raita on top was perfect as a cooling balance to the spiciness.  Although I give them kudos for making their own raita to serve on the side, I would argue that it is perhaps unnecessary and a bit distracting.  I suspect they are intended as a wrap for the quinoa but this would be a real shame as this quinoa is much too tasting to be wrapped up!  Perhaps a few greens or another vegetable to add a dash of color to the dish would be more appropriate.  Having said that, I would order this dish again in a heartbeat (I see that it is on their brunch menu as well...).

After our experience last night at Forage, all I can say is THANK GOODNESS I stumbled across this dish on the Internet and got a reservation right away.  This is a place that I am eager to try again soon for dinner, as I am sure that with their focus on sustainability, their menu will be changing fairly regularly.  As for brunch,  I am happy to say that we will be heading there next Sunday at noon with some friends and I cannot wait.

A restaurant that offers local and sustainable food that tastes amazing at affordable prices in a chic yet friendly atmosphere- what more can you ask for?

Forage on Urbanspoon


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