Friday 24 June 2016

Nomad- A Main St. Gem

3950 Main St, 
Vancouver, BC 
V5V 3P2
Reservation required? Can be made on the website or by phone, walk-ins also welcome.  The space is pretty big, but you may want to reserve to avoid disappointment.

Atmosphere (5/5):
The restaurant, located at Main and King Edward, has a small and unassuming exterior that I happened to notice one Saturday morning on my way to the Nat Bailey Farmer's Market.  Although it is only a 75 seat restaurant, the room appears much larger thanks to impressively high ceilings.  The space is divided into an upstairs and downstairs, with a bar along one wall.  The seating is well spaced so we did not feel as though we were too cozy with our neighbours.  Space was jammed full on this Saturday evening and very full of life.

Service (4/5): Our main server was great, regularly coming back to ask us how we were liking our dishes and taking the time to explain each element on the plate.  It was evident that he enjoyed his work and took a lot of pride in working there.
The service started out very fast and slowed toward the end of the evening (we waited quite a long time for our bill) but this is easily forgiven as a party of 32 was seated about 30 minutes after us and we had been told that when we made the reso that day.

Food/drink: Nomad has a nice, tight cocktail list with signature and classic cocktails.  I loved the Holy Grail (server compared it to a Negroni, alcohol-forward, not so sweet cocktail) and my friend enjoyed the Femme Fatale (a little sweeter, to her liking).

Food menu relatively small (usually a good sign), and showcases local, Pacific Northwest cuisine.   The menu goes from least expensive, smallest snacks to midsize smaller plates to more costly larger plates.  You could easily pick an appie and main each,  but sharing is encouraged which is what we did.  I am pescatarian, but they offered to accommodate sharing by putting some of the meats that came in the dish on the side for my friend to enjoy (chorizo, pork belly) and serving the rest on sharing plates.  The sizes of the dishes were extremely generous for the price, but I still advise trying as many of the delicious dishes as you can!

Here is a look at the dishes we enjoyed (shared between my friend and I):

Roasted Beets and Grilled Gem Heats- The "jalapeƱo hummus" seemed odd on first glance but worked super well, as did the crispy onions for texture.  Definately a departure from your average beet salad, and so much more interesting!

Grilled calamari-  The thickly-sliced calamari was served over a delicious warm chickpea relish that I could eat on its own every day of the week.  The homemade red pepper sauce and chimichurri were exceptional.  There was a lot going on, but it all somehow all worked.

Herb potato gnocci- We loved this very generous bowl of light, pillowy gnocchi with a delicious fresh pesto soft cheese, diced portobellos and kale.

Northern Divine sturgeon-  This fish steak easily cut in two to share.  It as served with sun chokes and the most amazing shallot jam for a hint of sweetness that complemented the other components perfectly.  I also loved the nice serving of greens nestled under the fish (no veggie shortage here!).

And of course, you can never go wrong with a bit of chocolate cake to finish things off!  

Overall verdict?

With so many new places popping up in Vancouver to try, I do not usually make it a habit of repeat restaurant visits but I predict that I will find myself back at Nomad pretty soon.  This impressive Main St. gem is a must for anyone who enjoys local food, unique preparations and delicious flavour combinations.  Nomad almost certainly has a great future ahead!

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

Saturday 18 June 2016

Magnificence at San Fran's 3-Star Manresa

320 Village Ln
Los Gatos, CA 

Reservations: Mandatory (max 90 days in advance)

Atmosphere (5/5): Manresa is located in Los Gatos, a quaint little town about 1hr outside of San Francisco.   A little stroll around the downtown before the 3+ hour dinner is highly recommended, as there are many cute little shops and restaurants to check out and make note of for future visits.  If possible, find a place in Los Gatos to stay overnight after your Manresa meal to avoid a long drive back into San Fran afterwards. 
In terms of the restaurant itself, it has been recently rebuilt after a fire in summer of 2014 but still maintains a vintage charm.  It is a comfortable space, with a welcoming fireplace in the voyer and a dining room that is what I would call “sophisticated casual”.  Be sure to take a moment to gawk at Chef Kinch's emmy for his appearance on "Mind of a Chef" (well deserved!), showcased behind glass on the far wall.  

Service (5/5)- The servers at Menresa were both professional yet approachable.   The highlight came near the end of our meal when we were visited by David Kinch himself who came to check in with us about the meal.  Then, to top it all off, we were invited into the kitchen for a tour and got to chat with the sommelier and some of the kitchen staff.  All in all, we felt pretty darn special by the time we left.

Food (10/10)-  There was not one dish in the whole 12+ course tasting menu that was anything short of outstanding. In terms of style, there was a bit of Asian, a bit of French and a whole lotta local.  Every dish was innovative, expertly conceived and perfectly executed.  Furthermore, the sequence and flow of the meal, from amuse-bouche to main course, was spot on.  The “surprise factor” struck a perfect balance, with lots of creativity and intrigue, but nothing forced or gimmicky. 

Here is a look at or meal:

Overall verdict?  
Manresa has risen to my top 3 meals of all times.  The food definitely lives up to its 3 stars, and it delivers on all other fronts with its pleasant atmosphere and delightfully approachable service.  Having Chef Kinch there in person made or evening especially memorable.  This is an experience that will stay with us for years to come, and we will most certainly return again! 

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

Subtle Simplicity at San Fran's 3-Star Saison

178 Townsend St, 
San Francisco, CA

Reservations: Mandatory (max 90 days in advance)

Atmosphere (5/5):
Saison is quite a surprisingly small space, very intimate, with quite limited seating as compared to other places we have been.  The best part- the tremendous views of the open kitchen.   We were pretty much sitting right inside with the chefs! This made for an especially "up close and personal" experience

Service (5/5):
We really appreciated the very unpretentious attitudes of the servers.  They were all too happy to stay at or table and chat, offer comments about dishes, tell stories about their own food experiences and address all of or questions.  Their very personable approach was balanced by a very professional and flawless dinner service, unrivaled by any other place we have been so far.  The service gets an A+ all the way around, from the front of house to servers to the sommelier.

Food (9/10):
As one can glean from their website and previous reviews, there is an Asian flair to the whole meal.  Or evening started and ended with tea, and Asian flavors and techniques were the centerpiece of most courses.  For the most part, dishes were very simple and understated, but executed perfectly.  So of our favourite dishes were prepared using their wood oven, which they used to prepare meat, veg and even bread.  Saison is more about subtlety and refinement than dramatic, “knock your socks off” flavors and presentations.

Here is a sneak peak at our meal:

Overall verdict?

If you are looking for a meal that hinges on simplicity and subtlety, without all the smoke and mirrors, than Saison is your place.  While you may not experience the same degree of “wow” factor that is found other 2 and 3 stars, there is something to be said for the restraint and finesse that Saison delivers. 

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