I have been meaning to write up a review of my experience at Lumiere for some months, but finally did it when I read that Rob Feenie had left Lumiere.
I have heard about Lumiere for a number of years and have been longing to go. I live in Ottawa and have only been to Vancouver once before on a trip – that time I dropped a lot of money at Tojo’s! So once my gf and I knew we were going to Vancouver and I had the dates of our trip, I made the reservation which was about 3 months in advance (one must have priorities!)
I always have concerns about going to a restaurant when my expectations are high, especially when a lot of money is going to be spent. I have gone to restaurants with some reasonable expectations and I have been totally dazzled when it was even better than its reputation. However, I have also been let down once or twice when I have been expecting world class food and service only to find that it was good to very good and not great. My gf and I do well financially but neither of us is making 6 figures, so while we are prepared to drop a lot of money a few times a year on a big meal, a disappointing high priced meal would be financially very hard to take.
So how did Lumiere measure up? It was one of the best dining experiences of my life and even though we ended up spending about hundred dollars more than we expected (with tip we spent a little more than $700), we have absolutely no regrets. Indeed, the only restaurant that exceeded it in my personal experience was a 3 star Michelin restaurant in Bruge Belgium called De Karmeliet (I went there in Feb 2005).
We opted for the Signature menu at $180 per head not including alcohol. We both had cocktails that were wonderfully prepared and we decided to purchase half bottle of Riesling to pair with some of the dishes, which was incredible (I can no longer remember the name unfortunately but I do know it’s not available in Ottawa!) and a full bottle of red. I must also confess that while I appreciate great wine, it’s my gf that has the knowledge.
The waiter was extremely knowledgeable and knew how to strike the balance between respectful and friendly. At a restaurant of this calibre, I am expecting to be served by someone who sees his or her job as a profession and is well versed in wine and food, who treats me and my partner with the utmost respect but still can engage in friendly conversation and smile (snobby waiters are not for me!). He was absolutely perfect and I think that says a lot given that on that particular night, he had some physical problems with his knee I believe, and was forced to leave but handled it very well. He came by the table, about ¾ of the way through the meal and explained the situation, apologized and then the next waiter looked after us very well.
The meal started with 2 Amuse bouche. The first amuse bouche, were 4 mini brioches, was brought to us by the Maitre D who proclaimed with a heavy but natural French accent that they were “absolutely perfect”. They were good but not great. The second amuse bouche was, I believe, a broth served in an espresso cup that was heavily flavoured with savoury type herbs. I say I “believe” because I am not 100% sure if it was a broth or simply a herbal tea that was flavoured using savoury herbs. I will say that whichever it was, it was a unique and extremely enjoyable.
The first official course of the meal was Ahi Tuna Sashimi served with tofu purée, soy dressing and cucumber sorbet. This was a dish I had mixed experiences with. I am a big fan of Sushi so I loved the idea of a Sashimi. However, I found the first several bites to be disappointed. But my gf was raving about it. On the last few bites, I was more careful to have a good mix of all the ingredients and it was incredible. Wish I could have gone back and had those first several bites.
The second course was a White Onion Velouté it looked great and was incredible in terms of taste and texture. It was made with procini mushrooms and pearl onions. Perhaps the strongest testament to this dish was that my gf who does not really like mushrooms loved this dish.
The third course was Qualicum Bay Scallops and it was served with compressed watermelon and thai basil. An incredible dish the way the ingredients blended together. The flavours worked so well and I would never had thought of watermelon and Thai basil being served with Scallops.
The fourth course was Queen Charlotte Roasted Halibut. Another great dish. I am not the biggest halibut fan in the world but I could be if it was served like this every night!
Fifth course of the evening was the Fraser Valley Roasted Duck. An incredible food experience served with parsnip purée, beets, brussels spouts and a Madeira sauce. I am ok with parsnips but I don’t really like beets – I can eat them but it’s not really my thing…. Until this meal. It brought out the best of those flavours and made me overlook what I don’t like.
The main course was oven roasted loin of lamb. A note on this course. It was served with an Israeli couscous that contained olives as well as butternut squash. My gf hates olives and enquired what could be done and there were happy to serve it without olives. That to me was a testament to the level of service at this restaurant as I would assume the couscous is not made for each individual order or is at least prepped in advanced with the olives already mixed in. We’ve had other experiences where the restaurant did not properly deal with similar requests. They were happy to do so. She need not have bothered eliminating the olives. The couscous was absolutely perfect balancing all of the flavours so that none really over-powered and I doubt I would have known there were olives in it (though I could see the small pieces) by the taste alone. The lamb was perfect and melted in my mouth! Why can’t all lamb taste like this.
The cheese course was served with a fruit and nut bread. I did not write down the cheeses that were served but I was impressed with they had and really enjoyed it. The fruit and nut bread was delightful.
Next up was the “Sous Vide Okanagan Cherry Float” which was served in a large shot glass. The cherry soda was great and I was wondering how they made it (I am assuming it was a white wine in which cherries were slowly cooked to infuse the flavour – hence the “sous vide”). I serve a champagne granite at home as my own palate cleanser and have been given sorbets in restaurants. I found this to be a very unique take on the cleanser and it was absolutely delicious…. Make it bigger next time! I have already ripped this idea off at my last home cooked meal and it was hit (I used an organic cherry soda) but my gf was quick to tell me – it was not as good as Lumiere!
The 2 desserts were courses were: the Blackberry &Plum Salad served with apricot sabayon and mint ice cream and a Caramalized White Chocolate Namelaka with a wager, peach sorbet and poached peaches. Both were an incredible taste experience, particularly the white chocolate namelaka. I also have a very strong memory of the mint ice cream.
The meal closed with coffee and les migniardises which were a perfect for the final taste.
Overall, this was an incredible dining experience and I have been longing for another experience at Lumiere since I had this meal. I was disappointed to find out that Rob Feenie has officially left and I would be curious to know how much of the meal I had was indebted to him and how much was indebted to their new chef, Dale McKay. I am guessing it was more Feenie since McKay arrived in August but would love to hear from anyone who may have more knowledge on this.
If Feenie, had not left I would give a full endorsement of Lumiere. With him gone, all I can say is if they can maintain the standard they have set, it will be an excellent experience!