Given a gift certificate from a friend that would cover a pair of the three-course prix fixe menus (C$40 per) a few months back, I finally got around to utilizing it. I thought I would share my impressions as the ones on CH that I could locate about the place are limited as well a bit outdated.
Here's what came to our table. Starter of seared sweetbread with wild mushrooms, raisin salad, pancetta squash cake, with a shallot squash vinaigrette. The salad and simple dressing worked well with the sweetbread, which had a nice consistency/texture. The other appetizer was a caraway seed albacore tuna with fennel, radish, mesclun and a lemon confit capers salsa vinaigrette. I didn't have as much of this one (was my dining companison's dish) but felt the tuna was not as fresh as I'd hoped. Our server informed us that the seared Quebec foie gras (for an additional C$6) was unavailable that evening, having sold out the previous night and a delivery for the day not possible.
These were followed by an entree of seared sable fish with a tomato risotto galette on top of some wilted spinach and a squid saffron and herbs lemon ragu. The fish was well cooked, still tender and moist just the way I like it, though the ragu was a bit bland for my liking. The risotto was visually appealing with the richness of the tomato and saffron and had a bit more flavor but was slightly chewier in texture than my expectation; and the contrast just didn't work for me with the nice flaky sable fish and was really noticeable if you had a taste of them separately. The other main was a flat iron beefsteak and brine brisket on top of some thyme braised carrot sptazle with horseradish and a red wine reduction. Again, the protein here was well done, not overcooked and flavorful but the sptazle was rather plain and uninteresting; a good portion was left on the plate as it was cleared away. Both dishes were paired with wine of the by-glass listing; a bit more expensive this way but both of us were not in the mood for too much wine having indulged in some really nice wine offereings the night before at a party.
For dessert, I juggled in my mind with the canele bordelais, but selected the almond macaron that was filled with a thick lemon curd, and served with some sauted diced pinapple and lemon ice cream. Being a big fan of the tartness of lemon, I was not too concerned with the overwhelming abundance of it here but the curd was just too sweet and syrupy for my liking, though the rest was light and a nice end to my meal. The other dessert a roast apple calvados crème brulee was pretty standard but not disappointing.
Having had to locate the restaurant on a map on our way out, as it was our first time, it was easy to find once we were on Robson and turned on Thurlow. When we arrived at just past seven (I think they open at six), there was a trio just entered the door before us, and a few minutes after we were seated, another pair entered. So in total there was eight, and it remained this way til about eight-thirty when we left. I figure with an hour and a half to go to closing, it would remain that way. The reviews I'd read online (outside of CH) told me this was not unusual, even on this being a Friday night, and I noticed the people passing by the windows looking in, that perhaps many others were thinking the same thing. The place was rather spartan in design, pleasant but not overly eye-catching. The mood was probably affected by the multiple changes in the dimness of the lighting by the staff, as well as the strange mix of music playing (I'd read somewhere that another visitor had heard country western), and on this night they even played some Asian-sounding melodies as well as some Spanish ballads! Service was attentive and polite throughout the evening, so I am sure if they just improved on some of the other elements perhaps they'd see a fuller room on a Friday night. Just a short step away on the same street, the Japanese izakayka Guu was packed and people were waiting outside to get in, so it can't be a location issue.
Overall a decent but not memorable meal. If not for the friend's gift, I'd probably not have gone on my own. As to whether I will again... I'd say highly likely not.
850 Thurlow St, Vancouver, BC V6E1W2, CA