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Vancouver Report - West, Cru, Banana Leaf, Stephos


Restaurants & Bars 6

Vancouver Report - West, Cru, Banana Leaf, Stephos

MikeW | Nov 18, 2003 01:51 PM

Just returned from a weekend in Vancouver and was very impressed. Thanks to those who provided suggestions.

San Sui Wah
Our first meal was a late lunch at San Sui Wah. We were in a hurry and very hungry but we did have time to sample the famous squab which was excellent. Tried sum Dim Sum as well, which was good. Not my area of expertise though.

Saturday night we ate at Cru. Started with the Roasted Beet and Watercress Salad, with shaved parmesan, truffle vinaigrette $8. Very good, not exceptional. I thought the dish was a bit small. Next up was Pan-seared Nova Scotia Scallops on risotto with local chanterelles and brown butter sauce. Very nice dish with butternut squash risotto. Scallops were cooked perfectly. Wines with these dishes were a Tinhorn Creek Gewurztraminer 2002 which was excellent, a Burrowing Owl 2002 Pinot Gris, very good, Alsace like, had a bizarre nose of cheese that blew off, and a Township 7 Chardonnay, which was not over oaked and very enjoyable.

Next up was the Tuna Tartare; ahi tuna tossed with daikon, chilli and cucumber, served with crostini. On par with the scallops, a nice dish, nothing spectacular. Finally, Syrah-braised Beef Short Rib with macaroni and cheese. This was the highlight. Fantastic flavorful short rib with a small side of very rich macaroni and cheese. With this we sampled the Tinhorn Creek Cabernet Franc. Huge wine, very nice and matched well with the short rib.

From there we did a cheese course, four cheeses for a very reasonable $18 and matched it with a few ports I can’t recall. From what I recall, two French cheeses stood out, a Brie and an aged goats milk cheese.

I enjoyed Cru. You can eat fairly inexpensively though with wine the check added up for us. I would return if I lived in the neighborhood.

Banana Leaf
Sunday for lunch we ate at Banana Leaf. I have only had Malaysian food once before but must say the food here was fantastic. The highlight by far was the Assam curry with a "plenitude of seafood". Great sauce, I couldn’t get enough. Also tried dry fried string beans with dried shrimp which were excellent. One dish, a special soup with mango was less successful. Tasted like fatty chicken broth. Could not stop eating the Roti, highly addictive.

Sunday night was West. I had high expectations given all of the great reviews and there was no letdown. We didn't do tasting menus because we had a large lunch, instead opting for the regular menu with an additional small plate. Starters were spectacular. A lobster bisque with scallop had layer upon layer of intense lobster flavor. The accompanying scallop was super sweet and cooked perfectly. Out other starter was a thinly sliced yellowfin tuna sashimi with jalapeno spiced sesame dressing. This was more of a carpaccio, with thinly sliced tuna accompanied by the spiced sesame dressing. The quality of the tuna was fantastic. Not sure if it was the freshness of the fish or the cut or the dressing but together this dish was the second best tuna preparation I have ever had.

Next we split a small plate of bacon with roasted scallop, served with tomato jam and micro greens. This was the weakest dish of the night but was by no means disappointing. The scallop was fantastic but the bacon was just very good. I had visions of a different dish in my head and perhaps that colored by opinion but overall the dish was good. I was picturing more of a pork belly with some crispness but here the texture of the dish was very soft, more like a short rib.

For the main course we had two specials. First, a roasted squab with potato gratin and sunchokes. The squab was cooked perfectly rare and was intensely flavored. I love squab and this dish was perfect. The potatoes were good, but I prefer a bit of crispness on top.

My wife ordered a special roast saddle and leg of suckling pig. After ordering we were told the kitchen had a rack of suckling pig with bones attached if we preferred, so we went with that, as I have never had the opportunity to have roast rack of sucking pig. The dish was four large chops with bones attached and was cooked perfectly. Great dish, great presentation.

The dessert menu was very different. I went with pear fritters with warm camembert fondue with sour cream honey sauce, asian pear and spicy pecan salad. A very interesting dish with the cheese and fritter combo. The camembert was wonderful. Got a side of spiced pumpkin ice cream to go with it which was fantastic. We tried to order a special poached pear filled with chocolate that was offered on the tasting menu but the kitchen ran out.

Service was surprisingly informal and our waiter quite the comedian. However, he offered many wine suggestions and was very helpful. I was not overly impressed with the wines offered by the glass but the bottle choices were better. We had a bottle of pinot grigio from BC followed by a cooper’s creek pinot half bottle. The dessert wine choices were outstanding and we sampled a late harvest sauvignon blanc from BC and an trockenberenauselse, both of which were reasonably priced.

West deserved all the accolades it has received, probably the best meal I have had this year.

Monday for lunch was Stephos. I was immediately turned off by the revolving reusable towel in the bathrooms and the whole place seemed less then clean. Fortunately the food decent. Started with hummus, well done. The accompanying peppers must have been dipped in salt though and were inedible. I had a roast lamb platter which was ridiculously huge. Four people could not have finished it, it must have been a pound and a half of meat for $9.75. The crust or spices on the outside of the meat were the best part. There should be a warning on the menu about the size though. My wife had the Greek Salad and an excellent chicken based soup I can’t remember. One thing I didn’t like was the balloon like pita, I prefer the regular thin style.

As for wine, overall I was pleasantly surprised with BC wines, particularly the whites. However, I was shocked at the selection and prices of wines from the US. Most of the US wines offered were pedestrian (Beringer, Kendall Jackson) and are extremely expensive. At least West had some interesting choices from California. If I lived in Vancouver, I would not be drinking American wine very often while out.

Look forward to my next trip to hit Vij’s, Tojo and some others. Wish I had more time

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