Finally tried Gray's at the Park, the restaurant for the Vancouver Hilton. My sister was in town at an event near Delta Park and several other family members had come in to see her, including another sister with her 4 month old baby and 2 year old toddler. We needed a place where we could get in quickly, but didn't want McDonald's. My worry in suggesting a place was that at 7:30 on a Friday night, we might either not get reservations or have to stand in line, which would not be acceptable with two little kids.
Called Gray's and they said, surprisingly, that they were quite open. I asked if they were kid friendly and they said yes and that they had boosters, high chairs, and kids' menus. So that's where we went. It was difficult to get parking because they don't have their own and the Taste of Vancouver was going on across the street. But the city parking garage was only 50 cents an hour. So we popped in there and then walked a half block to the restaurant.
I think my sister would have preferred it to be a little busier so her kids could be noisier without drawing stares, but they were relatively good once they each had food in their mouths.
It's a nice dining room. Very elegant with dark reddish wood paneling and silver beaded strands hanging around the edges of the tall booths and in large circles around the ceiling lights. Several tables sit next to the tall windows overlooking the park across the street.
The dinner menu is split into starters, soup and salads, main courses, pastas, and signature dishes (plus a separate dessert menu). Prices for entrees range from $15 for steak frites to $27 for the goat cheese crusted rack of lamb.
We ordered the sauteed mushroom caps ($8.50), crispy potato crab fritters ($12), and beef carpaccio ($10) to start. The mushrooms were in a creamy/tangy sauce of garlic, white wine, and parmesan. It had a little bite to it, possibly from raw garlic, though it wasn't overwhelmingly garlicky so maybe it was something else spicing it up. They were fine, but not especially good. Perhaps something as a texture contrast for the mushrooms, some crisped breadcrumbs, some bruschetta, and less sauce and more mushroom would have made this better.
The crab fritters were more fritter than crab, but tasted good. There was a bit of cheese in the dough. The fritters were also garnished with strings of fried orange zest, which added a nice touch and may have also been actually in the fritters or at least as part of the shell. However, with that element, I would have preferred some sort of lighter sauce. More crab, especially at that price, would have been nice, too.
The carpaccio came topped with Point Reyes blue cheese, balsamic, and arugula. The beef itself had very little flavor, but it was a nice salad. ;-)
We also got the Caesar salad ($6.50). This was better than the appetizers. The dressing is a little mayonnaisey, but still balanced by the flavors of Worcestershire, lemon, and garlic. The salad itself is nice with good croutons, shavings of parmesan, and frico, a very nice addition. The romaine was cut up and good quality.
I didn't taste all the entrees, but we ordered the grilled flat iron steak ($16.75), steak frites ($15), porcini mushroom half moons ($14.50), grilled wild king salmon ($23.50), and the Syrah braised buffalo short ribs ($18).
I only tried the salmon (my wife's dish) and the short ribs (my dish). Well, I tried the fries, too, which weren't crisp enough but had a nice flavor, accented by some grated cheese. Everything else looked good, though the ribeye was a bit thin. It'd make it difficult to have it the medium-rare that I like but still with a nice crust. My wife's salmon was properly cooked, flaky but not mushy, with good grill marks. More of the fritters were served along with it.
My braised shortribs had a strong "beefy" flavor and were tender, but not mushy. The glaze had a very earthy, deep flavor, a combination of reduced wine and coffee. It probably could have used just a little acid finish, though. The ribs were perched on parmesan whipped potatoes, which I found very peppery and not especially parmesany. The roasted root vegetables were a bit dry and really needed the gravy.
We had a flourless polenta chocolate cake with peppermint ice cream for dessert. There was really too much going on. Along with the cake and ice cream, there were covered espresso beans, chocolate sauces flavored with liquers, caramel sauce, whipped cream, etc. I didn't really like the flavor of the cake, either. It didn't have that rich chocolate flavor. It had the bitterness of dark chocolate, but also an odd tanginess. The polenta didn't come through except to make the texture crumbly. The peppermint ice cream was supermarket quality, I thought.
btw, the toddler got a grilled cheese and fries that looked really nice. Looked cooked perfectly.
Service was sloooow. Found myself often looking around wondering where the server was. They were very nice and seemed to be trying hard to please. Maybe they were working the bar as well or short-handed despite it being only 1/4 full on a Friday night. I went for lunch the next day working on my burger and Caesar surveys, though, and service was again off. (We waited 5 minutes or more before I went to find someone to seat us.)
It's a very nice restaurant and easily the best restaurant in the area. It's probably the best restauant in the vicinity of Delta Park and Jantzen Beach, too, and might be a good option for those at the Expo Center. Prices seem fair. Nothing was outstanding, but everything was at least decent. Difficult report, really, because it's one of those places where the food isn't especially tasty or exciting, but nothing is really a failure, either.
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