Restaurants & Bars 3

report on Vancouver trip

jacinthe | Apr 2, 200804:43 PM

So, to recap. I had a conference in Vancouver (and didn't realize that there were two other conferences going on at the same time! So many people walking around with nametags and looking slightly lost!), which also doubled as my spring break. Ah. Those days when spring break meant true vacation are so over.

The first night I was in Vancouver, I was all by myself, so I ambled over to Boneta and got there about 30 minutes before the reservation I had made (I was planning on window-shopping, but not too much was open after 6:30ish. They were nothing less than absolutely gracious and wonderful the entire time I was there. Was met at the door, and when I asked if I could eat at the bar instead, the host introduced me to the bartender, who then took excellent care of me. I started with a cocktail (can’t remember the name, but it was a light pink, made with pisco, grapefruit juice, some salt and pepper and perhaps something else) and the scallop/celeriac ravioli/braised oxtail dish. The host brought over a glass of Riesling for me to have with the scallops, which was very nice of him – and it complemented the dish nicely. I then got the tuna tartare/foie gras custard/ponzu tapioca/cardamom caramel dish, which was just fun. The ponzu tapioca was reminiscent of caviar, and the rest of the ingredients came together well. Even though I was full, I nonetheless ordered the chocolate terrine, which was good albeit (not surprisingly) rich. The service was excellent, as I said – I got just enough attention and chatted some with the bartender, but was left alone to peruse my conference program if I desired. If all dining experiences were like this, I’d perhaps venture out alone more often.

The next day I was at the conference all day (I got takeout sushi from Miko Sushi, which was decently good), then my friend arrived just in time for dinner. We headed over to the Blue Water Café and started with the grilled pork belly, which was just amazing. I’ve had pork belly before, but it’s often been braised and while still delicious, it was nothing like this dish. You could taste the veins of fat running through the belly (which might sound gross, but was in fat just sheer deliciousness). We then split the two-tier plateaux de mer, which came with several kinds of oysters, cocktail shrimp, tuna tartare, something with jellyfish (I think?), mussels, scallops, and perhaps another couple of items I can’t remember now. We were way too full for dessert. Service was pleasant – not on par with the service I had the night before, but nothing to complain about either.

The following day, after a morning spent at the conference, we headed to the seafood buffet at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts. There was a wide variety of dishes (smoked salmon sushi, ravioli stuffed with shrimp, escabeche, more stuff I can’t remember) as well as the selection of two out of three entrées (they were small) and a dessert buffet. Everything was good, but none of it excellent or especially memorable. Dinner was at Chambar, which I was very excited about… but ultimately, this was my least favorite dining experience of the trip, and one of the worst ever in terms of hospitality. We arrived around 10 minutes late (one wrong turn, and we were somehow on some windy road by Costco) and immediately checked in. We were told that it’d be a couple of minutes… but a couple turned into 10, 15, 20, with no updates, all the while being jostled by people entering, leaving, and hanging around the bar… when I asked again when we could expect to be seated, the hostess said that since we had arrived late, they had given our table away and we’d just have to wait for another one to pay their check. No apologies, nothing. While I do agree that we were late, it was definitely by no more than ten minutes, and at this time, it had been 30 minutes since the time of our original reservation, which was just absolutely ridiculous. When I asked if there was somewhere a little less crowded to wait, she said that we could just go outside if we wanted. Since this was the cold, snowy weekend, that was just a lousy recommendation. (I also peered at the reservation computer, and saw that nobody else had had a reservation around the time of ours). I do understand that the restaurant was crowded, but never have I encountered this type of insensitivity. Had I been more familiar with Vancouver, and not so freaking hungry, I’d have left. Luckily, the dinner, and service part of that, was fine, although we were more impressed by the desserts than the actual meal. I got an order of the coquette mussels, one friend got the lamb tagine, and another the duck. The mussels were fine.. I subbed an order of poutine for the regular fries, and found the poutine just way too salty to finish, and I love French fries. Perhaps the combination of blue cheese and gravy was a touch too much (then again, the first time I had poutine it was at Au Pied de Cochon in Montreal, which came with a lobe of foie gras on top. That is my Platonian ideal of what poutine is). For dessert, we shared the nougatine and the orange pekoe gateau, both of which were just elegantly plated and delicious. Cocktails were good – I got the Remembering Vesper Lynd.. which, I’m not sure why they reference the Vesper Lynd martini at all, since it was very very very different (I guess the earl grey infused vodka could be analogous to tea, and henceforth British, and the orange flavors the Lillet in the original drink…)

Brunch the next morning was at Crave. I’d been craving eggs benedict all weekend, and these hit the spot. The buttery potatoes were spectacular, and I wish that all brunch places served such types of potatoes.

I did stop at Caffe Artigano at one point (taking the "scenic route" to the conference in order to do so), and did enjoy my coffee drink.

All in all, a lovely trip food-wise, aside from the hostess at Chambar (even if the weather left something to desire – cold! Snow! Haven’t seen snow since I lived on the East coast!), and thanks again for the recommendations, they really helped to shape our trip.

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