June 10, 2004
Herons Restaurant Review
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(Picture of Herons Restaurant at 5:30pm June 10, 04)
It was a cloudy late Vancouver afternoon, and we pulled into a parking space on the street smack dab right in front of the glass doors of the pretty-looking Herons Restaurant, property of the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel. Dieu Ho, head chef of Herons, is known for his flair for fusion techniques, and his awareness and appreciation for the Canadian westcoast.
Me and my girlfriend visited this fine dining establishment for dinner right before the 8 o'clock "Quidam" Cirque Du Soleil show near the Plaza of nations. Nonetheless, we left the restaruant with a great impression of what Canadian westcoast cuisine can be in the hands of a hotel-born restaurant such as Herons.
Seared Duck Breast with Smoked Enoki and Green Beans ($14 CDN):
The duck tasted great, perfectly cooked to about medium. The smokiness and gamey taste of duck was distinctive and well controlled. Accompanying the duck were some poached green beans and enoki that had been deeply browned, and were apparently lightly smoked. In a funny way, they were like Chinese "fish balls"...both in texture and in taste. I've had enoki before at Italian restaurants in Vancouver, and this was an enoki like nothing I've had before. Altogether, this dish was generously sauced with a demi-glace based thick gravy. Classically
presented, this duck appetizer was satisfying and hearty.
DUNGENESS CRAB and SCALLOP SALAD ($14 CDN)
My girlfriend's salad was a winner. The main focus of the salad was of course, Dungeness Crab and scallop - which I would also like to mention that there was more crab than scallop (which was also perfectly fine).
The crab meat was likely from a crab that went into a pot of boiling water and then shelled. The scallop, judging from its texture and clean look, was likely steamed and then finely diced. On their own, well, they would taste like ordinarily cooked crab and scallop. There were two dressings on the plate;
a balsamic-based vinagrette and a sweet-rice wine vinegar based vinegrette. The vinagrettes, while tasty, were a bit shabby in volume for my taste, particularly the balsamic one, literally one dab here and there.
There were also some fresh herbs, mainly chervil, on top of the seafood component of the
salad. However, what really stole the show for this salad, was the watermelon. Many other crab-based salads use fruit like mango and apple...but this was the first time I've had watermelon with crab. They paired wonderfully. The subtle sweetness of the seedless watermelon did not overpower any of the crab or scallop, and complemented the seafood flavors very well. Again, an impressive little salad with a delicate and refreshing touch.
TOMBO TUNA, TOMATO-CHEESE TART, KALAMATA-OLIVE TAPENADE SAUCE ($29 CDN)
When I first got this dish, I was thinking "Oh My". I didn't realize the tuna was going to be this rare...but since I eat sashimi and sushi on a near-weekly basis, I convinced myself that it wasn't going to be a problem. Indeed, it tasted like thick-cut ahi tuna sashimi, with of course, the smokiness and crispness of the seared outsides. The kalamata-olive
tapenade sauce was, well, tasted like olives blended with olive oil. And since I didn't mind
olives, I thought it went quite well with the tuna. The oven-dried tomato and cheese tart, in spite of being a tad bit soggy from the tomato juices and olive oil, tasted good and highlighted the rest of the dish. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this meditterannean take on tombo-ahi tuna.
HORSERADISH ENCRUSTED HALIBUT; PEA RISOTTO and TOMATO-FENNEL SAUCE ($27 CDN)
There were a few things I found lacking in this dish, even though my girlfriend found it fine.
First of all, the horseradish crust did not taste anything like horseradish at all. The only taste I got were browned breadcrumbs, and some nuts.
Also, in regards to the pea-risotto, while green in color from the peas, could have had more pronounced flavors of peas. Still, the risotto was creamy and nicely done, and went well with the other components of the dish.
The Halibut was cooked fine during the pan roasting process, retaining most of its
moisture. However, I couldn't help but notice that the halibut would likely have tasted bland, even with the so-called "horseradish crust", if it wasn't for the cheesy risotto and tomato-fennel sauce. While not a overpowering dish in regards to flavor (which I like lots of), this halibut dish is still acceptable in a fine dining establishment such as Herons.
Being the property of the Waterfront Fairmont hotel in Canada place, where thousands of international debutants and visitors come to stay each year, you can say that the restaurant is under constant pressure from representing the very finest of what the Canadian Westcoast has to offer.
The serving staff is professional, straight from the hotel-restaurant school of etiquette. The food, is very good, using high quality ingredients, and creative techniques. Herons represents the Canadian westcoast with confident poise. Certainly a
restaurant I would recommend to impress business clientelle, friends, or relatives visiting from overseas.