I am back home after a few weeks away from the internet, so time to continue my Vancouver Reports...
Our first dinner in Vancouver, and perhaps our best of the trip, was at Chambar. This place has earned a spot on my 'favorites' list...for other folks from San Francisco and California: If you can, try to imagine what a restaurant would be like that combined some of the best aspects of Luka's, Aziza, and Passionfish, and that restaurant might be Chambar.
Since it is billed as a Belgian pub, for some very wrong reason (my own stereotyping I guess) I was expecting something old, dark and European in feel. Wrong. Though Chambar is in an old warehouse (a cannery perhaps?) the wall of windows, local art work, and sleek fixtures give it a very hip, modern vibe.
We were seated in the front of the restaurant, across from the bar. I suspect that the back room is the place to be (with the view from that wall of windows) but given that we were in Vancouver during what they call a heat wave (ie temps in the 80's F) and many places, including this one, aren't air conditioned, we were pleased to be in the front room: not as 'cool' but cooler thanks to the wide opened front door. I suspect it was also quieter.
The service made us feel welcome: friendly, accomodating, and completely professional.
We started by perusing the wine list, which has some nice and unusual (or at least unusual for California) Australian, New Zealand and BC choices. It is not a bargain, however, by California standards (as I mentioned in another post we found wines to be expensive everywhere we went in Canada, including in stores). To spend a bit less, I'd suggest trying one of the excellent Belgian beers available on tap and in bottles. There is also a full bar with some very interesting cocktail selections.
We were in the mood for a non-oaked Chardonay, and our knowledgeable server recommended the Joie Chardonnay, from the Okanagan Valley (BC). It fit the bill perfectly.
On to the food: Hubby had the excellent asparagus salad. Truly delicious, incredibly fresh and bright flavors. I chose the "salade verte a la fleure d'orange" described on the menu as an organic green & endive salad, with poached pear emulsion, blossom water dressing. Pumpkin seeds & sunchoke chips. Unfortunately, I didn't read that description carefully enough, or didn't think to ask more about it, because I was quite surprised by the cloying sweetness of the blossom dressing. It was like eating lavender, though the server confirmed that it was orange blossom. I love the smell of lavendar, but I hate the taste. Oh well, my fault. One of those dishes that I would call 'interesting' (it was certainly well made with perfectly fresh ingredients) but not one I would order again.
For mains, hubby had the halibut pesto, served with very tasty lemon gnocchi, which he polised off in no time. I had the seared wild sockeye salmon, with confit salmon & chive ravioli, and hand peeled shrimp. The salmon was outstanding, cooked perfectly rare. Wow. This kitchen knows it stuff, and knows how to combine wonderful technique and perfect ingredients.
We saw a lamb shank tangine that looked and smelled fabulous going to the neighboring table. The mussels for which the place is known looked great as well. We were too full to even attempt dessert, though we each had an after dinner drink. Will just have to go back soon (if we had been in Vancouver more than just a few nights, I would have gone back, and after a somewhat disappointing meal at West, to be reported on in Part III or IV, I was sorry I hadn't chosen to go back to Chambar instead).
I can't remember the exact cost, but with tax (and tax on alcohol is pretty steep in Canada) and tip, our bill was about $135 Canadian. Money very well spent.
If I lived in Vancouver, and I sure would love to do just that one day, I'd be a regular here for either beer and mussells at the bar, or for a full, celebratory dinner, depending on my mood and finances. Highly recommended.
Chambar website: http://www2.chambar.com/EN/404/