It has been a month since my Vancouver trip, but I need to finish the posts and reports so I don't feel guilty about turning my attention to my most recent trip (to Toronto)...
so, I will just concentrate on two more places...first, Imperial Chinese Seafood in the Marine Building downtown, which doesn't get a lot of mention on the board. A local Vancouver friend suggested it as a place to meet before a day of sightseeing (since it is almost next door to the Hyatt where we were staying) and it was a very pleasant surprise!
First of all, the Marine Building is one of the finest examples of art deco architecture anywhere (certainly the finest in Vancouver!) so anyone who appreciates deco will want to visit it...Most of the architectual details don't make it into the restaurant (don't miss the building lobby, however!), but it is very lovely nonetheless, with high ceilings, white tableclothes, and a harbor view. Most of the patrons on a holiday Monday were Asian. We had a reservation but didn't need it: not sure how busy it would be on a regular weekday...
Dim sum: most of the ordering is off of a menu, which was the only downside (I prefer carts or trays), though they did bring around a few trays later in our meal. The upside of menu ordering: everything we had was fresh and hot. Highlights were shrimp rice rolls, scallop dumplings, chicken feet, and everything fried, especially the taro balls, which were delicious: as good as I've eaten anywhere. This kitchen really has a light,nice touch with fried foods. The mango pudding was also outstanding....
It isn't cheap, but it was good value. They have a full bar, btw, though we didn't indulge and I didn't check out their drink prices... We treated our friend, and total for the three of us with tax and tip and enough food to keep us going until dinner, was $20 each Canadian.
Has anyone tried it for dinner?
So, on to West...
I don't know. Sometimes I wonder if it is good to go into a restaurant with high expectations...perhaps if one is expecting a stellar experience (at least one Hound has several times referred to West as the best restaurant in North America) one will inevitably be disappointed?
In any event, we arrived early with a reservation, as we wanted to take advantage of the early bird prix fixe menu. We were asked to wait just a bit at the bar (the place was empty, but perhaps they weren't quite set up yet, since it was just after opening). Hubby ordered a drink, and we did enjoy the bartender, who clearly knew what he was doing...(or she? at this point I can't remember the bartender's gender, but I still remember the loving way he or she mixed that martini and made the twist while we watched...)
The room is very pleasant, with modern lines, with a wall of wine bottles along one side and nicely spaced tables. Service throughout was excellent and friendly. Not overly formal, but with a few formal touches.
Once seated, we checked out the wine list: it is extensive, with a truly great selection of half bottles. Pricy, but I don't hold that against the place, after all, it is a top restaurant, and wine is expensive in Vancouver, everywhere. We ended up ordering two half bottles, but unfortunately, I didn't keep my notes to tell you what they were. (both were very good and not unreasonably priced, given the location).
As mentioned, to try and keep costs from getting to out of control, we went for the prix fixe...on to the food: an amuse bouche came first: a small shot glass of cold cucumber soup. It tasted like cucumber...nice, nothing more.
The prix fixe was very similar to that outlined on the website:
oysters: I started with six truly lovely BC oysters...probably the highlight of the meal for me.
soup: for the life of me, I can't remember what it was (don't think it was the mushroom now listed; artichoke perhaps?), and as I said, l lost those darn notes,...but my impression was that it was very good, not outstanding.
ravioli: very good, one ravioli, nice balance of flavors, rich and tasty. but not amazing (sort of the theme for the evening)
wild salmon, with dungeness foam and parlesy pomme puree: the biggest disappointment of the evening: the crab foam was very nice, with intense flavor. The salmon itself was overcooked. Admittedly, I didn't specify medium rare, which is how I prefer salmon, but I guess I didn't think that it would come well-done at a restaurant of this caliber...
The lamb: it was good, again, it wasn't anything amazing, but it was very good. Hubby ordered it medium rare, and I'd say it was just on the medium side of that.
Dessert: we were both in a chocolate mood, so we both had the torte with creme caramel ice cream and, in hubby's case, the rum soaked bananas...I don't eat bananas but leaving them out of my serving was no problem. The ice cream was my favorite part of the dessert.
Total for all of this with tax and tip was somewhere around $250 Canadian, and yes, that was with the $45 prix fixe (but there were those oysters and the wine).
Bottom line: It was a very nice meal, overall, and we enjoyed ourselves. That said, I wouldn't rush back: it was good, but not the amazing experience others have described, and imo not worth the price. At quite a bit less than that price point I can do as well or better at home in SF, and indeed, in Vancouver: I thought the food was every bit as good at Chambar, at nearly half the price.
Perhaps the prix fixe is not the way to go here. Some of the other choices sound more appealing, and I wonder if the kitchen takes more care with them (?) I certainly wouldn't recommend going with the prix fixe as a cost saver; this hound at least, was disappointed. I'd say go all out, and then report back, or save a stack of loonies and go elsewhere for a very nice meal in very nice surroundings, which is what West was for us (no more, no less).