Showing posts with label Pacific. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pacific. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Diva at the Met

Holiday season is said to be the most wonderful time of the year.  No doubt, it is also one of the busiest and most stressful time of the year too.  While I expected myself to be quite busy at my job, I didn't expect to be thrown off course with a flu that hit me one night like a ton of bricks which left me to be repaired for the next few days.  While the sickness may have tarnished my holiday spirit slightly, I knew I would do whatever it take to look and feel my best for our family Christmas dinner at Diva at the Metropolitan hotel in downtown Vancouver.  

I am a fan of innovative cooking techniques and concepts, so I was looking forward to see what new gastronomic adventure was awaiting us tonight.  The service at Diva was top notch.  Valet parking at the hotel is complimentary after the restaurant gives you a stamp for your parking, which is valid for 3 hours.  Who doesn't love convenience? The staff were attentive and professional. We made dinner simple and went with the 5 course tasting menu for $55 per person.  
Four kinds of snacks were included as an introduction to the meal.  We were presented with a basket of eggs.  Inside was a smoked bone marrow custard with truffle.  It was mild, fragrant, and the most luxurious custard ever.
Chicken bacon served on a rock was unique.  It was thin, crispy, salty with a spread of molasses butter.  

The next snack was intriguing.  Mussel coal, or bread, black as night, topped with gleaming ikura on a smouldering coal board.  Despite turning my mouth all black, it was worth it.  The mussel bread and garlic aioli were injected with squid ink, giving it coal-black color.  The bread was so moist and tender with hint of dill and exquisite with garlic aioli. I wondered how the mussel flavour was so pronounced and had to ask.  We were explained that the executive chef used 'mussel nectar', or the broth, to bring out the flavour.  The concept came when he and his wife would share mussel frites.  His wife would take all the mussels while he was left with bread to dip in the broth.  I think we all love doing that too so I though the idea of combining mussel broth in bread altogether was quite clever. 
The next snack was foie gras walnut.  Curiously, it was creamy foie gras shaped as a walnut on the right corner of the picture.  It was smooth, and tasted like a rich barbecue duck spread.  The quince jelly was great with it.  
A complimentary basket of artisan bread arrived to keep us occupied.  My favourite was pecan and caramelized onion bread, and shea butter with poppy seed bread.  It was really hard not to get filled up on these.  Grandma paid no attention to the discretion so I got extra portions from her plate ^^.

Orange honey soda in between courses to cleanse palette.  It was a refreshing, tangy, fizzy foam made from fresh orange juice.  Too bad it only lasted a couple of sips.  I would like a tall glass of foam please.
The first course, sable fish carpaccio impressed us all. Thin slices of sable fish blanketed over olive oil-poached lobster and octopus dressed with nitro olives and vinaigrette.  I got the crunch from the vegetables and crouton bits, mixed with acidity and sweetness of the olives.  The combination of textures and flavours were refreshing and left us wanting more.  

The second course, smoked black cod was a hit also.  My first thought was "where's the rest of it?".  The cod was perfectly crispy on the outside, tender and flakey on the inside.  There was just the right amount of sodium on the fish, anymore and it would've been too salty. It was served on a bed of pickled cabbage, pork jowl, navy bean cassoulet, cauliflower puree, and accompanied with oyster sauce (not the asian kind in a bottle).  The whole table was in complete silent until everything on the plate was cleared. I never thought I would enjoy navy bean, but the amount wasn't overwhelming.  The cauliflower puree and the oyster sauce complimented the dish so well that I had the dip the bread in to soak up the rest of the sauce.  And I can't forget about talking about pork jowl.  It looked like a piece of tuna sashimi, gelatin-like and fatty enough that it melts in your mouth.  A great component to go with the cassoulet. 
The third course, veal cheek, was beautifully displayed.  The plate was also decorated with popcorn sweetbread, chicharone, fall vegetables, pine mushrooms and porcini foam. I felt like a kid and was intrigued by the popcorn sweetbread had a crunchy batter like popcorn chicken.  The mushroom foam was thick and rich, much like a bisque.  
Truffled lamb tenderloin with natural lamb jus.  Again, I was thinking, "that's really pretty, but where was the rest of it?".  But believe it or not, we had trouble finishing the last bites even though it was really good.  The food was finally catching up to us, and suddenly we had much appreciation for the smaller portions and beautiful presentations.  The tenderloin was extremely tender, and the bed of truffle it was sitting on was just divine.  

I'm not sure if my words could accurately describe how awesome our last course was.  Pumpkin caramel pudding was anything but simplistic.  It was presented in such a way that made us go "wow" while we scratch our heads trying to figure out what's what.  There must have been about 10 different components in there and I could only list yam ginger ice cream, praline, pumpkin pudding, and meringue. It was crunchy, creamy, nutty and not overly sweet.  The ginger flavour was not overwhelming in the ice cream but was distinct. Altogether, it was decadent, delicious, and I could probably eat about 5 more.  
The entire meal was absolutely impressive.  The open kitchen was located right across from us and we could see the action up close.  However, while the chefs were actively busy, the only noise we could hear out from the kitchen was when someone said, "service".  The kitchen was a calm environment with excellent control to details.  The ambience was formal, yet comfortable. However, the decor could use a little update to better match the modern and creative dishes they offer. 
After the bill, we were given the last treat; orange chocolate shaped like tree bark.  I know I complained about how I thought the portions were small, but to be honest, they were just right.  I wouldn't want them any bigger aside from the dessert.  In the near future, I would definitely come back to Diva again in the near feature and explore more of their tasty creations that are also feast for the eyes.


Diva at the Met on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Dining with royal round 2; Secret Location

Secret Location's concept combines everything trendy from food, luxury, fashion, art, and contemporary design. Located right beside the ever-buzzling Chill Winston in Gastown, this not-so-secret spot is actually really hard to miss as its white open space with fluorescent lighting would turn heads for any passerby.  Not an average lounge in the city, it is worth stopping by if you want to indulge in the ambience of the glitz and glam.  Of course, when dining with His Majesty, one wouldn't expect for anything less. 


Secret Location's got great selections of specialty cocktails.  I ordered one which has the name associated with a kimono.  The cucumber taste was quite prominent, but I found it light and refreshing. Sir A&W ordered a very mean looking 'Arsenic', an indigo-coloured concoction served in a tall glass like the ones the evil queens drink from in fairy tales.  It was as mean and stiff as it looked, and worth every penny.

Plowman's Platter was a great plate to share with a group.  It arrived with a basket of  I'm not sure if I remember this correctly (the Kimono got to me), but I think it was 'duck tongue' terrine, which I really liked. It was smoky, sweet and salty like Chinese char siu pork.  The aged cheddar was sharp and wonderful, while the homemade mustard was delightful pairing with the other charcuterie.  The one lone pickled Romanesco broccoli was peculiar and fascinating to look at as it was my first contact with it.    
 The Qualicum beach scallops with parsnip and  bone marrow ravioli, chanterelle mushrooms, and carrot butterwas an art on a plate.  It actually looked prettier than it tasted.  The ravioli dough was on the extreme end of al dente.  Though His Majesty loved it that way, I found it too chewy and hard for my liking.   
This dish looked like it came straight from the garden; Italian burrata, Okanagan peach and nasturtium salad.  The grilled peaches were so sweet and juicy, it made me miss Okanagan and the summer very much.  The salad itself was crisp, the burrata was soft, yet incomparable to the ones served at Cru and Siena.  
Daily selection of canapes that night came with chicken consomm√©, quail, a dollop creme fraiche, and a cocktail shrimp.  That's the best description I could give.  The quail was very tender, but the other three bites were not so memorable.  
We loved the truffled organic deep fried egg and grilled asparagus, and fontina fondutta.  The black truffle was really faint, but the deep fried egg had a very crispy exterior and soft, runny yolk, which when mixed with the silky cheese sauce, was just delicious.
I stole a bite off Lady Chang's crispy skin Polderside duck, another art on a plate.  Cooked medium rare, it was very similar to the duck I had the previous night at L'Abbatoir, but with less sauce.  Again, when they say 'crispy' skin, I really wish they took it to heart and made it really crispy! 
My pick for main entree, grilled AAA striploin with peppercorn sauce and potato zucchini galette.  Though the striploin was much too chewy for my liking, despite being medium rare, I absolutely loved the zucchini galette.  Thin, crispy layers of golden brown potato pastry with even thinner alternating layers of sliced zucchini.  There were interesting components on there; the fava beans, and the pecorino stuffed squash blossom which strangely tasted very much like a dessert. 
Artichoke and black truffle gnocchi with English peas and Reggiano parmesan sounded excellent.  In reality, it was really dry.  The texture of the gnocchi was what's expected, and slightly on the chewy side.  It tasted great the first few bites, but, even with the truffle, it wasn't enough to keep us interested.  
Lady Chang finished her meal off with Petits Fours of the Moment, the passion fruit tart on the lower left corner won her over.  

At Secret Location, you can indulge on the aesthetics; elegantly presented food, and chic atmosphere.  
Secret Location on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 24, 2012

Dining with royal round 1; L'Abattoir

For those who don't know, "L'Abattoir" sounds like a trendy, upscale place to come for drinks.  While it is true, the name also has a darker meaning, translating to something along the line of a 'slaughterhouse'.  While the restaurant pays its homage to the neighbourhood's history of being a meat packing district, the ambience is still very chic, combining the essence of classic, industrial structures and contemporary designs, giving the restaurant a unique character.  

I've read about L'Abattoir while it was featured in enRoute magazine while I was traveling, but this was the first time I finally visited the restaurant.  When you dine with a royalty, there's no holding punches.  L'Abattoir was our first destination out of the 5 this past weekend.  I braced myself and kissed my salary goodbye.  

I was so glad I ordered the El Camino, a specialty cocktail.  Tasting like the last drops of summer, this drink's got everything a girl like me could ask for; watermelon-infused tequila (yes, please!), Campari (si), lime (me gusta) , grapefruit pop (fancy!), and salt thats brimmed all the way down the glass, which made it harder to lick without looking awkward.  The best part was the fresh slice of watermelon that's completely saturated with alcohol by the end.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Aura Waterfront Restaurant + Patio

My family and I visited Aura at Laurel Point hotel on a beautiful sunny day.  It was a perfect setting for brunch; a picturesque oceanside scenery, warm weather, a quiet setting, and we didn't have a care in the world but to enjoy ourselves.

Aura offers contemporary Pacific West Coast inspired creations with influences from Japanese and Hawaiian cuisines.  There were a lot of more items on their lunch menu we didn't get to try since it was Sunday brunch.  Nonetheless, we really enjoyed a lot of the dishes here.

The complimentary chocolate and zucchini bread and refreshing strawberry banana smoothies were a really nice touch.   The zucchini bread was presented with a cute fresh flower.  Mini jars of jams, peanut butter and honey were there for you to go crazy on. I'm not a fan of raw bananas, but I was ready to order more of these smoothies.

Brunch just wouldn't be brunch without eggs benny.  Aura's Crab Benny is served with soft poached eggs over meaty Dungeness crab cakes.  The toasted brioche was fluffy with crispy edges, way better than the typical mundane English muffin.  The hollandaise sauce was nice and creamy, yet not too heavy.  Although it was infused with shiso, the flavour wasn't too overwhelming but very fragrant. Along side were melon salad and "home fries", or roasted fingerling potatoes.
Albacore tuna and tomato poke was our most memorable dish here.  Rather than typical guacamole, the chef put a spin on it and took it a step further, by making it into an avocado sorbet.  It was a fun and exciting plate with a party of flavours.  The tuna and tomato were well marinated and went great with the bed of noodles underneath.  The sorbet was really rich with fresh avocado taste, kinda like eating a frozen avocado paste.  Of course, it had to be eaten along with the tuna poke rather on its own.  I find that you only need a little bit of the sorbet to go with the tuna, though.

The steak sandwich was a favourite of my carnivorous sister.  The 6 oz. strip loin was served medium, though could have been more rare, but still very tender.  Over it were 2 jumbo onion rings, fragrant truffle mayo (mmm...) and toasted herb torpedo buns.  The frites arrived hot and crispy and we blamed ourselves for not ordering a side of truffle mayo to dip them in.  The newspaper-wax paper was a nice touch.  

Grilled romaine heart with crispy pancetta, soft poached egg, parmesan and pesto vinaigrette.  Compared to other dishes, this dish did the least for us.  Some parts of the romaine weren't grilled all the way through. And despite having most of my favourite ingredients, the dish wasn't enough to keep me interested after a few bites.
 We ended brunch with a few sweet notes.  The server recommended the 'Carmelia Valhrona Chocolate Bar'.  We took his words and we were glad we did.  This was no ordinary chocolate bar.  The texture was smooth with rich, dark chocolate flavour. It also had pop rock crunch which fizzled in your mouth with every bite.  Very exciting stuff.  The salted caramel ice cream on the side was wonderful with everything else around it.  Kudos.
 Lemon thyme cheesecake was also really nice.  I'm not a huge cheesecake fan as some can be too rich and I find it hard to swallow down without chasing with a glass of water.  But this cheesecake was more smooth and velvety, and very lemony in flavour.  It had a pleasing presentation being served with vibrant raspberry coulis and fruit salad.
I would definitely come back to Aura again for their relaxing atmosphere and exciting creations!

AURA waterfront restaurant + patio on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A must stop in Whistler, Aura at Nita Lake Lodge

Located at Nita Lake Lodge resort, Aura is an elegant lakeside restaurant, which the moment you step in, radiates  a warm, cozy vibe and a stunning view of nature.  We settled in cozily for the Saturday's brunch during a quiet mid day. Since it was off-season, the area was really secluded and so the whole place was pretty much ours to enjoy for the moment.

 Now, it's rare that I would say this, but the service was just outstanding. We were warmly greeted and the staff remained proactive, professional and attentive throughout the service. It was a stark comparison to our later dinner service at Alta.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

West restaurant

Last weekend, a few of us gathered together for an early Christmas dinner at the ever busy West restaurant on south Granville.  Miss C actually copped a great gift certificate deal from Top Table; purchase $250 gift certificate and receive another $50 extra.  The certificate can be used at any of the 5 restaurants within the Top Table group.  It was my first visit there and I hoped to get the most out of this experience.  

Decorated with silver ornaments and icicles, the interior of West was transformed into a sophisticated winter wonderland.  Aside from having an extensive wine selection, but they also offer a long list of cocktails and spirits.  After sampling a few, their specialty cocktails are now my favourite part of this restaurant.

When I saw kaffir fling on the drinks menu, it was something unique and I had to try it.  It was the right move as it turned out to be the one of the best cocktails I ever had.  If you love Thai food and the alluring aroma of kaffir lime leaf in Thai dishes such as Tom Yum Kung, then you would fall in love with this drink.  It was a stimulating concoction of citrus and vodka, the kaffir lime was fragrant and exotic with gentle egg white foam floating on top.

P's spiced pear and pomegranate cocktail was colourful and bubbly.  It was consisted of tanqueray gin, soda, lemon juice, and the bottom had sweet pomegranate liqueur.
Miss C fell in love with Gingerly, only available for winter season.  It also came floating with pomegranates.  Had citrus juice, gin, jasmine green tea and a very spicy gingery flavour.

We were served mini bread roll with butter and extra virgin olive oil.  After dipping the bread, I was pleasantly surprised at how pure the olive oil was.  It was fragrant, like fresh olives, very light and refreshing.  It didn't take us too long to decide what we wanted.

Our amuse bouche, parsnip soup with foam, arrived in a shot glass. It had a natural sweetness from the vegetable stock that was reminiscent to our home-cooked vegetable soup.

For starter, I got ambitious and ordered the Thiessen quail stuffed with herb mousse.  It was a rustic dish and rather filling with half a quail egg stuffed inside, which was kinda eerie to think about (they're re-united!... -_-).  The bird was served over creamy celeriac remoulade and tart caper raisin marmalade.  I was already half full by the time I finished it and must complain that there were a few tiny bones which kept jabbing me in the mouth.

P ordered duck rillettes with orange emulsion as her starter.  Similar to pates, the rillettes had a rustic nature with smooth, shreddy texture and salty flavour.  I was quite surprised there were no accompanying toasts with this dish. The orange sweetness livened the dish up a bit, but it was not as enjoyable as it could have been.

Miss C's motto when dining out, 'go-big-or-go-home' landed her the special of the day.  For $40, she enjoyed a poached quail egg over heirloom tomato salad and topped with 2 g. of shaved white truffle (normally going for $18/g!).  No photo available, it came and gone too soon.

A&W's seared foie gras was a part of his elements course, which, to my understanding, consisted of numerous small plates from different category.  The foie gras was beautifully presented and had extremely soft, rich and buttery texture. It was served over beets and contrasted by the tartness of the accompanying fruits.

The second type of foie gras had a smokey flavour and firmer texture, which reminded me of chinese barbeque duck.  The slices of foie gras was served with tart pickled strawberries.

Mmmm....crispy pork belly balanced with quince compote. The pork belly was crispy on the edges, savoury, smoky with tender fatty layers.

More from the elements menu; foraged mushrooms and agnolotti. The mushrooms, thyme, and garlic arrived wrapped and baked in wax paper.  The mushrooms were cooked perfectly, maintaining moisture with a lot of earthy flavours.  Agnolotti, squared shape stuffed pasta, was tossed in rich double cream sauce, a hint of black truffle, and shaved parmigiano reggiano .  It was the ultimate comfort dish; creamy and very aromatic.

P's main, herb crusted lamb loin had juicy and tender centre sided with lentil, daikon, and roasted garlic.

My main entree, buttermilk roasted chicken, was an interesting take on traditional roasted chicken.  It was tender, moist, and crusted with herbs, crispy bits similar to crushed up chips, and small chunks of  caramelized fruit.   It served with dollops of thick, creamy puree-like sauce.  I'm not quite sure what it was made of, but from the vibrant colour, I would guess butternut squash.  The rest of the components to the dish include wilted baby romaine and chopped pancetta, and purple fingerling potatoes.

I found a lot of their dishes were more rustic, yet refined.  The portion sizes were quite fair and I was very full after the entree.  Nonetheless, I still had to try out their desserts.  The experience was memorable.

My dessert was pineapple brioche tartine with coconut shavings, coconut macaroon ice cream, and passionfruit sauce.  It was a high-end, fancier version of those pineapples bun from your local chinese bakery. The whole combination of texture and flavours was absolutely delicious.

P's apple cake was a delectable and I almost would rather stare at it all night.  The apple cake had a layer of cranberry curd, topped with cream cheese ice cream and had filo pastry.  Resting beside it were sliced apples, and drizzled with butterscotch sauce.

Miss C's chocolate tasting came in 3 cute samplings.  The first on the far left was a warm and fluffy chocolate cake filled profiterole.  The dark chocolate gave a slightly bitter flavour that big kids like us love, and it was not too sweet.  In the middle, the raspberry chocolate almond cake layered with milk chocolate semi-freddo with crunchy top layer was our favourite.  Last but not least, chocolate ganache with raspberry compote and ice cream were both rich and refreshing.

After the bill, which came to around $460 altogether $_$.  More treats arrived to end things on a sweet note, caramel popcorn truffles.  They were delightful. Caramel popcorn bits coating the dark chocolate with gooey centre, yum!  The pastry chef, Rhonda Viani had done an excellent job here.

Actually, West restaurant has a great team of experts and professionals who bring exceptional dining experience for their patrons.  The servers were professional and informative, while the manager paid close attention to the patrons despite the restaurant being insanely packed.  I would definitely return, especially for the amazing cocktails and I must give props to the bar manager and great mixologist, David Wolowidnyk, for coming up with such exhilarating and tasty concoctions.  That kaffir fling is definitely one drink which I'll always remember.

West Restaurant on Urbanspoon