Showing posts with label contemporary. Show all posts
Showing posts with label contemporary. 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.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

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, November 27, 2011

Goldfish

Every once in a while, I would feel like dining more on the atmosphere than going for the quality of food and this was an example.  It was probably because I was in Yaletown on evening, surrounded by all the trendy and elegant boutiques and restaurants.  After walking by and peaking in at the Goldfish Seafood & Chops, the decision to dine there was solely based on its outside appearance.  The ambience was inviting, vibrant, and lively.   The restaurant specializes in West Coast cuisine and seafood, blending flavours of East and West.  The two of us were pretty open to try anything innovative and creative.

For appetizer, we had the salt spring mussels in Thai sauce. Though it was quite mild, I liked their take on the Thai sauce which had a hint of lime and garnished with chopped up scallion, chilies and cilantro.  It was actually kinda Thai...  The size of the mussels were minuscule though.

I didn't imagine I'd be eating fried rice tonight, but there I was.  The first batch of a fairly large side of bacon fried rice topped with fried quail eggs arrived incredibly mundane and bland.  It's seldom that I send any food back, but I had to with this one after the first bite.  The waitress (with piercing eyes) came back to inform us that the chef tasted it and agreed "it tastes like shit", and he would make a new batch for us.  Shortly, the second batch arrived with a lot more seasoning, and not as dried.  Maybe some hot sauce would go a long way.  There wasn't any other exciting ingredients in there except the obvious, bacon, and some chopped scallion.  The quail eggs sunny side up were cute to look at, and the runny yolks served their purpose being there.  Though it tasted a lot better the second time, it was still a dish one could make at home.


Half portion of smoked cod
For main entree, we split the smoked Alaskan black cod served with kale, fingerling potatoes and a poached egg.  It was a combination of flavours I seldom come across.  The creamy egg yolk tamed down the smokiness and saltiness of the flakey smoked cod.  The mustard cream was fairly light.  There were lots of different textures in the dish which all worked well in harmony.  I probably would not order this dish all the time, but it was definitely a nice to try something new. 

For the dessert I had citrus creme brulee in which the caramelized sugar crust was thick and crunchy.  The custard underneath was also thick, smooth, and not too sweet.  However, I could hardly detect any citrus or ginger flavour that was supposed to be in there.

Overall, I loved the atmosphere of the restaurant.  At the same time, it also felt very 'corporate'.   The service was prompt, while price is on par.  For the quality of the dishes and execution I gave them 7/10.  I'd probably would still return in the future, but probably more for the drinks and happy hour.

  Goldfish on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Cru

Cru was another establishment I've been hearing reputation of, mostly amongst Vancouver food bloggers documenting how exquisite their dishes are.  When I was invited to a dinner at Cru, there was no way I was turning that down.  Situated in a commercial area, Cru was much harder to notice and smaller than I thought.  Seating no more than 10 tables plus bar area, the restaurant's narrow space can become a rather lively atmosphere during the dinner rush, or an intimate dining experience out of peak hours.

Now let's get to the food.

The appies
P demanded the soup of the day, carrot and fennel soup.  Most puree taste and texture often remind me of baby food.  Topped with creme fraiche and orange drizzle, I was taken by surprise to taste its vibrant lusciousness.   At a medium consistency and a touch of cream, the soup was hearty with a slight citrus twist.

Cru's unique Cellar Door caesar with their signature garlic butter croutons is one of their most popular dishes on the menu. The salad at first looked seemingly simple and deconstructed, yet, in fact, the lettuce was harbouring tons of toppings and dressing.  It was a refreshment to actually see anchovies in caesar salad.  Some people hate it, but I find that its saltiness helps make caesar salad the way it should be.  The sharpness of the asiago cut right through the flavour of the dressing with the tanginess of lime while the garlic croutons were big in size, crispy and buttery.  This particular caesar salad was in a different ball park from the rest of other restaurants 'straight-out-of-the-bag' caesar salad.
Cru's carpaccio
Cactus Club carpaccio
The second appetizer, beef tenderloin carpaccio, looked a lot similar to Rob Feenie's version at Cactus Club, although much more refined.  It was topped with with caperberries, truffled aioli, and shaved parmesan and served with mini crostini.  I could definitely taste the truffle fragrant in the aioli.

I was really interested in trying the onion tart based on its menu and description, and was quite pleased with it.  The sauteed caramelized onion was rich and tasted familiar like french onion soup.  The phyllo crust was thin, crispy and flakey. All together with micro-green bits and dabs of sour cream, it was quite the harmonious bite. It was gone so quickly and I wanted more!

The cheese special was Barrata cheese, which was very light and fluffy, along side with port cherries and toast.  Its subtleness was accented by the sweetness of the cherries.  For $17, though, I thought it was a bit too expensive for a small cheese plate.

Now for the rest of the meal... since we couldn't decide, we'll just get one of everything please?


Now to more fulfilling dishes!  The perfectly cooked mushroom risotto garnished with shaved parmesan and arugula was simple, earthy, and uncomplicated.  Everyone along with myself really appreciated its creamy texture and its subtlety.  To make sure I get all the sauce, I licked the spoon until it was bone dry.
As the cavatelli bolognese arrived, it may seemingly appeared to be the most average dish out of the bunch.  However,  after a couple bites, I started to really taste and appreciate the richness of the red wine meat sauce.  It was quite savoury and rustic, and I quite enjoyed it wishing there was more sauce with the pasta.

When I think of eating ribs, the best utensil is probably your hands.  While in front of a friend's parent though, I was less inclined of doing so.  Even though the Syrah-braised short ribs was under 'small plates' category, its portion would probably convince me it belonged with the entrees.  Served with a side of watercress salad and mac and cheese, the ribs looked gorgeous bathing in marinade.  The meat was tender and fell easily off the bone.  It was good and filling, but in comparison to the uniqueness of other dishes, this one fell behind in its class.

 
Finally, duck confit with bacon vinaigrette spatzel goat cheese hash, served on top of a really tasty coleslaw. The duck confit was not as crispy and tender as Bistrot Bistro, but the elements surrounding it made it much more interesting. I'm not a big fan of coleslaw, or cabbage in general, but it was very tasty here and I really enjoyed it with the duck.  The soft textured spatzel, a type of round noodles, mixed with smoky bacon vinaigrette was rustic and savoury.  It went very well with the duck and the cabbage.  
The winners!
Moroccan-spiced lamb chop cooked medium rare with sauteed faro, eggplant, zucchini, olives and yogurt.  The spice crusted lamb may appear rare for some, but they were perfect for us.  The meat was so fragrant, juicy and tender with few fat trimming on the edges.  I'm not a fan of grains but the sauteed faro went really well with the lamb in this dish.   Alas, some of us carnivores made sure no parts go to waste and got every single bit out of it, even the bone.  


It may sound simple, but "bacon and egg on toast" was anything but.  It was something special, almost divine.  The 'bacon' was actually crisp pork belly with a bit of fat.  It was sweet and savoury and amazingly good, but exquisite when topped with poached egg.  The toasted brioche absorbed all the flavours from the pork belly and the runny egg yolk that dripped down.  The video below shows the egg yolk cracked and oozing down the bacon and egg. You can hear us squeal with excitement in the background, please enjoy. 

Desserts
Just when we thought there was no room left for dessert, as always, we managed to squeeze in just a bit more.
AW and I were quite curious to try the goat cheesecake with candied pecans and orange soaked apricots.  For those who can't stand pungent cheese, you won't appreciate this dessert.  It's still got the distinct goat cheese flavour, though more subtle and with very soft, velvety texture.  I thought it was quite unique and not too sweet, but probably not something I can have very often.

The lemon meringue had a creamy custard like texture while the soft, spongy cake was light and fluffy and served with fresh raspberries.  It's best enjoyed with a cup of Earl Grey!

 
 Voted best out of the three, the Grand Cru chocolate tart was served warm, rich, and had the bitterness of dark chocolate.  It was contrasted with tangy rhubarb and floral lavender ice cream.  Absolutely delicious, but, wow, do we need fat pants!

The verdict...
Based on our experiences, we are now all a fan of Cru.  The executions of the dishes are much more refined than others in its category, while pricing is absolutely reasonable.  We can't wait to return with our loved ones!

Cru on Urbanspoon