Each Gozen plate takes 8 hours to prepare. That's a full work day per platter! Only 10 are on offer per day and I was lucky enough to get one! Hiromitsu Nozaki is the head chef of two Michelin star restaurant Waketokuyama and mentored and collaborated with Fairmont Pacific Rim’s Chef Takayuki, Chef 'Taka', on their creation.
At Raw Bar even the coffee is special. Served with a hard rock sugar stir stick and made with lusciously rich coffee beans it knocked the cobwebs out for my 11:30 reservation. Swaying slowly to the incendiary PacRim guitar player the soup arrives as I'm halfway into my coffee and my eyes get as wide as the 49th parallel. Salmon Kasujiru: sake lees soup with Burdock Root, carrot, Lotus Root, Sockeye salmon and Yuzu. I will, without hesitation, name it into my top five soups of all time. I generally don't like salmon when it's cooked, but I could have eaten a pound if it!
The platter arrived, all 8 hours worth, and I shivered noticeably. The first dish, I was eating as per the order of the menu for the most part, was sashimi, red tuna and Sockeye salmon. It was topped with grated potato and tossed with sardine/ tofu powder and Kazunoko kelp. The salmon was fresh, not farmed salmon. If you've seen a fish farming operation, be it a large, netted area of the ocean or a tank in a dank warehouse, you have been a witness to cruelty. The fish are often riddled with sea lice and splash about haphazardly, aimlessly, miserably in their tight confines. Their meat sadly often needs to be coloured pink, what manner of chemicals are involved in that process is anyone's guess and likely varies by supplier to varying degrees of toxicity, to resemble its wild brothers. Raw Bar's sashimi is wild salmon, caught humanely and so, so incredibly fresh. Like they tossed a rod in the waters of the Burrard Inlet some 100 meters from where I sat.
The second plate was the Taro and Sesame Tofu or “Rikyu Yose”. The dish had a smooth texture and subtle taste with a sesame kick, delicious! It also came with a Sable Saikyou Miso Grill. Sablefish or butterfish, depending on where you're from, is a buttery, hence the name, delicious aquatic beast! Shrimp tempura coated with crispy mochi. Think prawn tempura with a tasty, crispy mochi, almost Rice Crispie like, covering. It was the best tempura I can ever remember tasting! Rounding out the dish, the four platters boast 32 unique flavour combinations, was rice with baby anchovy and soy beans, carrots and string beans. Hands down my favourite dish!
The third dish didn't disappoint either; Roasted Wagyu beef. Beautifully rare and so tender you could cut it with a cross look. Roasting really preserves the juices and it was wetter than a, well, any Spring or Fall day in Vancouver. It came with a simmered piece of sweet pumpkin. My experience with pumpkin has varied widely. I've had objectionable pumpkin pie from a frozen graveyard and sweet, fresh pie from a 5 star chef, but my experience has been limited, sadly, to pie. I will be sad to discard my rotted, drooping jack-o-lantern next November 31st. You could have been someone Jack. Could have been a contender. Pumpkin done the right way is delicious, sweet and pungent. Rounding out the dish, but taking no backseat, was a sampling of celery, Tamago, salmon rice, and asparagus.
By the fourth dish, when the first three are as amazing as these were, your expectations are pretty high. The rolled Cuttlefish with nori is a tangy, flavourful item and way less rubbery a Cuttlefish than I've ever had before. Served with
deep fried Lotus Root, shrimp and Sansho pepper it was incredible! The pepper really adds a kick and the crispness of the lotus root provides a crunch and they all blend seamlessly with the shrimp. While the sablefish dish was my favourite dish the minced chicken with Miso “Matsukaze” Style was my favourite flavour combination. To say it was incredibly delicious would be an understatement! It all came alongside block rice with fried kale and snow peas and was the perfect ending to an incredible brunch!
Fairmont Pacific Rim is one of the best, if not the best, hotels in Vancouver. It's conveniently located right beside the Vancouver Convention Centre in tony Coal Harbour. Mere steps to the Olympic torches, the world famous Seawall and the Vancouver skytrain. The Lobby Lounge is a perfect place to people watch. Regular Vancouverites and wide-eyed tourists stopping in for a drink mingle with CEOs in them for a conference and trust fund babies who can barely see over the steering wheel of thei Ferraris. The ambience isn't something you can ignore and the grandeur isn't something you'd want to. It is a beautiful place for a meal, a quick drink or to peruse the frequent free art installations in the lobby. A must see!
Words & Photos: Jenn Chan