There's something about high ceilings that really opens up your mind. The dining room at Loulay boasts 30 some odd feet of mind expanding beauty. A tasteful, modern colour palette contrasts with the red neon of the auspicious Loulay sign and disco ball chandeliers. The seasoned wait staff flash warm smiles and turn out to be a wealth of knowledge on the Loulay experience!
Our dining experience starts, as all good experiences do, with cocktails. The first 'and the beet goes on' is not just a delicious dad joke and solid pun, but is also quite a delicious use of the cantankerous beet. My family recently inherited an 320 acre farm from my maternal grandfather. What are we growing you ask? Why on Earth would I bring it up you ask? Beets; good old fashioned, Dugald, Manitoba beets. This cocktail made me think of my grandfather and the trials and tribulations he faced as a POW in Stalag Luft III, made famous by the movie 'The Great Escape' before being rescued on the Nazi Death March in 1945 and returning to Canada after WWII. Beet infused Skyy Vodka forms the base of this refreshing, citrusy concoction and it is very good. The 'Fallen Angel' is a man's drink. An good bourbon makes for an incredible drink and this cocktail gelled very well, extremely, and the light Ramazzotti touch complimented it perfectly. The 'Eldarossa' is the best of the theee and the difference you sense between a well highball and top shelf depends on your palate. As a teenager, well into my 20's really, I could drink hair spray or Grey Goose and my taste buds (and liver) didn't whimper a single complaint. As we age and as we get used to the finer things hair spray no longer doubles as a libation and the difference between Smirnoff, top shelf in many establishments, and Ketel One means a lot. As soon as you sip the Eldarossa, without even looking, I knew the ingredients were top shelf. Upon studying the menu I realized everything at Loulay is. The Ketel One base provides the perfect building blocks for the St Germain and fresh lime juice to make a very good cocktail!
The Dungeness Crab Salad consists of pickled celery root, grapefruit, tarragon crème, micro arugula and is served with crostini. I have never had bad Dungeness Crab. I've had King Crab that tasted like a sweat sock, I've had soft shell crab that I wouldn't feed my dog, and I don't even like her very much, and I've had Snow Crab that I would have rather toss into a snowbank, but Dungeness has never let me down. It maintains its perfect record under the watchful eye of Chef Thierry. Chunks of grapefruit offer a tart juxtaposition to the sweetness of the tarragon crème and the crab itself and I could have eaten four orders of this!
The Scallops with Fiddlehead Ferns also featured spinach and mustard seeds. Our gracious server, Ryan, was bold enough to recommend the Pinot Noir from the Patricia Green Cellars, in Oregon's Williamette Valley, to go with the scallops. "Red wine only with red meat is a myth" was his assertion as we washed down a bite of the tender scallops with the lovely red wine. A very good pairing, a very good seafood plate and a very, very good suggestion!
The Butter Poached Halibut comes with roasted cauliflower, spinach, barley, kumquat preserve, green garlic and cultivated mushroom. In 2016 the price of cauliflower skyrocketed because, well, I don't know. But it did. A quick Google showed that it was scarcity that was the first reason for the price increase and the something strange yet eerily predictable happened. People couldn't have it so they wanted it even more.m and demand skyrocketed. The fish was very fresh, no doubt procured fresh from Seattle's port, and could not have been softer. The cauliflower compliments the deliciously fresh halibut very well and the butter poaching really elevates the dish!
The Carlton Farms Pork Chop dish is served with red cabbage, black garlic, carrot and Beecher's cheddar yukon potato in peppercorn sauce. Meat makes all the difference. That's why Wagyu beef, with their sake massages and pampering, tastes better than a Big Mac with its mysterious composition and origin. I imagine Carlton Farms is a wonderland where the pigs are treated as pets and sleep in the bed with their owners. Tender and fresh and paired perfectly with the peppercorn sauce and heavenly mashed potatoes. My favourites the dish of the night!
The Northwest Bouillbbaisse has fish, clams, mussels, tomato saffron broth, preserved lemon and grilled bread with Harissa. If they made tomato/ saffron shampoo I would buy it. Diddo on toothpaste. It's very good; extremely good. The seafood is very fresh and flavourful, but you could put this broth on a spare tire and I would eat it, excellent dish! As a Pacific coaster myself, from Vancouver, BC, I think I am equally spoiled by the freshness and quality of the seafood pulled from our shared waters. I believe firmly that someone from Idaho's head would explode at first bite!
The Duck Confit Sliders is topped with an amazing, aged sherry dressing and profiterole. Duck is a delicious bird. It goes: turkey > duck > chicken > game hen. When duck is done right, and is a healthy, lean cut, it nudges very close to the heaven that is turkey. Turkey cannot be surpassed. Because science. But these sliders were amongst the best I've ever had and the cute, little buns, made in-house of course, pâté à choux to be exact, were amazing! You need these in your life.
The Seared Polenta is plated with assorted mushrooms, vegetable demi-glace, and a cheese crisp. A very Earthy flavour with an excellent variety of mushrooms. A hearty version of Jenn's beloved cream of mushroom soup and she quickly devoured it before I had a chance to taste it for this blog s we will all have to take her word for it.
Chef Thierry showed up to our table next with their Seared Foie Gras in a tart cherry reduction. I can recall being forced to sit at the dinner table for hours as a young boy. Eat everything on your plate or don't leave the table until you do. Liver and onions, a staple of my dad's Scottish upbringing, was a tough night. Foie Gras is not that kind of liver and Chef Thierry's Foie Gras is a cut above that even. Soft enough to cut with a stern look it very near broke apart in my fork as I raised it to my mouth where it liquified into a cacophony of rich, buttery flavours. I have had Foie Gras at 3 and 4 diamond restaurants, mom and pop cafés and family diners and Chef Thierry's, at the renowned Loulay, is the best of them all! Worth a trip on its own, trust me.
Acting as if we were still very hungry, and not at all like he was trying to kill us through vicarious gluttony, Chef Thierry arranged for two exquisite desserts to be served as he scampered out the door to attend to his other highly regarded restaurant; Luc. Presumably to mingle with guests, answer questions and put his personal touch on Luc's diners' experiences as he had ours. First to arrive was the Lemon tart with huckleberry compote and lime crème fraiche, baked vanilla meringue and pink peppercorns. Think lemon meringue pie moving to and learning the culture of a mythical, unicorn capital city. This is the capital of lemon pie deliciousness. I've waxed poetically many a time on this blog about my dear Granny, Frances Allan, who would make the most incredible lemon pies, everything from scratch, and like a heroine junky I have been searching all my life for the same feeling that first hit gave me. This is as close as it has come, but out of deference for my dearly departed paternal grandmother I have to say it's not quite at her level. Hers was at a 13/10and this is a solid, very solid, 9/10!
The Valrhone Caramélia Torte is a white chocolate hazelnut malt candy with espresso sauce. The hierarchy of nuts is hard to pin down. For me it goes something like: pecan, walnut, almond, hazelnut then the rest but for some, many maybe, hazelnut is at or near the top. Nutella and this dessert are two of the reasons why. Rich, but not too sweet. Soft yet perfectly baked this is a must try. If cocktails are the perfect way to start a meal then port is the perfect way to end it! I rate my overall experience at Loulay as a solid 9/10. I always like to leave room for improvement for the venerable Chef in the Hat to ever chase the dream!