restaurant

FOOD | Blue Plate Bonanza at Joe Fortes by Jenn Chan

Joe Fortes

 

A century ago you might walk into a diner or cafe for lunch and order a Blue Plate Special.  You would get a reasonably priced meal of meat and some vegetables (no substitutions!) that might have been served on a plate with a blue willow pattern.  The Blue Plate Special became a popular generic term for any inexpensive full meal, usually different each day.

 

Also about a century ago Joe Fortes was Vancouver’s first official lifeguard.  Originally from Trinidad and Tobago the well loved English Bay lifeguard was named Citizen of the Century in 1986.  There is a Joe Fortes Memorial Drinking Fountain in Alexandra Park, a Joe Fortes Branch of the Vancouver Public Library, and a restaurant that bears his name: Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House.

 

My brief research doesn’t indicate whether Joe Fortes ever ate a blue plate special but you, dear reader, have the opportunity to partake of the Blue Plate Bonanza at Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House.  For a limited time five plates are offered every weekday for the very reasonable price of $11.95 per plate.  It’s a beautiful restaurant, plenty of daylight from the skylight and large windows, immense art pieces on the walls that might make you think you are in Impressionist era France, and a popular large rooftop patio that is scheduled to open again April 9th for the warm weather months.

 

Joe Fortes
Joe Fortes
Joe Fortes Blue Plate Bonanza Menu
Blue Plate Bonanza Lunch

 

The Seafood Pot Pie is like a seafood chowder topped with a large puff pastry.  Hearty but not heavy, its individual seafood and vegetable elements retain their flavour and texture nicely.  The golden pastry is tender and flaky enough to be cut easily, not so tender that it crumbles.  This might be a good time to mention that the seafood at Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House is Ocean Wise.  This means that the seafood has been harvested responsibly and is recommended by the Vancouver Aquarium as an ocean friendly seafood choice.

 

Seafood Pot Pie

Seafood Pot Pie

Seafood Pot Pie

 

When trying foods with Thai in the name there’s a slight wariness about the possibility of excessive heat from spices.  I was very happy that the Thai BBQ Chicken was delightfully flavoured without spicy hotness.  The chicken was tender, moist.  The bbq sauce slightly sweet with a faint hint of charcoal from the grilling.  I also liked the rice quite a bit, it too had a slight sweetness.

 

Thai BBQ Chicken

Thai BBQ Chicken

 

The Panko Crusted Haddock takes the original description of a blue plate special (meat with potato and vegetables) and elevates it to a much higher form of special.  Fresh green beans and carrot, potato and some amazingly good haddock.  The crisp panko crust, fresh flaky haddock, and a chunky tomato topping... this dish is worth a return trip.

 

Panko Crusted Haddock

Panko Crusted Haddock

Panko Crusted Haddock

 

Crispy Fried Chicken.  Three words that I love to see on a menu.  When this dish arrived I was surprised at the generous size of the chicken.  I detected a bit of heat in the chicken coating, perhaps black pepper, that Jenn did not notice.  The chicken itself was tender and yummy.  Also on the plate were coleslaw and beans.  I thought the beans had a sweet molasses flavour that was very good.

 

 Crispy Fried Chicken

 Crispy Fried Chicken

 

The West Coast Fish Cakes are made with salmon, cod, trout, haddock, and potato.  The accompanying tartar sauce with a lovely dill component was an excellent companion.  A marvelous combination.  Green beans and carrot round out the dish.  The fish cakes were great and had an excellent meaty fish to potato balance.

 

Westcoast Fish Cakes

Westcoast Fish Cakes

 

The basic Blue Plate menu item is $11.95.  There is an option to add an appetizer or a dessert item.  If you get two courses add $7, if you add both appetizer and dessert add $10.  Speaking of dessert we tried both offerings, Vanilla Crème Brulee and Vanilla Gelato.  The custard of the crème brulee was lightly flavoured, the caramel layer on top had a nice contrasting slightly burnt flavour.  The gelato was bursting with vanilla, not the bland vanilla of supermarket ice cream but the wonderful delicious vanilla of childhood dreams.  This was two scoops of heaven.

 

Vanille Gelato

Vanille Gelato

Vanilla Crème Brûlée

Vanilla Crème Brûlée

 

For the duration of the Blue Plate Bonanza each of the five lunch items is available any day of the week but not weekends.  Once the Bonanza is over the items are still available on the lunch menu but only one dish per day, Monday through Friday.  Don’t fret if you can’t make it to the restaurant between March 12th to 23rd, but you are going to have a difficult time deciding which day of the week you want to visit as each of the offerings is excellent.  Executive chef Wayne Sych deserves praise for the quality menu.  If pressed to pick a favourite I might choose the Panko Crusted Haddock.  Or the West Coast Fish Cakes.  Or....

 

Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House has some new cocktails on the drink menu.  These are available any time, not just during the Blue Plate Bonanza.  From the Fresh & Cool selections Jenn picked the Umeshu Cooler and I the Pompelmocello Collins.  Umeshu is an appealing Japanese liqueur made from ume fruit.  The cooler also has Punt e Mes, fresh lemon and ginger.  Jenn liked this quite a bit.  Served in a rock glass with an enormous ice cube it will likely be a very popular drink when patio season arrives.  My choice,  the Pompelmocello Collins, was like summer in a tall glass.  Sparkly and grapefruity, easy to drink and easy to love.  Also from the Fresh & Cool selections was a drink called Medicinal Purposes.  Made with Grey Goose Poire, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, fresh lime and Fentiman’s tonic this concoction is just what the doctor ordered.  It doesn’t taste like medicine but this light refreshing drink will have you feeling better should you be ailing in any way.  Or just thirsty.  Another category of drinks is Herbs & Spice.  True North is a fruity tasting drink that has Okanagan Spirits Aquavitus in it.  I’ve had shots of Aquavit before at Christmas dinners and it has a strong distinct flavour.  The combination of honey syrup, fresh lemon, lime and orange juice in the True North does much to soften and enhance the Aquavit.  One more drink selection from Herbs & Spice is Delightful Warning.  Aptly named as it has 2.25 oz. of alcohol, this rum based drink has a slight after taste of black licorice for some reason.  I enjoyed it, perhaps a bit too much.  The beer menu has also been refreshed and there are several solid tempting choices from local craft breweries.

 

New Cocktail Menu

New Cocktail Menu

Umeshu Cooler & Pompelmocello Collins

Umeshu Cooler & Pompelmocello Collins

Umeshu Cooler

Umeshu Cooler

New Cocktails | Medicinal Purposes, True North, Delightful Warning

New Cocktails | Medicinal Purposes, True North, Delightful Warning

 

Each of the staff members we talked to were warm, friendly, and more than competent.  Thank you to our server Heather, bartender Mark, and Assistant General Manager Jason for a great dining experience.

 

Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House is located at 777 Thurlow, Vancouver.  Reservations are recommended.  The Blue Plate Bonanza ends March 23, each dish will still be available after that but only on a specific day of the week.

 

 
 

FOOD | Lunch at Fayuca, Yaletown by Jenn Chan

Fayuca, Yaletown

 

Yaletown is home to many popular and good quality restaurants.  If you live in Vancouver you’ve probably patronized more than one eatery in the redeveloped industrial area.  Today we are going to Fayuca for lunch.  It is located on Hamilton Street near Nelson.  Open for less than a year Fayuca is garnering good reviews and a solid reputation for top notch food.  North Pacific Mexican is how they brand their style, with the Baja region of Mexico providing inspiration for Fayuca’s menu.

 

Past the planters with small palm trees and through the front door we go.  The room is warm and inviting.  Wood and wicker predominate, ceramic tiles bring back memories of hot days in Mexican resorts, and a large swordfish leaps from one wall.  The music isn’t the clichéd tourist music you might hear in faux Mexican restaurants.  The tunes are new to my ear: pleasant, cheerful and not blaringly loud.  The bar seating invitingly beckons one to settle in and stay a while however we instead sit at a comfortable table by the window.

 

Fayuca, Yaletown
Fayuca, Yaletown
Fayuca, Yaletown

 

The lunch drinks list has several intriguing choices and soon three of them are sitting on our table.  El Diablito is Jenn’s early favourite.  Made of ginger beer (non alcoholic) and pomegranate, topped with lime, the pink drink is a refreshing delight.  The pomegranate is noticed first with the ginger an enjoyable second note.  I claim the Tepache Colada as I am eager to try the beverage made from the peel and rind of pineapples.  In pre-Columbian times Tepache was made from corn.  The modern pineapple version is just fine with me.  Not sickly sweet like pineapple juice, just well balanced flavour and very enjoyable.  The third drink is the Jamaica Canela, a cinnamon infused Hibiscus drink.  Dark red, almost black at first glance.  Sipping it brings back a faint recollection of time spent on a veranda not far from a sub tropical beach.

 

Fayuca Lunch Menu

Fayuca Lunch Menu

Coctails: Tepache Colada & El Diablito

Coctails: Tepache Colada & El Diablito

Cocktails: El Diablito, Tepache Colada, Jamaica Canela

Cocktails: El Diablito, Tepache Colada, Jamaica Canela

Jamaica Canela

Jamaica Canela

 

We’ve barely had time to sample our drinks when a Kale and Avocado Salad is presented.  The base layer is a split pea hummus with the always delicious avocado and fresh kale topping it.  Jenn really, really liked it and I have to agree (despite my normal aversion to leafy greens) that it was quite good.  Pumpkin seeds added some crunch and variety.
 

South of Mexico, past Central America and into South America, we can find a cooking pot from Chile called a Cazuela.  The food prepared in this pot, a thick stock of vegetables and meat, is also called Cazuela.  Fayuca has a Cazuela of Winter Vegetables on the lunch menu and we dove into this hearty comfort food eagerly.  Butternut squash, fennel, sweet potato, red beets, crème fraiche and topped with feta.  The tomato/pepper/olive sauce brought everything together wonderfully.  A bit of crunch is provided by sliced almonds.  This Cazuela is a good choice for a cold winter day, a rainy day, or any old day.  I was also impressed with the grilled bread that accompanied the dish.  It had a touch of charcoal flavour that was so good!

 

Fayuca Lunch Flatlay
Kale and Avocado Salad | green beans and pumpkin seeds on Split Pea Hummus

Kale and Avocado Salad | green beans and pumpkin seeds on Split Pea Hummus

Cazuela of Winter Vegetables | Butternut Squash, Fennel, Sweet Potato, Red Beets in a Charred Tomato-Pepper-Olive Sauce with Crème Fraiche and Feta

Cazuela of Winter Vegetables | Butternut Squash, Fennel, Sweet Potato, Red Beets in a Charred Tomato-Pepper-Olive Sauce with Crème Fraiche and Feta

 

Machaca is often a dried shredded beef but Fayuca’s Machaca con Huevo is made with smoked fish.  The scrambled egg with smoked fish, charred avocado and black bean sauce combination on a hearty ancient grain bread made my mouth water for more!  This is a dish I could eat often and with gusto.  Or maybe I should say “me gusta!”

 

In many places around the world chicken and rice is a common meal.  Common is not how I would describe the Arroz con Pollo that Fayuca serves.  The chicken was marvelous, so tender.  Beneath the chicken was red rice and sofrito, a tomato based sauce (also used in Italian and Spanish cooking) that infused the rice with layers of flavour.  Dribbled over it all was aioli, a garlic sauce somewhat similar to mayonnaise.  This was a hearty, satisfying dish.

 

Machaca con Huevo | Smoked Fish Machaca with Egg Scramble, Charred Avocado, Ancient Grain Bread, Black Bean Sauce

Machaca con Huevo | Smoked Fish Machaca with Egg Scramble, Charred Avocado, Ancient Grain Bread, Black Bean Sauce

Arroz con Pollo | Roasted Chicken with Red Rice, Tomato, Sofrito, Aioli, Greens

Arroz con Pollo | Roasted Chicken with Red Rice, Tomato, Sofrito, Aioli, Greens

 

We sampled four dishes from the lunch menu and all were winners, in my opinion.  Out of curiosity I looked up the translation of the word fayuca and contraband and black market were the results.  I’m not sure how the name was chosen for this restaurant but if the only way to get these dishes was on the black market then I would still want to be a patron.  The lunch menu is reasonably priced and the food and drinks are delicious.  There are some vegetarian options should that be a concern for anyone in your party.

 

Fayuca
1009 Hamilton Street
Vancouver

 

 
 

FOOD | Omakase Dinner at Bistro Sakana, Yaletown by Jenn Chan

Bistro Sakana

 

I finally got a chance to check out Bistro Sakana, a little Japanese restaurant nozzled in with other restaurants and cafes on the Yaletown strip. I'm happy to be able to finally try this spot, especially their Omakase menu.  I'm also very happy that I came hungry to this meal, because it was absolutely filling!  

The Omakase meal has 13 items on the menu, including:

  • Appetizer
  • Dobin Mushi
  • Omakase Sashimi
  • Tsubugai Tsuboyaki
  • Lobster Tempura
  • Smoked Kurobuta
  • Kegani Kanimiso
  • Omakase Sushi
  • Steam Fish
  • Bafun Uni Cahwanmushi
  • Wagyu Hobayaki
  • Madai Gohan
  • Dessert

I was almost full from just reading the itinerary for the evening to come.

 

Bistro Sakana Omakase

 

We started off with the appetizer, which included 3 different little items on the plate: Tuna with Avocado, Uni & Caviar, Radish wrapped Smoked Salmon with Mango & Masago, Sea Cucumber in Vinagrette. As some of you may know, I LOVE Uni and Caviar, so when you combined the 2 ingredients along with tuna to make a tartare, it sent my taste buds straight to heaven. The Sea cucumber in vinagrette was so refreshing and unique, this might be one of the first times I've had this good of a sea cucumber. This is a good start! 

Shortly after, our next course came, the Dobin Mushi. We loved the presentation, it came in a little clay tea pot with a lid that plays double duty as a bowl. I wasn't sure about the lime initially, but it really adds an extra complexity and flavour to the soup. The Sashimi platter came and my eyes could not believe its presentation! (Look below for photos) This platter came with such a wide variety of sashimi, including Geoduck, Miragui, Minadai, Blue Fin Tuna, Shimaaji, Akami, and of course, the main attraction - the Lobster Sashimi. All the sashimi were super fresh, and most melts in your mouth! The lobster also goes perfectly with the Ponzu Sauce that came with it. Did I mention the presentation of this platter? 

 

Appetizer: Tuna with Avocado, Uni & Caviar, Radish wrapped Smoked Salmon with Mango & Masago, Sea Cucumber in Vinagrette

Appetizer: Tuna with Avocado, Uni & Caviar, Radish wrapped Smoked Salmon with Mango & Masago, Sea Cucumber in Vinagrette

Bistro Sakana Omakase Appetizer
Dobin Mushi

Dobin Mushi

Dobin Mushi
Omakase Sashimi

Omakase Sashimi

Bistro Sakana Omakase Sashimi

 

I will just say now that all the courses came looking nothing short of perfect, and I was impressed with the presentation on most of the dishes, it made my job easy as a photographer! Every course was unique and had its own flavour profile and texture to it. The Welk and Clam in liver sauce is no exception, coming on a hot plate, sitting on a bed of sea salt and kelp.

 

Tsubugai Tsuboyaki

Tsubugai Tsuboyaki

Lobster Tempura

Lobster Tempura

Kegani Kanimiso

Kegani Kanimiso

 

I feel like I'm repeating myself a lot here with the presentation, but look at this Smoked Kurobuta! Two smoked out domes arrived on our table and we were initially left with guessing what's inside. When the lids were lifted in a skillful manner, we were able to smell the smoke, which added a great smokey flavour to the fish.

 

The sushi was next, and we were instructed to eat them in this specific order: Ashiaka Ebi Sushi, Hairy Crab sushi, and then the Wagyu Beef Sushi. The Ashiaka Ebi is a very juicy and sweet shrimp, and the wagyu is so tender that it literally melts like butter in your mouth. The garlic chips on top gave it an additional flavourful crunch.

 

Smoked Kurobuta

Smoked Kurobuta

Smoked Kurobuta
Omakase Sushi: Hairy Crab Roll, Ebi Roll & Wagyu Beef Roll

Omakase Sushi: Hairy Crab Roll, Ebi Roll & Wagyu Beef Roll

 

These cute little packages came next, and as we undid the ribbon, we revealed a great rolled up Madai (Sea Bream) with enoki mushrooms rolled up inside in a natural dashi broth. This bite-size piece left me with a mouthful of flavour and wishing there was more of it! 

 

Steamed Fish

Steamed Fish

Steamed Fish
Bafun Uni Chawamushi

Bafun Uni Chawamushi

 

By this course, we were both starting to get pretty full, but out comes the Wagyu Hobayaki. It was my first experience to have beef cooked tableside, on a little grill, on a Houba leaf. We were told that the leaf was so thin that the wagyu is able to cook overtop, as well as add flavours to the meat. The experience itself is a 10/10 for me. Again, their wagyu is like butter, super smooth, and absolutely delicious with the secret sauce that was cooked with it.

 

Wagyu Hobayaki

Wagyu Hobayaki

Madai Gohan

Madai Gohan

 

Do you recognize this lobster? Do you feel like you might have seen it before? Well, you are not wrong if you thought it looks familiar, it was the same lobster that we had back in course 3, the sashimi course. This, in my opinion, was a great way to end and round up the meal. The miso soup was so full of flavour, especially with the little bits of lobster meat that came off the shell! 


 

Lobster Miso

Lobster Miso

 

Confession, I have never had a Panna Cotta before. Yes, I know, SHOCKING! I'm shocked myself, and I can't even think of a reason why this might be the case. So, thank you Bistro Sakana for giving my first ever Panna Cotta, and a matcha one at all! They know my heart! The panna cotta was silky smooth and creamy. I loved the bitter taste of the green tea, which matched well with the sweetness of the red bean. I'm not typically a dessert girl, but I ate this whole dessert up, and slurped up every last drop. Boy, am I full!!!

 

Green Tea Panna Cotta

Green Tea Panna Cotta

 

Overall, everything was delicious and left me feeling very full and content. I felt like I needed to be rolled out. A complex menu, amazing selection, absolutely fresh ingredients - I will definitely recommend going in to try their Omakase Dinner!

 

 

TRAVEL | FOOD | Mott 32, Hong Kong by Jenn Chan

Mott32

 

In 1851 New York's first Chinese convenience store opened at 32 Mott Street in Lower Manhattan. A tip of the cap to the nucleus, the epicentre, of what would become New York's Chinatown, Mott 32 makes a vast, subterranean former bank basement lush and inviting. Renowned interior designer Joyce Wang went all out creating unique dining areas and nooks utilizing the nuanced layout of the award-winning space. The frosted glass ceilings inside matching octagonal dining areas in the main room fool the eye and the mind into believing sunlight and views would be pouring through, even several floors underground, were there no need for privacy glazing; truly a feast for the eyes!

 

MOTT32
MOTT 32
MOTT 32 Bar

 

Even being a lunch engagement Jenn and I were in full vacation mode so we dabbled in a few of Mott's signature cocktails. Jenn opted for the The Milk Tram, a vodka, milk, matcha concoction that she really enjoyed and I tried the Hong Kong Iced Tea and the Blanco Avion Tequila gives it a really nice back, I'd recommend it! If you're in HK you're doing, or at least should be doing, dim sum. Translated it means 'touch the heart' in the way that food brings people together and parents nurture their offspring and give life with its sustenance. If you haven't tried it think high end Chinese tapas, each course is brought out piping hot in its own little, round picnic basket. Siu Mai is the 'gateway dim sum'; the non-offensive, Caucasian-palate-friendly offering which has been known to lead one to a life of harder dim sums. Without hesitation the Soft Quail Egg, Iberico Pirk and Black Truffle Siu Mai is the best I've ever tasted! The light, runny egg explodes in your mouth as you pop it in and the flavours mesh really well. Next they brought out a very nice dumpling comprised of South Australian Scallop, Spinach and Caviar. The freshness of the scallop and the ever so slight caviar tinge gives it a very complex flavour and it will certainly please most tastes. The Hot & Sour Iberico Pork Shanghainese Soup Dumpling rounded out the first delivery and its unique flavour survived through the cocktails and lingered, thankfully, until the next course arrived. 

 

 

Hong Kong Iced Tea & Milk Tram Cocktail

Hong Kong Iced Tea & Milk Tram Cocktail

South Australian Scallop, Spinach, Caviar Dumpling

South Australian Scallop, Spinach, Caviar Dumpling

Soft Quail Egg, Iberico Pork, Black Truffle Siu Mai

Soft Quail Egg, Iberico Pork, Black Truffle Siu Mai

 

Assorted wild mushroom in lettuce cap with black truffle sauce descended upon our table, ominous I know, accompanied by Barbecue Pluma Iberico Pork with Yellow Mountain Honey. So many different flavours going on in each wrap and to describe it would not do it justice. Jenn ate most of them and that's usually a good indication that it's excellent. Lean cuts of pork came alongside bathed in a sweet honey sauce; delicious! By the time the Signature Smoked Black Cod came out and its signature campfire  presentation was wafting through the room I was near bursting, but for the team, for you guys, our readers, I soldiered on. You're welcome. The pine, hickory scent that was now permeating the room is infused, magically I'd wager, in the fish. Do you love the smell of summer and barbecue and campfire? Then this is a lakeside, catch and cook, fish plate that you cannot pass up on trying. I let Jenn handle the critique of her Wok Fried Cauliflower with Air Dried Szechuan Sausage because I was unable to go on and she gasped at the spice level of the sausage so naturally I tried it as well. Very, very tangy and a bit of a slow uptake on the heat, but it's coming baby! Jenn adores cauliflower so she went through it and really liked the freshness and snap of the different colours of one of her favourite plants.

 

Assorted Wild Mushroom in Lettuce Cup, Black Truffle Sauce

Assorted Wild Mushroom in Lettuce Cup, Black Truffle Sauce

Hot & Sour Iberico Pork Shanghainese Soup Dumplings

Hot & Sour Iberico Pork Shanghainese Soup Dumplings

MOTT 32 Food
Signature Smoked Black Cod

Signature Smoked Black Cod

Barbecue Pluma Iberico Pork, Yellow Mountain Honey (Limited Daily)

Barbecue Pluma Iberico Pork, Yellow Mountain Honey (Limited Daily)

Wok Fried Cauliflower, Air Dried Szechuan Sausage

Wok Fried Cauliflower, Air Dried Szechuan Sausage

 

Dessert can either be your best friend or your worst nightmare. Picture a late night glass of champagne at an upscale lounge with your sweetheart. You're laughing, bubbles are flowing and you order a plate of strawberries and vanilla ice cream layered in whipped cream. How can you go wrong there? Impossible! BUT you put that same bubbly couple at the end of an eight course meal and bait them with Fresh Mango, Coconut, Glutinous Rice Rolls? It may end with a trip to the ER. Not unlike a previous HK dining experience I've had, but that's for another place. I mean the word glutinous and gluttonous are so similar, who's in charge of marketing 'round hurrr? I ended up eating most of it, but that's beside the point. When is manslaughter by food Mott? When? Top shelf, imaginative food, great service and award winning ambience. Safe to say that if you miss Mott 32 right by the Central MRT station you've missed Hong Kong.

 

DESSERT: Fresh Mango, Coconut, Glutinous Rice Roll

DESSERT: Fresh Mango, Coconut, Glutinous Rice Roll

 
Words: Scott Allan
Photos: Jenn Chan
 

Botanist Restaurant at Fairmont Pacific Rim by Jenn Chan

Botanist Restaurant

 

 

My experience at Botantist started right at the hostess stand, when she greeted me with a big smile and helped put away my raincoat, she even helped hold my DSLR while I struggled with my jacket! I took a quick look around the room, it was absolutely stunning. They have paid incredible detail to every little thing, from the plants, to the lighting, to little decor on the bar tops. The room buzzed with conference go-ers at the Champagne Lounge to my left, and business people at the bar to my right. There's even a VIP room you can book for a special occasion! I was then whisked away towards my table, and along the way, I caught myself "WOW-ing" a few times just looking at the abundant indoor plants surrounding the dining room!
 

 

Botanist Restaurant

Botanist Restaurant

 

 

All the names of the cocktails are super fun, like "Can't Beat a Root", "Yes Whey", and "What the Flower" were some of my favourites. Our night started with trying 3 different cocktails: Poetry in Motion, Apple Seed Lane, and the Lillemonade (THIS is a fun one to say). All 3 cocktails were delicious and we gulped them down quickly! Along with our cocktails, our server also brought out their special seeded bread. If you know me, you know I'm not typically a bread person, but this was amazing! Together with the whipped butter, each bite was a little taste of heaven. Bread with seeds have no calories right?

 

Cocktails: Poetry in Motion, Apple Seed Lane, Lillemonade

Cocktails: Poetry in Motion, Apple Seed Lane, Lillemonade

Lillemonade
Cocktail: Apple Seed Lane

Cocktail: Apple Seed Lane

Seeded Bread

 

 

Our server then surprised us with a little amuse bouche - the White Gazpacho (which is on their menu). The White Gazpacho was very refreshing with side stripe shrimp, cucumber and little delightful balls of grapes! I can see myself ordering this a lot in the summer!

 

White Gazpacho

White Gazpacho



Next up is our appetizers to share. We order 3 of the top recommended appies, the Heirloom Tomato Salad, Hand-Cut Tagliatelle, and Nova Scotia Lobster Tail. The tomatoes of the Heirloom Tomato Salad is grown hydroponically, which means they're grown without soil using mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent, how cool is that? This dish tasted so fresh, and the flavours combined so well together with the burrata & hibiscus vinaigrette. 

 

Have you ever had Lobster Tail as an appetizer? Me neither. But there's always a first right? When I saw this on the menu, I couldn't pass it up, and it did not disappoint. The flavours blended together masterfully. The light fluffy lobster foam pair beautifully with the rich flavour of the lobster tail. The lobster foam reminded me of a lobster bisque. To even out the flavours, they've added chopped up bits of fennel to give the dish more texture - Such a balanced dish!

 

I tried the Hand-cut Tagliatelle next, and WOW was it exquisite. The hand-cut tagliatelle is so fresh, and I love seeing the not so perfectly cut pasta.  I'm also a huge fan of foraged mushrooms,, it went so well in this dish with the creamy and rich sauce. This came in the perfect portion, not leaving you weighed down and too full for the main course.

 

Appetizers: Heirloom Tomato Salad, Hand-Cut Tagliatelle, Nova Scotia Lobster Tail

Appetizers: Heirloom Tomato Salad, Hand-Cut Tagliatelle, Nova Scotia Lobster Tail

Heirloom Tomato Salad

Heirloom Tomato Salad

Nova Scotia Lobster Tail

Nova Scotia Lobster Tail

Hand-Cut Tagliatelle

Hand-Cut Tagliatelle

 

Our main courses are here, and I am so glad I was hungry enough to have room to savour my entree. I ordered the Lamb Saddle in Medium Rare. The flavours blended really well together. I loved the perfectly made Lamb, I've had plenty of lamb in my lifetime, and this one was soooo flavourful and juicy, I wanted more of it! The mushrooms, broccoli and baby carrots along with the au jus were absolutely perfect!

 

I didn't get to try the Sablefish or the Halibut but was told they were amazingly delicious as well. I mean, just look at how the Halibut came! The squid ink on top of the Halibut was pure art! Botanist has made my job as a photographer easy, every plate came out looking perfect and like a piece of art. It would be a challenge to take a bad photo of it! And we all know, we eat with our eyes first! Wait... I did get to try one of the skin-off cherry tomatoes, and I have to say, it's one of the best tomatoes I've ever had! Because the skin of the tomato has been taken off, the meat had the chance to soak up all the flavours, and when you pop one of those cherry tomatoes, you got a mouthful of rich & well rounded flavour. Yes, I am just talking about a little cherry tomato here!

 

 

Main Course: garlic panisse, broccoli, shallots, natural jus, HERB-CRUSTED LAMB SADDLE

Main Course: garlic panisse, broccoli, shallots, natural jus, HERB-CRUSTED LAMB SADDLE

Wine Pairing - Le Vieux Pin 2015 Syrah

Wine Pairing - Le Vieux Pin 2015 Syrah

Main Course: onion nage, fermented vegetables, puffed tapioca, SEARED SABLEFISH

Main Course: onion nage, fermented vegetables, puffed tapioca, SEARED SABLEFISH

Main Course: tomato, squid ink, local greens, OLIVE OIL POACHED HALIBUT

Main Course: tomato, squid ink, local greens, OLIVE OIL POACHED HALIBUT

Main Course: tomato, squid ink, local greens, OLIVE OIL POACHED HALIBUT

 

When dessert came around, I was ready to explode, so I passed on them, but my friends decided to order the Strawberries with Chocolate & Almost Cream, as well as the Beetroot Cake with Hazelnut and Gewürztraminer Gel. I opted for a delicious ice wine that Jill had recommended to me, it had a fruit forward taste of apricot, and full bodied. It was the perfect night cap for me. When their desserts did come though, I couldn't help myself and had a sample of each. Of course, I had to try the Gewürztraminer gel, I've never heard of such a thing, let along try it! It tasted like jello to me. The beetroot cake didn't taste like what I had anticipated, I had imagined it to taste like Beets but it tasted more like a delightful fluffy cake!

DESSERT: hazelnut, vanilla, gewürztraminer gel, elderflower frozen foam, BEETROOT CAKE

DESSERT: hazelnut, vanilla, gewürztraminer gel, elderflower frozen foam, BEETROOT CAKE

DESSERT: almond cream, chocolate cremeux, peppercorn lace, mint ice cream, white balsamic, STRAWBERRY

DESSERT: almond cream, chocolate cremeux, peppercorn lace, mint ice cream, white balsamic, STRAWBERRY

DESSERT: almond cream, chocolate cremeux, peppercorn lace, mint ice cream, white balsamic, STRAWBERRY

 

I had an absolutely great night at Botanist, from the atmosphere, to the service, to the aesthetically beautiful and delicious food, everything was a 10/10 to me. It's completely unlike any restaurants you're used to at a hotel, this is an experience all on its own, and should almost be considered as a stand-alone restaurant you would go for a birthday celebration, date night, or just a regular Thursday night out!

 

I'll definitely be back, and I'll see you there!

 

Botanist Restaurant
 
Words & Photos: Jenn Chan
 

Italian Kitchen by Glowbal Group Fall Menu by Jenn Chan

Italian Kitchen by Glowbal Group

 

There's no little old Italian lady in the back of this restaurant!

It's not that grandma's recipes aren't delicious and comforting, but they have a time and place and a trendy dinner on Alberni Street is neither of those things.  The stylish setting starts right from when you walk in the double glass doors and the hostess offers to take your coat.

The dim lighting is modern and a creates a romantic balance amongst the greys and metallics found in the remaining decor.  It's the perfect setting for an intimate date or birthday dinner with a group of friends.

Travel upstairs and you're transported to a slightly brighter setting with red walls and a central bar.  Great for business meetings or dinner with the folks.

Our meal started early on a Wednesday night to accommodate my newly adopted older lifestyle.  We sat near the floor to ceiling windows on the second floor where we could view neighbouring restaurants and the now famous Alberni Street and it's must see clientele.

First things first, you don't go for Italian food and get out of there without having a bomb ass red wine, which is exactly where we started.  We shared more than a few glasses of the Campofiorin (the 50 year celebration bottle) as recommended by our lovely waitress.   I've been a red wino for a while now and it's always nice to find a good bottle, with a fresh palette, and a fair price tag to boot!

Our first course was a delicious arancini with a spicy sauce.  The amuse bouche was amousing.  If you aren't interested in puns I'll do my best to keep them to a minimum but can't make any promises.

 

Amuse Bouche - Deep Fried Risotto Ball

Amuse Bouche - Deep Fried Risotto Ball

Masi Campofiorin

Masi Campofiorin

Masi Campofiorin

 

Round 2 of 4 was carpaccio.   The complexity of flavours created a depth you don't anticipate from/thinly shaved beef.  In my view the unique aspect of this dish was escalated with the crispy polenta,  pickled onions, and Dijon sauce that accompanied some more standard elements of a good carpaccio.  The true star of this dish was its ingenuity, too often carpaccio is served with day old crostini's which leaves a desire for creativity at the beginning of your evening.  Polenta with carpaccio!  It doesn't matter how fleet your resident Italian grandmother is, the only way she's serving your carpaccio with crispy fried Polenta is if the polenta's taking up space in her fridge.

 

Beef Carpaccio

Beef Carpaccio

Beef Carpaccio

 

Round 3.  We shared two mains the Wild Salmon and a Truffled Spaghetti & Signature Meatballs.  Did I mention the truffles?  Not just truffle oil, but real, fresh shaved truffles!!!  Topped of course with fresh shaved parmesan.  Have you ever gone to a restaurant and had your waitress ask you to "say when" while referring to fresh Parmesan?  On this occasion we definitely pushed the limit!  Cheese like snow on top of our perfectly cooked pasta.  Typically meatballs aren't my go to but these had such flavour and played perfectly with the marinara that I would definitely order it again.

I don't want to leave the salmon as second place because it deserves better than that.  Served with crispy skin and accompanied by golden beats, grilled onions, and olives with a agrodolce (Italian sweet and sour) sauce. The salmon skin was perfectly executed and not oily, the onions were sweet and tasteful but not overbearing.   You wouldn't think by glancing at the menu that this would be a full entree but it holds true.  The portion of fish was sizeable and at the end of the shared two entrees we were full (even took some to go).

 

Truffle Spaghetti & Signature Meatballs | truffle cream, herbed ricotta

Truffle Spaghetti & Signature Meatballs | truffle cream, herbed ricotta

Truffle Spaghetti with Meatballs
Wild Salmon | grilled onions, olives, golden beet, agrodolce, salmon caviar

Wild Salmon | grilled onions, olives, golden beet, agrodolce, salmon caviar

Wild Salmon

 

Dessert!  Even on a bad day dessert has an opportunity to steal the show.  Perhaps it's just the kid in us knowing that we shouldn't indulge but that no one can stop us.  I'm happy no one stopped us this night and even happier that we didn't pick the dessert ourselves.  Selected for us by Freddie the restaurant manager was the Zeppole - homemade chocolate ganache filled "mini" doughnuts.  The not so miniature doughnuts were a delight to all of our senses.  They looked and smelt so good the table next to us ordered theirs before we even tasted ours.  The taste and fun of cutting open a powdered doughnut filled with rich chocolate ganache was far better than any cheesecake in town...I'm willing to run the comparison.

 

Zeppole al Cioccolato | italian style doughnuts, chocolate gianduja, vanilla crème anglaise

Zeppole al Cioccolato | italian style doughnuts, chocolate gianduja, vanilla crème anglaise

 

Whether you're looking for a dinner, business lunch, or a fun night our with friends Italian Kitchen has got you covered.  It's upscale dining in a price range that means you can celebrate life's little moments and still afford to pay rent.  I recommend a reservation and if you're going with a big group inquire about the platters.  If you decide to follow my recommendations and order the Zeppole for dessert make sure you get an extra seat because I may just show up to share it!
 

 

 

 
Words: Amanda Scott
Photos: Jenn Chan