Today I was invited as the plus one to a media dinner at “Atlas”. “Atlas Steak + Fish”, the new restaurant within the “Grand Villa Casino”, in Burnaby. I have been to the casino and visited the restaurant’s location on many occasions, prior. But back then it was branded as “Ebo” with a very different feel and menu.
And thanks to this faithful visit, it is now one of the restaurants I like recommending for a dressy night out in Burnaby. In fact, this post will cover two visits: the aforementioned media event in celebration of its opening; and my 2017 Christmas Eve dinner with my partner.
Before we get into it: when it comes to a media tasting, plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.
The entrance of the restaurant is within the casino. You enter through the main doors, then climb the staircase up. A turn to your left leads you to the casino floor; one to the right, your destination marked with an electronic billboard across from the hostess’ podium.
Being able to recall the restaurant that it once was, I immediately felt the space rejuvenated. New orange, blue, green, and grey carpet underfoot. New cream coloured couches and blue upholstered seats. And a couple of ceiling to floor wine walls with bottles balancing on pegs. Things were also a whole lot brighter with hanging bulbs in glass, focused spot lights, and copper piping that resembles the string of constellations in their logo. Other features including live music playing from a piano at the entrance; and the kitchen being open wide, with a full view of its operations from the dining room.
Their electronic and interactive menu lets you scroll through all their food and drink menus. Although, for those who prefer it analog, they offer the traditional fold out cardboard and paper as well. Though the latter doesn’t help you pair food with recommended drinks.
Like the “Agua de Valencia”, a cool and refreshing cocktail prepared with a dry English gin, fine orange liqueur, and a touch of orange. I reminded us of a salted mimosa. It was made for sipping.
I preferred the “Anejo old fashioned” more, enough to have another during this dinner and then come back for an additional glass on a later date. It was the sweetest and smoothest tequila based drink I have ever had. It featured a whisky charred tequila with dark aromatics, a touch of sweet agave, and is then finished off with flamed warm orange zest. I also appreciated the ice ball each glass came with, and your ability to swivel it menacingly.
The “Imperial pear” is great for those who like a lighter, fruitier beverage. Pear, sake, vodka, and a little fizz from soda water.
Their complimentary serving of bread to start is now one of my favourites. Fluffy buns served in the same cast iron pan it was baked in. And only a dedicate spread to pair with such a tasty roll will do. So they are presented with a blue cheese infused butter. It was salty with a strong cheesy flavour, and right up my alley.
For appetizers we shared the “Prawn cocktail”. And to our delight, the plump poached jumbo prawns were served hanging off a glass smoking from the use of liquid nitrogen. They were juicy and delicious, dipped in the gin infused cocktail sauce.
The “Salt spring island mussels and Manila clams” were prepared in a soupy sauce of fennel and smoked tomato. It was sweet and tangy with sausage slices added in for zing.
Their “Seasonal oysters” are a rotating selection, fresh and served on ice.
The “Steak tartar” is hand minced tenderloin with miso mustard, pickled daikon, a quail’s egg, and gnocco fritto. I liked the tartar alright, but could have done with a different type of base, instead of the hard fried bread puffs. I didn’t like the oil I tasted on them and how they contrasted with the clean finish of the tartar.
There are a few dishes prepared for you table side. An extra show with your meal, and a nod to the traditions that once existed. Once such was the “Caesar salad” at $13 per person. Everything is made from scratch, with the dressing hand whipped and the salad toss into it once mixed. Heart of romaine, parmegiano-reggiano, and the scratch made traditional Caesar dressing. If you don’t like the calories of a Caesar salad, they also have a “baby kale and spinach salad” for the same cost per person, served with a warm bacon and mustard vinaigrette with shiitake mushroom.
Their steak feature definitely has to be the “Double R Ranch tomahawk steak” served on bone. It will run you $120 with more than enough steak for two. The price also includes sides to go with it. The steak comes from family owned, “Double R Ranch”. Since 1968, “Snake River Farms” and “Double R Ranch” have been sourcing cattle from Nicola Valley in British Columbia. They hand-sort the best product so that “Atlas” can turn around and provide their guests with exceptional ranch-to-table beef. Trying this 48oz slab made me a believer. It was juicy with marbled fat. Great with the potatoes it comes with, but better with the add-on of truffled French fries.
The “Beef tenderloin” is available in a 6, 9, or 12oz portion. Our group of four planned on sharing so went big with the 12oz. We then took it to another level by requesting or steak with the “Oscar topping”. This is the addition of Dungeness crab, grilled asparagus, and a béarnaise sauce for an extra level of decadence. It added a creaminess and gave the stab of meat a new texture and taste to prolong our enjoyment of it.
The “Chilli rubbed cowboy steak” came in a 16oz. Its spicy rub draws out the juiciness of the USDA prime cut. And apparently it is all grilled in a special oven to gain the specific and desired char.
The “Tomahawk pork chop” also comes from “Snake River Farms”. A kurobuta pork chop, smoked pork belly, and an apple relish; served with a side of warm potato salad. It is a juicy piece of pork with an enjoyable sweetness, thanks to the apple and the caramelizing of the belly fat. The meat had a marbling similar wagyu and as a result was some of the juiciest I have ever had. I typically stay away from ordering pork for the fear of it being dry, this wasn’t a problem with this medium aged pork chop from Montreal.
The “Brome lake duck breast” is prepared with five spice, and served with pan roasted sweet potato, and an apple slaw. The sides too gave this a nice sweetness. I have no complaints for such a juicy and rich piece of meat.
With it all we ordered some seafood sides, to make our meal a little more “surf and turf”. Each “accompaniment” came out on their own, separate cast iron pans.
The “Grilled Atlantic lobster tail” included a dish of butter melted in a special apparatus, kept warm and melted by a flickering tea light. The tail was juicy, made richer by a good dunk in liquid butter.
The “Garlic jumbo prawns” were no different from the chilled appetizer version in quality and girth. Just seasoned with a nice garlicky flavour instead.
The “Pan seared sea scallops” were huge. Juicy rounds with nice crispy edges.
And the “Alaskan king crab legs” were easy to pry flesh from shell.
I liked the texture of the crispy “Tempura softshell crab”. Although it was a little too salty for my taste.
Their feature dessert, and the one to order is the “Baked Alaska”, which is flambéd for you table-side. This is a ball of raspberry coconut ice cream, lemon sorbet, orange vanilla cake, and Italian meringue. It is lightly spritz over with alcohol, which is then lit on fire. The blue flame that engulfs it after is quite the showcase. It doesn’t last, but gives the meringue a nice char. As for flavour, I found it a little too sweet and too tangy from the tart raspberry sorbet. A great dessert to try, but the next is one I would come back for.
The “Apple galette” was served baked warm, topped with a bourbon maple caramel sauce and candied pecans. This delicious flakey crust and sticky syrup combination is a winner. But it was the savoury rosemary ice cream that tied it all together and made it memorable for me.
I also found the “Vietnamese coffee parfait” too sweet and a bit too rich to finish on my own. I liked its concept and the assembly of espresso chocolate mousse, dark chocolate brownie, coffee jelly, condensed milk ice cream, coconut biscotti, cocoa nibs, and Bailey Irish cream together. There were a few spoonfuls where there was an overwhelming flavour of spice. But it was helped along by the biscotti-like short bread, to balance flavours out.
The “Salted caramel creme brûlée” was so good that I recommended it to my partner the next time I returned to “Atlas” with him. This was his first try of the classic cream dessert, but knowing his love of salted caramel, this was a guarantee win. It is baked sous-vide and served with a chocolate dipped biscotti, for those who like a little crunch with their pudding-like desserts. He enjoyed it as much as I did my first time.
As I mentioned, I liked the place enough to recommend it to my partner, when we were looking for last minute, Christmas Eve dinner locations. During this latest visit I was able to reaffirm my original assessment as a regular diner, as well as taste their limited time only “Festive season feature menu”.
The feature entree was the “Turkey duo”, a fun interpretation of a traditional turkey dinner with stuffing and cranberry sauce. Josper smoked breast and sous-vide thigh roll with a brioche chorizo and apricot stuffing, jus gras, and cranberries. The portion was generous though I wished for a 1:1 ratio of meat round to stuffing disc. Instead you had three slices of turkey meat and two pucks of packed stuffing. The turkey roll was juicy and very flavourful, the stuffing cakey with a sweet and fluffy texture. The cranberry a nice pop of acid, lending its sweetness to round out the plate.
Keeping with the fowl theme, my partner had the “Josper smoked chicken breast”. Free run chicken breast, shiitake peppercorn sauce, and roasted potatoes. He was leaning towards one of the steaks originally, but eventually made his decision based on the sides that this juicy white meat chicken would come with. The rub on it tasted like bacon, giving it a nice crispy skin. Though I found the chicken to be on the drier side. I liked my turkey a lot more. Although my partner declared his chicken the better of the two.
For dessert I throughly enjoyed the “Buche de noel”, though sadly I will not get another taste of it, due to its seasonal availability. It felt like you were eating Christmas on a plate. It didn’t looking like a lot, but this was just the right amount of food to leave you satisfied, yet wanting more. Gingerbread cake, marscarpone cream, dark chocolate, and candy cane ice cream. Juicy and tart toasted goose berry, crispy toffee to bite into, a spongy roll to melt on your tongue, and the perfect creamy and minty ice cream to cleanse your palette with, in between bites.
During this visit, our entrees were taking longer than expected to arrive. So one of our two dedicated servers came by to offer us a side salad to tide us over. I rejected his offer, as we both don’t like salads, and despite being able to enjoy the show, the food would have gone to waste. So during his second time around he offered and we accepted some wine that they would buy us. I had a 9oz glass of white and my partner some in the sparkling variety. This was a generous offer and a show of their level of service and standards. That and the fact that we had two servers attend to us and the manager and hostess clearing our empty plates and checking in on our meal throughout our stay. That and being situated right next to the piano with their pianist playing winter carols, made us feel quite like VIPs.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
A great place for a night out in Burnaby. And with the casino adjacent, you have your next date night destination all under one roof. Don’t deny your cravings.