When you think Richmond you think Chinese food; you conjure up images of noodles, dumplings, and stir fry. But what if you don’t want any of the above, should you have to travel out of the island city in order to get a decent burger or a grilled steak? Well “Cavu” doesn’t think so. And they are helping those with that very dilemma, by offering them Pacific West Coast fare across their new winter menu. Hot off the heels of their “Le burger week” win, this menu includes two new burgers worth traveling for, as well as a collection of tasty shareables and delicious desserts.
Located in the hotel’s lobby, parking is easily accessible and free for diners. Once within, the restaurant ushers you close with an open entry way. It feels like your average hotel lobby restaurant with dark furnishings and floors, television screens for entertainment, and plants for visual interest. Nothing stand out, apart from the random words splashed across specific walls, foiled in gold. “Unlimited”, “visibility”, and the cut out ceiling labelled as such.
Our group grabbed the large high top, share table that divided the casual bar with the more formal dining area (minus the tv screens). Christmas was in the air and on the tables with buckets of candy canes, glass jars of baubles, and ever green trees set a glow. But I was most enamoured by the fact that our table had outlets built into it. I was able to charge my phone with no more than a cable.
We began our meal by snacking on thinly sliced, gently salted potato chips. Their light airy texture so addictive that our group found ourselves finishing it all, as we waited for our first course to arrive.
With it I had the “Berry coconut margarita” a feature cocktail for the season. Made with 1800 coconut infused silver tequila and chambord, with a beet root rim. This was a nice enough drink, fruity and easy to finish. Although it wasn’t one that spoke to the holiday, its popular flavours, or its warm and smokey tones. With the coconut and candy sugar rim, this drank tropical, more like punch that you gulp, then something to be slowly sipped and savoured for warmth.
My favourite dish of the night, and the one I would order again, had us starting the night on a high note. The “Mediterranean labneh” is a soft cheese spread served with arbequina XV olive oil, dukkah, figs, olives, and rosemary. With so many elements to sort though, its taste was dependant on how you smeared and topped your chewy pita bread. Worth nothing is that you are given more cheese than bread to spread. So either lay it on thick, or double your order of pita as a precaution. They make the labneh in house, from scratch. And even though it is made from mostly yogurt, its telltale tartness doesn’t move forward. You only get a pleasant tang to it. The cheese was easy to spread, thick like cream cheese, with extra sumptuousness from the olive oil. I especially liked a slice of fig to finish it off. This side would have been great with wine.
Next, we had the “Cavu fried chicken basket”. Extra points for the presentation of this one. Available in spicy or medium, the colouring of both looked the same: orangey-brown. For more heat, dunk your jagged-battered chicken nugget in to the iconic flavour of Frank’s Red Hot.
Although I preferred the spicy version as is, already well flavoured. But I did find that both versions had a little too much breading, causing it to feel dry and almost over cooked.
The burger that won them “Le Burger Week” was their “Le Big Mac N Cheese Burger”. An 8oz beef patty topped with melted cheddar, bacon, and ketchup. All sandwich between two Mac and cheese croquettes, repurposed into burger buns. Crispy on the outside, elbow macaroni packed on the inside. This is the type of comfort food I crave for after heavy drinking. But sober, I wanted more gooey raclette cheese to moisten things up with. There was also not enough stringy cheese with in the Mac and cheese patties for my tastes. And the beef burger was a little over cooked, a pinker centre would have been nice. But here, we discovered their kimchi ketchup, just came in handy. Not typically paired with this dish, but it should be. In fact, the condiment should be bottled up and enjoyed with everything. It has what you like about ketchup, but with additional sweetness and a kick from the preserved cabbage. They also have a garlic aioli that would have helped pull this together as a burger. But instead, I happily ate it deconstructed like pasta with ketchup.
Just as impressive is their “baller burger”. You want it for the name alone. Another 8oz patty, but this one is topped with sautéed lobster claws, asparagus, arugula, dijonaise, and a Béarnaise sauce. All set between a toasted brioche bun. This was basically a surf and turf made more practical to eat, as a handheld burger. Although things did get messy with all the oils and juices running down your hands. It made the vegetable soggy, and left you wanting a slice of tomato or sweet pickle to brighten things up, which was available on the side.
I was not a fan of the calamari. “Crispy chilli fried squid and prawn” with sesame puffs; seasoned in togarashi spice, shishito pepper, green onion, yuzu aioli, and chilli. The flavour was interesting: peppery, salty, and savoury. But the texture of the breading came across as ashy and chalky. Here, a creamy aioli would have helped course correct things, and add some cooling balance that the dish needed.
If you are looking for something light and lean, the “pan seared Lois lake steelhead” is a good option. Tender, flaky fish sitting on top of a rösti potato (a Swiss dish of grated potatoes formed into a small flat cake and fried.) and braised leeks; all in a pool of saffron butter sauce. The potato ate like pasta in its starchiness, but was overwhelmed by the butter sauce. Out of personal preference, I would have like a red tomato sauce with tang for the salmon, much like the one below.
The “Cioppino” (fisherman’s stew) was a collection of seafood in a spiced tomato broth. Rockfish, mussels, squid, prawns, onions, and bell peppers. A beautifully coloured bowl of neon red with sprigs of green leaves and herbs, and the pink of the watermelon radish peeking through. Thought was put into this presentation. The squid rings were my favourite part, they were beautifully prepared with a great chew. Although I preferred this whole, more as a soup; slurping up liquid and dunking toasted focaccia slices into it like a sponge.
The “stout braised beef short rib” was a generous serving. The meat was tender and easy to pull part. However I found it too salty and its flavour flat. The vegetables and jus on the side helped, but there was not enough to have some steak mushrooms, peas, or carrots with each bite. I would have also preferred the potatoes mashed and whipped smooth for a similar texture that that of the meat, one that would have had the vegetables pop more.
For dessert we had “Molten chocolate cake”. It didn’t really have a melty ganache centre, as we had thought it would (based on the name and description). It would have been nice to have the cake served warmer, fresh out of the oven. And utilizing the scoop of custard ice cream that topped it as a cooling agent; and then later, a sauce, when it melted over the chewy chocolate cake, with hazelnut notes.
Altogether I preferred the “spiced rum and raisin pudding”. I am more partial to a vanilla base dessert, and definitely I got it here. Bourbon vanilla ice cream, candied pecan, salted caramel, and toasted marshmallow. It looked and tasted like cookie dough with a nice burnt caramel finish.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I wouldn’t necessarily travel the distance for a meal, but for more show stopping burgers like the baller one up above, I can see myself returning for another go of the place. They are best for the hearty, “stick to your ribs” kind of stuff. There were some hits and some misses, but over all it was better than I expected. Quality food and some creative dishes for fall/winter. Don’t deny your cravings.
Hilton Vancouver Airport Hotel
5911 Minoru Blvd, Richmond, BC V6X 4C7