This is my third dine out adventure and I am still insisting that my guest chooses a place for us to go. Tonight, her choice was “Forage”, having never been before. I haven’t been in over four years so thought it was about time I revisited. Although, sadly I found my original assessment held true. Their food was inventive and trying it during their Dine Out $30 menu is a great deal, however it still left me thinking what I could have after to satisfy me more.
Although, this is probably just me, as the restaurant was packed with diners seated at every table, and flushed around their island bar. Each one enjoying their time and raving about the food, over their beer and wine flights.
To read up on my original visit, click the link below.
“Forage” servers start your meal by asking if you have visited them before. This is so they can explain to you that everything on their menu is local and sustainable, just as their restaurant’s name implies. Our server then followed this forward with the suggestion that we place our order fast to get our food fast. This was foreshadowing the pace of our meal. We ended up doing as she suggested and the food came faster than expected. We were in and out within 45 minutes from ordering to paying.
Our first dishes came less than five minutes later, as if they were made in mass, and were sitting on the counter waiting for us to order them. It was a clever strategy to start with cold appetizers, especially considering how busy the restaurant was with 6:30pm seatings.
Between two of my us, we tried all their non vegetarian options and the only two desserts offered. We passed on the vegan “Beetroot Salad” appetizer, with roasted Brussels sprouts, brusselkraut, and bull kelp granola. And the vegan “German Butter Potatoes” entree with emulsified butter, oyster mushrooms, smoked hazelnuts, picked herbs, and shaved Alpindon.
The “”Vietnamese Style” Bison Shank Salad” featured semi raw slices of beef, flavoured in spices that reminded you of the beef in pho. Served with thin ribbons of shaved squash, braised daikon with a tangy flavour, crispy shallots, cilantro, mint, and fermented chilies. A mild start that encouraged you to explore your plate, mixing nibbles for different textures and tastes. I personally would have liked more prominent flavours or a sauce to smear over things.
I much preferred the easy to chew through “Grilled Humboldt Squid”. The tender slices came with a spicy radish kimchi, and crunchy puffed wild rice. It was flavoured heavily by the sweet soy dressing that pooled at the bottom. Their choice of seasonings reminded me of a Chinese style vegetable dish, salty with the kimchi and sweet with the soy. But too much so when both drenched the squid and radish at the bottom of the bowl.
For entrees I had the “Harissa Grilled Duck Leg” with a white bean puree, sweet and sour carrots, and jus. It was a beautiful plate, stunning in its detail and how each slice of purple carrot was placed on the duck leg and purée like polka dots. Although I found the duck a little dry, especially at the edges of the meat. Between it and the vegetables, nothing popped. It all tasted mild, whereas you wanted a char or some zesty gravy. And I wanted a crunchy texture and a heartier side. A serving of seasoned rice or some herbed carrots, potatoes, and/or Brussels sprouts would have done wonders, for variation and continued interest in the plate. The duck skin was the best part, with the most flavour; but there was not enough of it. Sadly I finished my plate, just so that I wouldn’t waste it, not necessarily because I was excited about its flavours hitting my tongue.
Here, I much preferred the “Crispy Halibut Cheeks”. They were the best tasting fried fish I have had. Like an elevated fish and chips, which left me craving for the starch of fries and the tang of tartar sauce. Instead the smoked yogurt did its best, but I wanted more kick from it. I could have done without the cauliflower “cous cous” as it’s grainy texture left me wishing for whipped potatoes or a risotto for a gumminess instead. Something moist and chewy, a texture to contrast the airy crunch of the not greasy serving. The poached radish and pickled mustard seed did help to brighten up the plate. But the former was a little bitter.
I can at least say how I was impressed by the portion size of both entrees. Given the amount of duck and fish cheek you got, this was a great value, as one dish for a $30 menu. Whereas you would expect to pay $30 just for one of the plates above.
For dessert I liked the “Elderflower Cheese puff” better between the two option. But mostly because I don’t like chocolate and the “Chocolate Cherry Bar” had plenty of it.
When I first saw the cheese puff I thought I was given a melted dessert. Something probable, given how hard the kitchen was working to stay on top orders. So maybe they too made these desserts in mass? However, when I brought it to our server’s attention, she reassure me that the dessert came to me, as it was intended. That the vanilla ice cream that stuffed the puff only looked melted, because of the cordial and gin spiked blueberries that pooled around it. I liked the salted cheesiness of the cream hiding within the sponge-like shell of the puff. I would have preferred it dry, but my guest did like the spongy texture the soggy puff had. With the blueberry adding freshness to your bites.
The “Chocolate Cherry Bar” was a little too chocolate centric for my choice. Although the hazelnut crumble, white chocolate cherry cream, and chocolate sauce helped to balance it out. It only left me wanting something refreshing. More cherry cream or actual cherries. Or maybe whipped cream with fruit to brighten the very dark and slightly bitterness of the dense chocolate bar. It had the whipped airiness of mousse, with the density of pudding, all rolled into one. My guest said it reminded her of chocolate fondant, expecting to eventually bite down a cake base or sponge that never came about.
Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Based on today’s meal, I wouldn’t mind returning, but it wouldn’t be my first choice. Beautiful plates, unique flavours, just not what I personally gravitate towards. Don’t deny your cravings.
1300 Robson St, Vancouver BC