I think, how many times have I been down Robson Street and never once have I noticed this place? But I have heard its name across a few blogs as of late. So when my guest and I were deciding on places for dinner, this was the one.
The decor was serene in birch wood and splashes of green. The windows were lined with foliage and fungus. The walls, papered with stripes of yellow, grey, and lime. And on each table sat a tiny jar of artificial moss nestled around a frameless candle. Each provided ambience and additional table top lighting, not that much was needed at 5pm. The large windows let in enough light to fill the entire room. Assembled together it all felt fresh and attuned to nature. I was compelled to step into their indoor court yard. A glass door separated the restaurant from a chunk of space without a roof. A patch of astro turf, with 3 heavy wooden picnic tables, in varying colours. The restaurant’s host noted that most guests can’t help but take their shoes off to enjoy the feel of the grass on their toes. A shame that the height of the surrounding buildings did not allow any sun to reach the tables. All in all it was still a unique environment to enjoy a meal in. Neither inside or out, and a bit of both.
The menu was a page of food and drinks on either side. A full wine list was available as a separate 4 page bound menu. Cocktails were only 3 and came in sweet, sour, and savoury. I choose the former made with Krause Strawberry purée, forty creek, ginger syrup, and soda, all on ice. It’s texture reminded me of a crushed ice slushy, an icy crunch in between all that syrup. The taste of strawberry was prominent. But I still found it a little too strong, and as a result I was forced to ask to get the 2oz mix diluted with sparking soda. The result, a refreshing beverage in a mason jar. Our server was understanding and showed no negativity towards my request. Plus I was the only guest in for 30 minutes right after they opened, and had all attention on me.
Dishes were designed as small plates for sharing. Our server suggested 3-6 plates and to order as we went. The ingredients are all local and sustainable. The style, simple west coast. After not being able to make heads of tails with the menu’s organization, I asked. The dishes were arranged by the vessels they would be served in: irons, boards, plates, and bowls. “Irons” stood for cast iron pan. Snacks and sweets were listed before and after. A unique idea, but it didn’t give me any idea of the serving of each. Usually a menu is listed under appetizers, entrees, and desserts. Even then there was no theme to the dishes under each category On the boards came a flatbread, cheeses, charcuterie, and a game burger. On the plates: an organic salad, lamb, dungeons as crab, a pea dish, and fried chicken. In bowls: fish, spot prawns, and salmon. I was forced to read each option instead of going right to “pastas” or “protein” as I may have desired. Once again, a clever idea that sets their menu apart. But overall confusing for the diner wanting simplicity. Reading their detailed descriptions made me want them more, just to find out what half of the ingredients actually were. And what the dish actually is. The dishes had no titles, just a list of its elements.
“Hannah Brook Farm cress, charred onion, 64 degree egg, bison bone marrow croutons, and mushroom “soil”.” After our server described it we were able to get a better idea of it in our minds. This was definitely like no salad that I have tried. Unique flavours from the assembly of individual ingredients. My mouth was happy to try something new, but didn’t know what to make of it. I don’t like salads or onions, but I found its preparation here enjoyable. The croutons were greasy from the oily bone marrow. I suggest eating them quickly before they loose their crunch to sogginess. This was definitely the best plate of the night.
“Maple Hill Farm fried chicken, spicy potato salad, cilantro aioli.” This was fried chicken and potato salad with a spiced up twist. Not as original as the first dish. The potatoes were unfamiliar in a way that made you miss original potato salad. The aioli was overwhelming, but a necessary component to add flavouring to an otherwise bland piece of chicken. The skin was terrific, fried to a crisp. But past it, the meat was unflavoured and the white portion, dry.
“Dungeness crab and new potato perogies, horseradish crema, pickled romaine, green onion purée.” This too was a classic dish done not necessarily for the better. You bite in expecting a punch of flavour, instead you are greeted by stringy light pieces of crab meat. You eyes fool you tongue. It was interesting, but lacked texture. A soft shell with a soft stuffing, dipping into soft sauces. The wasabi needed warning, as too much of it stole the show. And not enough meant no flavour for dumplings. I don’t normally like pickled vegetables, but here their addition was necessary to balance the spice. I rathered this all in a thick cheesy cream sauce to play off the seafood and perogy factor.
You have to end a meal in sweet. It concludes things well and leaves a delightful light taste on your palate. “Raspberry chocolate hazelnut “opera”, chocolate terrine, brandied cherries.” This was only ok. The opera cake had its indicative layers of silky chocolate and crispy wafers. However the fruit were the best part. You got the kick of brandy really melding in with the tart of the cheeries.
My trip to the bathroom was a little confusing. Pass the heavy glass doors I found myself in the connecting hotel’s lobby. Which I didn’t know at the time existed. There a sign asked me to wait to be seated. After being steered in the right direction I was able to find a stall. In each was what looked like recycled toilet paper, with its beige-y brown tinge. It sure felt like it with a raised coarseness. I appreciated that they were folded into points by the cleaning staff. It let me know, no one else used this since its last scrub down.
Would I go back? – No. We thought the food interesting. But nothing we had made us want to try more. And nothing we read would made us want to come back to try more. A come back dish is one that you would think about after and get cravings to return for another.
Would I recommend it? – Yes. The decor is lovely and if you choose the courtyard as your seat you will enjoy a unique dining experience. The staff are all older and cultivate a casual, yet constantly professional feel. They are well dressed, soft spoken, pleasant individuals that make you feel welcome. The food is original and deserves a first taste. Definitely something you would be discussing as you ate. Plus they do meat draws. Coming in from Sunday to Wednesday makes you eligible to enter to win meat. Meat dressed and butchered by their chef, who will also provide a fool proof method to cook and handle it. When was the last time you won a slab of free meat? Don’t deny your cravings.