A 29th birthday is not an everyday affair, so when choosing a destination my guest wanted only the best for her landmark celebration. She chose a restaurant with a history and a one of a kind view. You sit and dine as the building provides a rotating view of the city before you. Here there is no need to request a certain seat, because within a few minutes you will get to see it all, slowly.
Located in Harbour centre the entrance is in the building and up an elevator. As a tourist attraction with an observation deck, two attendees were stationed behind a booth by the elevator shaft. They direct guests to the restaurant and sell visitors an elevator ride with a view. The ride up was a long one, you watched the lights grow smaller and the expanse of city open up in the distance. My ears pops from the pressure at 550 feet up. the photos above were taken traveling up the elevator.
At the restaurant the doors opened up to a stationary hostess booth. In this domed bubble high above the city, only a portion of the space rotates. Just the outer rim spun. If you think about it, only a sheet of squeaky clean glass separated your table from the possibility of plunging down a 550 feet. This unique dining room slowly rotates around the still bar and unmoving kitchen. If timed right you need not even travel far to use the facilities. The washroom will eventually come right to you on its 360 degree spin. The view and the stationary part of the restaurant revolved around us. It felt surreal to have both sides of you continuously move. Each time you look away then back it is different, kept the room interesting. When asked, we were told the room spins faster with less people weighting its down. It is approximately 45 minutes per rotation.
Looking around the room tonight this seemed to be a most popular destination with Asian tourists, like me they were busy snapping photos of the scenery in between using flash on their food. After all, what better way is there to see the city in comfort? Tonight this was also the destination to celebrate once in a year or once in a lifetime affairs. Anniversaries, promotion, goodbyes, or like us here to celebrate our friend’s last year in her 20’s. With their ten thousand dollar view and food prices just as steep, I wouldn’t deem this an any day dining destination.
The wooden bar and tiled dance floor gave away the age of the place. Even though the space was no longer being used for its intended purpose, the original coloured lights above were kept lit in bars of purple, red, and green. It was just missing the disco ball. Over the well waxed hardwood floors were additional tables. It became a spot for those who got nauseous as the floor spun beneath them. A table by the bar to drink and watch others “ring around the Rosie”.
I felt the revolving restaurant took influences from a fine French establishment. Servers were dressed in formal apparel: ties, vests, pleated pants, and crisp ironed shirts. They looked dapper serving fine wines in ice buckets, and pouring glasses by the bottles. Crisp white table cloths and red reusable napkins folded like pointed burgundy towers waited for you at every table. Flickering tea lights and a freshly picked flower centred each arrangement. Things were dressed to be more on the romantic side.
The nods of French influences were also pronounced in the menu: duck confit in a dish with duck breast and duck risotto, escargot in a heavy garlic butter sauce, a Pacific Smoked Salmon and a chocolate dessert Terrine, Baked French Brie, and a strawberry Napoleon. There were also set menu meals, 3-4 courses varying in price with your choice of entrees. Though the selection was no different than a salad, entree, and dessert from the regular menu; it was offered at a discount when you bundled all three. Overall the menu felt bored and tired. It had nothing stand out, nothing to set it apart. There were no seasonal offerings and I could see no updates from my last visit. This was a menu that you could find similar, served else were. It would have been nice if the cuisine married well the level of venue. Elaborate dishes that raise the bar on dinner as the view raised the bar on Vancouver’s dining experience.
Our server was very friendly, with a confident voice he easily up sold. He never faltered to offer a beverage, an appetizer, suggest possible sides, and recommend dessert. He suggested we agreed, adding an appetizer and paying a little more for a better bottle of wine. He even cautioned that we had some complimentary bread and butter coming our way, so were to consider our options with that in mind. He did amazingly from a business and service standpoint. Not only did he make appealing offers, but he recommended add ons with vivid detail and delicious descriptions. He spoke with excitement and it definitely rubbed off on us and our decision to get more and pay for more.
We were up sold to the “Burrowing Owl Pinot Gris”, as it came highly recommend by our server. Wine from one of the top five wineries in Canada, and this one was one of their best sellers. He pointed out that its few dollars more in price was well worth it for its taste. It was as good as he said: crisp, light, and refreshing. Though at $60 a bottle you are better off buying a couple at that price at your local liquor store. I guess it’s more about the ambience and where you get to enjoy your wine. Shame conversation meant distraction from the view we were clearly paying more for. Though I was really impressed when we got four clean glasses for the second bottle we ordered.
Complimentary basket of buns and butter. There is something so comforting about fresh oven baked bread. Bread warm to the touch, you pierce the crust and steam escapes from its pockets. Warm and chewy, the butter melts on impact.
Considering this was a fine French restaurant, and most are known for smaller portions it was surprising how large our plates were. The “Calamari” was served with tzatziki and salsa for dipping. The latter was a new twist on classic, and still complimentary with the more familiar former. Both gave a bland bite some kick. The batter on the squid could have been more crispy. It was light and unseasoned, which only made the squid taste more chewy and fishy.
The “Stuffed Mushroom Caps” were also recommended by our server. These were stuffed with shrimp, crab meat, cream cheese, and garlic; and presented in a dish originally meant for escargot. A dish with round dimples designed to house a single snail shell in each groove. The mushrooms were served piping hot, swimming in oil. It had a good flavour if you could get past the oil slick. The greasy liquid had the filling of each spilling out, not the most composed dish. Watery lumps of cheese were what remained in the dimples.
“Linguine Di Mare”. Linguine with lobster, prawns, baby scallops, and mussels in spicy rose sauce. There were more noodles than seafood. A mound of barely seasoned noodles that craved more red sauce. Unfortunately most of it pooled at the bottom of the bowl, but what actually kept on the noodles was good. And it wasn’t spicy like the menu made it out to be and the seafood lacked seasoning.
Having been once long before and now recalling the quality to value, I played it safe ordering something that would give me the most bang for my buck. Something that would be filling at a reasonable cost. However this cautious route would not be beneficial. More filling noodles for less. “Penne Pollo Primavera”, marinated chicken and vegetables in a creamy alfredo sauce. My plan backfired, this was a pretty boring sounding dish with a pretty boring taste to match. The sauce was not thick enough, I wished for more of it in globs. And the Alfredo was the wateriest I have ever had. The highlights were the even ratio of chicken and vegetable to pasta. And the chicken itself was lean and tender. I was impressed by the selection of vegetables: peppers in green, red and orange; peas, onions, eggplant, and mushrooms. The pasta cooler quickly, and I realized it was not just as good cold or even at room temperature.
“Baked Whole Lobster” served with a smoked cheese Mornay sauce. The birthday girl confirmed the lobster would be pre-cracked and served open. No need to roll up your sleeves and grab a nutcracker in your formal wear, “it’s unladylike after all”. Left in the shell, the lobster meat was heavily dressed with cream and cheese. The heavy garlic flavour unfortunately hid the the freshness of the sweet lobster meat. The bonus was having a complimentary side with the lobster, one not mentioned on the menu. This was a small serving of rice pilaff; made with celery, corn kernels, carrot, cucumber, and cherry tomatoes. A simple side that tasted like the vegetables and olive oil, an ideal side for a creamy lobster main.
My other guest asked the server for the largest portion on a plate. What he recommended wasn’t on the menu. Today’s steak feature was a 16oz ribeye served with a Gorgonzola butter. The ribeye was described as being fattier than a New York steak. Juicer morsels made tender from the pockets of fat in the meat as they cook down. My guest couldn’t be happier, a large slab the size of her face, served at a perfect medium rare.
Upon hearing we were here for a birthday, our server surprised the birthday girl with a complimentary slice of cake. He presented it with a lit candle and four forks for sharing. The “Top of Vancouver Mango Cheesecake”. Unbaked cream cheese, marscapone, and a touch of brandy. Served with strawberry coulis and creme anglaise. A rich and creamy cheese cake, but as light as angel food cake. The layer of mango was a refreshing twist in flavour, a sharp kick without overwhelming the fluffy marscapone.
Disappointingly the washrooms were not well kept. It was already clear that the building was old, but this room screamed the need for a renovation. It needed an update, to expel the grim and bring forth it to this time. For the price of the food and the expectation of the place I expected more. These were just dirty washrooms. No one bothered to keep the space clean, let alone restock the empty toilet paper rolls. My guest went in, only to come out, deciding it was better to save it for the after party. This was definitely not in line with the rest of the restaurant. Like the bowl of after diner mints on the hostess booth, the washroom was sticky and stale.
Curious was our server’s inability to split plates. We wanted the help to identify who was to pay what. But because they lacked the technology to divide by three, we took over ten minutes with the math. Imagine heads down and phone calculator apps open.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I will not be back on my own volition, only returning for celebration or a big event. My first time so many years ago was in celebration of my uncle and aunt’s first time visiting Canada. And as I eluded to, I remembered the same calamari and the same escargot on the menu, amongst other things. I find the cost too high for a meal eaten for the sake of being hungry. This is a classic fine dining spot, where the focus is not on the decor or the food, but more what you could only get at this elevation: a view that won’t quit. The restaurant is best as a destination on a romantic night or a tourist stop for those visiting. And at 550 feet above the city this is a must see at least once. Though truth be told, after one visit, a few pictures, and a taste of the food I can’t see myself needing a return trip anytime soon. And not just because the menu seems stagnant, without seasonal offering. Don’t deny your cravings