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16 West, #negronichallengeyvr

Vancouver Foodster, Vancouver’s long-standing source for new restaurants and happening food trends has a new challenge running for the month of September. This one features the Negroni, and the five restaurant/lounge/distilleries who are competing to say theirs is the best.

For those unfamiliar, as taken from Wikipedia, a “negroni” is an “Italian cocktail, made of one part gin, one part vermouth rosso and one part Campari, garnished with orange peel. It is considered an aperitivo. A traditionally made Negroni is stirred, not shaken; it is built over ice in an old-fashioned or rocks glass and garnished with a slice of orange”.

From September 9th to October 2nd the challenge asks each competitor to put their spin of this familiar classic and make it all their own. As one of the 3 judges my role is to try them all and score them on presentation (out of 10 points), originality (out of 10 points), and taste (out of 20 points). I won’t be disclosing how I judged the cocktail here, but will describe what I had; and invite everyone to visit 16 West to try their creation, then vote for their favourite out of the 5 contestants using the link below.

I have been to the restaurant address previously, so was surprised to see the transition from a Japanese restaurant to the Italian one that it is now. Although can honestly say I do like how concise the menu is now and what we had below.

But first the negroni. Their bartender admitted that he isn’t a mixologist so probably was inspired by the research he put into the crafting of this cocktail.

He told the story of the negroni’s history growing up in specific regions of Italy and taking in various influences. His Negroni Bastardo is a nod to the fact that the negroni wasn’t always what it is known as today with plenty of liberties to the recipe taken. From using sparkling wine and gin, to garnishing with actual fruit and tiny tropical umbrellas.

This is 16 West’s Negroni Bastardo prepared with London Dry gin, Campari, vermouth Rosso, vermouth bianco, Prosecco, orange bitters, orange, lemon, and a tiny umbrella for decoration. With the sparkling wine poured to finish, this was one of the most refreshing negronis I have ever had. A great introduction to the flavour profile for those unfamiliar and weary. It drinks like an orangey cocktail intended for brunch. Certainly approachable and more appealing for most in this fashion.

Outside of this, 16 West does not serve any specialty cocktails. They have enough spirits to craft any highball, and if you can Google the recipe, they can prepare you a specific cocktail. The gentleman tending the bar, the same that crafted our negroni suggested a “Blood and Sand”, as we wanted something smokey made with peated whisky. For this he doesn’t strain the shaken cocktail, as you want the ice crystals to remain in the glass, to mimic grains of sand (hence the name). It delivered on the level of smokiness that we had hoped, and I liked chewing through the ice shards.

To nibble alongside our drinks we enjoyed their Duck fat popcorn. Air popped kernels dressed in rosemary, cracked black pepper, and sea salt. Be sure to mix up as the seasoning settles and the saltiness you want throughout is only at the very bottom.

The Patatas bravado are best eaten warm when the fried potato cubes are still a little crispy, but mainly firm and slightly undercooked. They were given a nice salty tang from the salsa verde. Great for opening up our appetites.

By comparison the Tuna tartar was disappointing and bland. Sashimi grade tuna, tomato vinaigrette, cucumber, and fresh herbs; served with taro chips. The mix of the tiny, cubed ingredients looked uncooked and unseasoned. And it tasted as such, with the taro chips being the only thing to flavour each bite. It ate so light and lean, that it was hard to come down from fired potatoes and duck fat. We should have started with this, or better yet skip it all together.

The Porchetta was incredibly fatty and a little too decadent to finish. Roasted pork belly, cauliflower purée, and salsa Verde. Topped with crushed up crispy pork rinds, and an arugula salad for freshness on the side. The greens would be most helpful in cutting down the grease of the pork. The first bites were seen with a better response: tender and succulent. But the belly cut quickly became too greasy as is on the third and fourth bite, and too much for one person after that.

The Duck pappardelle was my favourite dish of the night. Braised duck, crushed tomatoes, red wine, fresh herbs, seasoned breads, and Parmesan. I especially loved the perfect texture of the chewy sheets of pasta. Their firm texture well contrasted the grittier pulled duck meat. A well-balanced dish and the perfect serving size for one.

In short 16 West is a nice spot for a light Italian meal and a cocktail. Be sure to stop by to try their negroni creation before October 2nd, to vote for your favourite to win people’s choice.

16 West
140 16th St W, North Vancouver, BC V7M 1T4
(604) 988-7561

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