I was invited to Acqua, located in the lobby of the Executive Hotel on Lougheed. This was in my area so I was happy to visit them, to celebrate the restaurant’s reopening (this was further back, a couple of months ago when many restaurants were still shuttered due to the Covid restrictions in place during that time). I went in optimistically, hearing that they have hired a new chef with a new menu to boot. However, throughout my meal I would discover not everything was at it seemed. More on that later.
The days were still long and the sun still warming, so we were seated on their hidden patio. I remembered thinking this was a great secluded spot within Burnaby. Especially being adjacent to the Executive hotel’s pool. Being able to overhear the occasional gentle splashing, and joyous laugher behind the bush/fence. If I squinted hard enough I could imagine a vacation around the corner.
We started our happy hour visit with a couple of the cocktails. The Aquara sapphire included Smirnoff vodka, Chambord strawberry, blue curacao, and pineapple juice. It looked like juiced greens and tasted like pineapple.
The Brentwood lemonade has JW red whisky, Amaretto, agave nector, and fresh lemon juice. This one was more spirit forward, one that made your face scrunch; so not for those who don’t like their drinks stiff.
The following food was gifted by the restaurant. So as such, it was not chosen by us; but what they wanted us to try and review. We started with the Prawn cocktail with cocktail sauce. Sadly, we could tell they were just defrosted, chilled to the core and icy. At least the sauce was tasty and there was plenty of it and lemon to squeeze over.
The Waygu carpaccio looked impressive. Thin slices of beef that we couldn’t tell if they were wagyu or not. There was so much topping it, and distracting you from the flavour of the meat; most of which contrasted one another. Zesty garlic chips, pungent truffle aioli, oily roquette salad, shaved grana padano, and grilled stale pesto bread.
Considering the name of their restaurant eluded to seafoood, we were surprised that our next dishes included no meat and only chicken. A question I would ask to the gentleman who checked in with us table side. The way he introduced himself and spoke, we believed him to be the manager of the restaurant; so engaged further. However, in actuality, he the bartender and may have misinformed us on the following. He revealed that the new chef had recently quit and the restaurant was in limbo. That this menu was created, but there was no one in the kitchen to execute it as intended. That their business was struggling. Not surprising, this did set the tone the rest of our meal to follow.
The same gentleman above spoke highly of the vegan bowl, saying that he hates vegan food, but he found something he liked in this one. Sadly we didn’t share his sentiment. The Vegan bowl was quinoa, crispy tofu, spicy fried chickpeas, mango, cucumber, carrots; and a lime and avocado dressing made with creamy cashews. The bowl wasn’t filling. It didn’t have depth, that it was missing something. A density from perhaps the garlic chips above or a char from the chicken to come (below). Something to pull it all together. Overall, it wasn’t bad, just basic for an entree. It would be better suited as a side to roasted corn or spicy cauliflower steak.
The Free range chicken breast was well prepared and tasty, but also pretty standard and common in the industry. Not ideal for a restaurant trying to compete with the likes of the Cactus Club and Earls within the area, boasting similar menu options. Nonetheless, at least Acqua nailed the seasonal vegetables and fingerling potato confit on this plate. With the roasted shallot jus bringing it all together. Just a shame that it wasn’t as visually appealing.
We waited so long for dessert that we were on our way out when it finally arrived. But considering the meal before it, we weren’t too excited. Especially after learning that that it was not made in house. A scoop of vanilla, a scoop of chocolate, and a scoop of watermelon ice cream drizzled in chocolate and served with some seasonal berries. This was also pretty regular.
In a world where the pandemic is hurting the hospitality industry and people are going out and eating out less, when they do they make their decision count. So if you aren’t trying to stand out or offering something different from everyone else, you won’t see patrons. The food was slightly below my expectations and the average. Good, but nothing worth sharing or spreading by word of mouth, sadly. I want to support and help, but cannot stand behind something I wouldn’t be proud to put my name on.
Acqua Restaurant, Patio and Bar
4201 Lougheed Hwy., Burnaby, BC V5C 3Y6