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Black Walnut

Tonight we were invited down to Cambie Street’s first and only steakhouse. They are a welcomed additional to the neighbourhood, offering an elevated dining experience, as a soon to be hot spot to enjoy a refined Pacific Northwest meal at.

We would dine in a group of six, ordering just under $500 worth of food and drink, and sharing everything six ways to be able to bring as fulsome of a review as possible.

At the time of our visit they had only just opened a week before, and as a result were still going through the growing pains that all new restaurants do. Be it the nuance of the facilities and the equipment, or the fact that all the chefs, in one tight space has yet to learn to work together with practiced cohesion. So take my review with a grain of salt, as they are definitely worth revisiting, once they get their footing.

Outfitted in wood and concrete, the space felt very Vancouver. With plenty of seating and natural lighting to open up the room. The new restaurant was busy on this Friday, the locals having caught wind of their new neighbour and deciding to come down to give them a try.

We started out with a round of cocktails, considering they were on promotion for $10 each.

The Shamrock was a mix of Jameson whiskey, elderflower liquor, syrup, lemon, and cucumber. A interesting cocktail that is right up my alley. More savoury than sweet with a tart and tangy green vegetable quality.

The Animal was smokey with Mezcal, it had some sweetness through the raspberry puree, and then finished spicy with a jalapeno & chili ginger syrup.

The Kuzco Cup was Aperol, Peruvian pisco, strawberry & chili syrup, lime, egg white, and peychaud bitter. The egg white and Aperol made this a sweeter and easier to drink mix.

El Bandidos was a tropical treat. Tequila, pineapple & basil syrup, lime, and basil. Its overture was basil and its crescendo was the sweetness of the toasted fruit.

The Old Fashion was a classic and exactly as expected. Bourbon, maple syrup, angostura bitter, and an orange twist.

To start we each had a raw oyster in shell. This was a collection of Summer Love which was salty and sinewy and Atlantic Gems, which was on the sweeter side. Served raw with fermented chili sauce, lemon, and pickles. The hot sauce here, won over the table, everyone agreeing that it was super spicy and grew in heat and tang the more you consumed.

The Hokkaido scallops ceviche with peach and a fennel salad was a light seasonal start. Soft and supple with a little dressing, you are meant to enjoy the shellfish more as is.

I am acquainted with the head chef of Black Walnut, and as such knew to order their Mushroom Tart. As a fellow forager I knew I would see many local mushrooms on his menu and he did not disappoint. This was a collection of minced lions mane, maitake, and oyster mushrooms over a buttery crust, topped with a spring onion panna cotta. I liked the idea and the flavour, I just wished I got more mushroom from this. It was not the star of the dish, despite its name. I also would have liked more of the mushrooms left whole, so that you could really working it through your mouth, and enjoy its earthy flavour highlighted by the butter and given freshness from the onion. I look forward to a Mushroom Tart 2.0 when the season changes and the mushrooms that become available shift.

The Foie gras & duck liver pate was an exciting one with preserved rhubarb and onion jam, served with two milk buns to spread it over. This was probably my favourite item of the night. Creamy, rich, and meaty; it delivered on all my expectations for a sumptuous foie gras pate.

The Bison tongue & potato chips with salsa verde, radish, and pickled onion was an interesting one. I liked the individual elements, but not necessarily all together. The meat was gamey and smokey with a pleasant texture to chew through. Although my table mates disagreed, suggesting the tongue needed a braising or sous vide to make it more tender. The chips that topped it was a fun crunchy note. And the Chimmichurri stood out with its unique herbaceousness.

The Wild Salmon was a hit with the table. Served as a filet with crispy skin and accompanied by more salmon as croquettes with smoked water buffalo yogurt. The croquettes were delightfully crispy, great with a smear of the fresh dill. I would have liked the salmon itself a little more raw and tender.

And the highlight and feature presentation was the Tomahawk steak. Recommended for two and valued at Marketprice. Tonight that was $150 and it had the entire restaurant ordering one. And the result was a kitchen exhaust that couldn’t keep up, and a restaurant that was quick to fill with heavy smoke. A plume that had us vacating sooner than planned, as our eyes started to dry and the scent tainted the food and the experience. But once again, you have to chalk this up to the growing pains of a new restaurant, as I heard the next day, the exhaust system was changed out immediately and upgraded, with had no tomahawk related incidents since.

As for the meat itself it was done medium rare as requested. Served flamboyantly with full bone on the side, and its meat sliced up for easy sharing and eating. Crispy edges and pinky centre.

And where as other steakhouses serving something similar would have you order a side in addition. Here, the market price includes a side of garden vegetables: beets, carrots, zucchini, and potato and yam purée. The necessary freshness needed to help break into the meaty gristle of the fattier steak.

And as I mentioned earlier, we wanted to leave shortly after, but were enticed into staying for their not listed dessert menu. Three offerings well described by our server, enough to have us asking for one of each. And as a result you can see some of the smoke in the photos before and below, as I battled to capture our meal through the haze.

The Peach torte with goat panna cotta was a light and breezy finish. Not too sweet and great as a palate refresher.

The Banana coconut white chocolate dome was their vegan option and much sweeter. An interesting presentation with caramelized banana, caramel, and meringue scattered purposefully across the plate.

Out of the three I liked the Sweet corn cheesecake, although found it was more mousse than the whipped cheesy texture of cheesecake. I liked the savoury made sweet creativity of this.

In truth, not the glowing first impression I had hoped, but definitely credit where credit is due for a new restaurant. There was enough I did like and enough that captured my imagination on the menu that I wanted to try, but didn’t as we ordered as a group. Therefore I would love to return in the future when they gain a little more experience and launch their new seasonal menu moving from summer to fall/winter.

Black Walnut
3456 Cambie St, Vancouver, BC V5Z 2W8

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