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Moonlight Lounge, Fairmont Vancouver

Tonight we were ushering Chinese New Year eve with dinner and drinks at Fairmont Vancouver’s latest seasonal offering. A secret pop-up hidden behind a bookshelf within their hotel restaurant Notch8. The space is decorated with lush drapery, a sea of red and plenty of Chinese decor pieces like blue and white vases, paper lanterns, fold out fans, and even an abacus. The theme engulfs in a classy way, befitting of the luxury hotel property chain. Typically the space is only seated during the day for their seasonal high tea service. So this is the first time they are open in the evening as well, specifically for this cocktail lounge experience.

The experience is only available until the 24th of February, and reservations are highly recommended. The main draw is their limited edition Chinese inspired cocktails which includes a collaboration with Macallan whisky, and a select small plate offering of modern interpretations of Chinese dim sum and desserts.

Starting with their three The Macallan cocktails, created to pair with their lunar new year afternoon tea and lounge. These original cocktails are inspired by the lunar new year.

The Szechuan Old Fashion features the macallan 12 year sherry oak, cacao bitters, and a szechuan peppercorn maple syrup. This funky take on a classic cocktail was a clever idea, however I was missing the heat and tingle of the promised spicy peppercorn. It is a very distinct characteristic that is hard to hide and would have made this glass a standout, and the first of its kind that I have ever seen. But alas, this was not to be, much like the missing flavour of The Macallan.

If you can only try one of their eight limited realize cocktails, let it be the Dargoni (although truthfully I only tried 5 out of the 8 myself). This features the macallan rare cask, sweet vermouth, campari, caraway, apricot liqueur and sesame oil. The sesame oil made it a sensorial experience. You breathe in a roasted flavour and it makes the cocktail all the more rich. The more I drank and got to know it, the more I liked it. I did not expect this to be 3OZ. Originally what came across of medical and chemically, grew to a complex bouquet that evolves on the palate.

Looking for something easy going, then defer to the Five Spices of the Dragon cocktail, featuring the macallan 12 year double cask, dragon fruit, lemon, aperol, egg white, peychaud bitters, and five spice. Given the mention of it in the name, I expected a more savoury profile from the five spice. But here the sweetness of dragon fruit is what came through, although it read more like strawberry to me, especially with the additional sweet creaminess of the egg white meringue-like foam. Not as anticipated, but the easiest cocktail of the lot.

The Lychee Rose Spritz is just as breezy with rose gin, aperol, dragon fruit, tonic, and rose petals; despite it being 2.5oz of liquor. This had a stunning presentation that you experience first with your eyes and then the nose. The fragrance of the rose petals introduces you to the floral notes to come with the botanical gin. And it ends on the exotic sweetness of the exotic fruit.

The Spice Plum Old Fashioned was bourbon, spiced plum syrup, and orange bitters. A twist on the classic that could have used more plum. A nice tangy salted plum and some tonic water or sparking wine to help tone it, thus making it more cocktail than this highball. As it this was bitter and not really a sipping spirit. A plum
salted rim on the glass would have helped with this.

As for food, the dish to not be missed is Notch8’s collaboration with Chinatown BBQ for this Honey Glazed Pork Yorkie. They take the hotel’s popular Yorkshire pudding (available with their prime rib feature) and fill it with the popular restaurant’s Chinese BBQ sweet pork. Then seasoned with a five spice jus, lightly brushed with a ginger scallion oil, and topped with pickled carrots and onions. Meant for sharing, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The eggy dough is the perfect contrasting base for the nuggets of chewy meat. This is a fun and tasty east meets west fusion item that comforts.

They also have a collection of easy to share dim sum items served in traditional bamboo steamers. Like the Pork Siu Mai, generously topped with salmon roe and served with a black vinegar and light soy. The ikura set the otherwise standard dumplings apart and changed their taste with a unique briney-ness. As is the dumplings felt flat.

Similar, was the Shrimp & Scallop Hargow, another classic done in a way I have never had. I have never had it with such a thick starchy skin, which I do like, but found it did overshadow the filling, especially the more subdued scallop. Which would be moot anyways, depending on how much vinegar and soy you douche with. One of my least favourite renditions of shrimp dumplings.

The Turnip Cake was more like an omelette with a sheet of egg used as a plate to serve up their blocks of starchy cake of shrimp, pork, trout roe, and sweet soy. I liked the mashed texture of the radish cake, but found it a little too starchy. I would have liked to be able to make out more of the bits of radish embedded throughout. However, once again the abundance of roe added a layer of indulgence to something more commonplace.

We tried all the food items, minus the Hoisin BBQ Duck served Peking duck wrap style with cucumber, scallion pancake, and an apricot sauce. To be honest this was just as well, given the quality of Peking duck I have had this last month, and how hit or missing I am finding everything else today.

For dessert we had their Dragon Fruit & Lychee Macarons. A citrus macaron shell, dragon fruit cream, and lychee gel. A little too sweet for my taste, but very indicative of a classic, well received macaron. More citrus then dragon fruit, I would have loved the see its telltale fuchsia hue come through a lot more in the packaging.

By comparison the Sago Mango Mousse was a lot muted. It served more as a neutral base. Tapioca pearls, mango mousse, and coconut glaze. It had an unusual texture with the firm pudding embedded with the pearls of the chunky tapioca. It reminded me of lumpy rice pudding with a tart citrus zip. I was missing out on the fresh sweetness of the mango, and was not a fan of the addition of shredded coconut. This one I would pass on and not recommend.

Now the Egg Tart on the other hand was something different. Your classic grocery store baked pastry crust filled with an eggy custard centre, but to it they added plum and foie gras. On paper it sounded fantastical, but sadly it fell short on my expectations. The tangy plum didn’t match, taking attention away from the gentle custard. And the foie gras could have been a game changing pairing of sweet dessert meets savoury meat, if only there was more than a gentle shaving of it, and you could actually taste it.

Truthfully not the best cocktail and food options, but in this one of a kind popup setting, I still think it is worth checking out, just to say that you have. Although having experienced the Mott32 dim sum collaboration with their sister hotel Fairmont Pacific Rim, I did expect a lot more from bigger sister.

Midnight Lounge at the Castle
900 W Georgia St, Vancouver, BC V6C 2W6
(604) 662-1900

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