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NOX Restaurant

Coal Harbour’s new upscale, contemporary restaurant is now open; and I got in a day earlier than their official opening to get the lay of the land and see what customer will have in store.

First there is no other restaurant specializing in Italian and pasta as they are in the area, nor is there a finer dining option nearby. Couple this with the fact that they have a fulsome and handsome bar with plenty of wine and drink options, you are bringing something new and needed to the community.

Although finding it first may be a challenging. With an all-black exterior and its name listed high above average sight lines, you can definitely miss it if driving by or not knowing what you are looking for. We certainly did when we walked pass the restaurant’s darkened black windows.

Although once you get in, the space is quite cozy with unique seating pockets to best maximize the space. It all surrounds the island bar as the hub of the room.

As we were seated and ate, we were given some notes of the restaurant and its concept. Nox is brought to you by the same folks behind the successful El Santo in New Westminster; the contemporary, upscale Mexican restaurant. They are now doing the same thing with Italian cuisine in downtown Vancouver. The concept better speaks to the owner’s Italian-Canadian heritage and his kitchen experience at a young age. Nox is a love letter to his entire background and story thus far.

Sustainability is at the forefront and on full displayed during the reception this evening. As everyone filtered in, servers offered an array of canapés. Unbeknownst to us, a few were paired. The first one used the raw ingredient, and any trim or excess was repurposed and became its own new canapé for the second. For example the tomato bruschetta on crostini was the original, and the seeds from the tomato were then reduced into a jam to create a supplementary crostini.

Similarly, the Sockeye salmon tartare serve on a fried cauliflower crisp was the main. And the excess pulp from the cauliflower was then made into a polenta, and topped with the excess salmon skin that was brined in fennel and then fried for a crispy garnish.

This was a clear example of the extent in which our chefs hated throwing things away and would go to avoid doing so.

Other canapés served included an Andouille sausage, walnut, and blue cheese spread. A local cow’s milk cheese with thyme and burnt honey. And a Tuna with black olive tapenade.

When all the guests arrived, we were invited to sit and begin our wine paired dinner. The following photos are of how the plates were served to our table for sharing family-style. And therefore may not be what you can expect, when you yourself visit.

To start we had a cold salad of Roasted parsnip and Smoked apple with a balsamic and maple vinaigrette, topped with fresh Italian parsley. It had a very distinct flavour to it. A unique smokiness that is sure to help ramp up your appetite. Like a papaya salad, but a whole less tropical and a lot more orchard-y.

Continuing with cold appetizers we had the Bison tartare with sunchoke chips, a red wine and juniper reduction, and egg yolk. You definitely want a salty and crunchy base to have with these. Don’t be shy to ask for a plate of crostini to best enjoy the gentle nuance of this dish.

Similarly, the Duck and Brussel sprout Terrine is best with a base to help highlight its taste and texture. Confit duck leg, smoked apple jam, and candied ginger. It ate a lot lighter than I thought it would. I didn’t get the richness of duck, or that I would expect from a creamy pate. But as such, the ginger and chilli notes, were great surprise pops of flavour.

At this point I realize that the cuisine is done intentionally light to highlight the quality of the ingredients used. Like the Marinated crab egg noodles that did not have any visual chunks of crab meat, nor did I really taste it. Though on the same token, the pasta definitely had flavour and was advertised as being prepared with fresh chili marinated crab, pecorino, and egg yolk. Nonetheless it still left me wanting a different texture to better differentiate the flavours. Something else to catch the dressing on. This felt like it should have been a side, you were left eating a pile of noodles. Therefore, I suggest pairing it with the duck breast below, as it felt like it needed a starch for substance.

For pasta I liked the Braised leek ravioli prepared in brown butter and Parmesan. It was a fulsome square considering all the carbs. Fragrant, cheesy, and chewy; you only need a few squares to feel full. Best to share this one with a friend.

The Braised pork and pear gnocchi had an interesting look. The red pear had everyone thinking it was beef tongue. Red wine braised pork shoulder, preserved pear, house made gnocchi, basil, and Parmesan. I found the chunks of pulled pork on the tougher side, thankfully the gnocchi was soft enough to have me noticing this less. The room was split on the irregular sizing of the gnocchi, I liked the fact that some were as large as a loonie and others the size of dime, it added eating interest for me. I could have just used more salt out of personal preference.

The Fraser valley duck breast with smoked celeriac, heavy roasted red onion, and anise jus was delicious with a juicy fattiness. Thick cut and flavourful, you want to order a plate yourself as to not have to share.

We were all enamoured with lovely hue of the Red endive risotto. This was a great vegetarian option that could be made vegan. Kohlrabi sprouts, Golden Ears cheese crafters four-year aged cheddar, and burnt honey. The flavour came from the quality of the fragrant cheese used. I could have eaten a whole serving myself. But is best as a based to a main, like the rabbit below.

The Bark tea poached rabbit stuffed with wild rice and nduja was such a visually stunning dish, and ate just as interestingly. The meat was tougher than chicken, which is common to the type of protein. But with the rice stuffed in, each bite ate like a whole meal. Very original and refined.

And for dessert we ended with some much needed refreshing-ness in the Yuzu cheesecake. A fun spin on the classic key lime. The cake was luscious and thick, and there is no missing the citrus zest of the yuzu.

NOX Restaurant
1575 W Georgia St, Vancouver, BC V6G 2T1
(604) 256-7275

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