The date was September 29th, the actual birthday day of David of @pickydiners fame. So to celebrate the momentous occasion we visited his favourite restaurant, for their latest menu update.
Since the first lock down, St. Lawrence has pivoted from an a ala carte menu to a prix fixe one. A clever transition that has allowed them to continue to operate during this tumultuous time. The ability to control costs and guarantee heads with pre-purchased seats help in an uncertain time. No longer is the restaurant simply churning out elevated Québécois cuisine, they are now featuring all regions within France as well. And for this month, all eyes are on Alsace. Alsace is a historical region in northeastern France, on the Rhine River plain; bordering Germany and Switzerland. The following three course menu is only available from Wednesday, September 29 through to Sunday, October 31, for dine-in only.
The menu hopes to allow adventurers the ability to escape and get a taste of travel through food. Tickets are $75 per person, plus tax. “Each ticket includes complimentary pain au sarrasin & mignardise and a choice of starter, main and dessert, with optional add-ons for the table also available” (as per their website).
We requested a seat by the bar, to be able to pair our food with drinks, course by course. Their menu is listed in both French and English. For the sake of easy writing, I will only be listing the English description of them all. Although accept and acknowledge that it does lose something in the translation, especially as majority of the staff are French speaking with the accent and dialog to prove it.
As I mentioned earlier, we would savour the night trying all of their speciality cocktails. Like their food menu, their drink listing has been paired now and made more concise, so it isn’t as much as it seems.
To start, the Vesper style martini, stirred not shaken drank like a very matured cocktail. It had an elevated essence that transformed as you sipped, and evolved with citrus notes to finish.
By comparison the Calvados and campfire smoked plums was an easy to down cocktail. It was a lot sweeter with a more pronounced orange flavouring.
For our second round we went for the Riesling, gin, and thyme cocktail. This was another redefined drink choice by David. There was so much depth and body to this, yet it went down so refreshingly. I also picked up herbaceous notes from it.
The Armangnac cocktail with rosemary packs a punch, a stiff sipper, of which I have never had anything else like it.
For our final round of drinks we went with the Champagne cocktail with poire Williams. As expected, this one drank light. A summer spritzer with refreshing lemon zest and bubble pops.
And the not on the menu, drink special of the day was the Calvados Infused with strawberries, lemon juice, and grapefruit juice; with a cider topper. This was not as sweet as it read, a face squinter with the hints of strawberries coming on through.
As for the food, we started with Buckwheat bread paired with lemon-chive butter. Served warm it was a comforting start. The following is what we ordered as add ons and what David and I choose: 2/3 of the possibilities for each course.
Seeing as David was the expert in what he calls his favourite restaurant, I went with his lead to add on additional plates. Speaking from experience, he knew to order all the daily specials; as they are the ones the chef wants to highlight and are often more elaborate. And I can tell you right now, he was right. Each special did not disappoint, especially when it came to the starters.
The Baked oysters were covered in a béchamel sauce with apple brandy and Camembert cheese, topped with bread crumbs. I would suggest ordering a serving each because one is not enough. With just one, you get a taste to learn you like it, but can’t go back for another to enjoy what you now know you like; and will probably not get again due to its limited release. Each oyster in shell is cut up for easy nibbling across three bites. No need to slurp here, although we did drink the juices like soup, as it was so flavourful in oyster essence, well partnered with the sharp cheese and crunch of the bread crumb for texture.
Having tried the above, I immediately added on the Pork croquette special. This was described as meat taken from the head of the pig, braised for a long time, flattened and cut down into squares, then battered in bread crumbs and deep fried. Each was a little block of perfectly tendered meat, balanced with a gentle tang from the pickle topper, and given a creamy and crisp tone from the cream and breading.
As for our set starters, this was their Lightly smoked trout, fresh cheese with herbs, cucumber and potatoes. The fish was described as being within the same family as salmon and it ate like it. The dish as a whole read like an elevated salmon and lox with the familiar combination of tartar-like cream, and fresh vegetable.
Like the starter above, the Duck confit and green peppercorn pâté in pastry with, pickled mushrooms and pickles was familiar in execution. However was not what I expected. It ate lean, with not as much flavour; not what I wanted from a pate. I was looking for decadent and creamy, not rich and meaty.
For entrees David once again went to the special not on menu. This was a essentially a remix of Rabbit in blanket. A whole rabbit with its legs and body breaded and made into sausages, all wrapped Swiss chard. To it he took advantage of the option to add on Foie gras à la Strasbourgeoise. You can actually add Foie gras, a liver mousse to any of their dishes. And David said he had to considering it tends to cost much more at less acclaimed restaurants. And honestly it was worth it. The foie gras was so luscious, it builds on the lean rabbit, giving you the decadence that you want from such a dish. Without it I found the rabbit meat more like ham, and I can’t even recall the sauce, the foie gras was the dish.
I had the Pork belly stuffed with bratwurst sausage, braised fennel, & cheese croquette. Much like the pate, this was not what I thought of when I read sausage. This was a heavy dish, with plenty of fatty chunks of pork to sift through. Parts of it ate like a cross between sweet breads and spam, correction “fancy spam”. In the end I couldn’t finish, simply eating until I didn’t want to anymore. Good, but not as exciting as the ones before it.
There were no dessert specials. The Apple & currant tart with crème fraîche, and almond cream wasn’t sweet. The dollop of cream on the side gave you a cheesy essence to further the bites. This is a dessert you could enjoy with tea or coffee to end the night on.
For the birthday boy, the restaurant added on a candle to his Alsace cheesecake & red wine poached prunes. The addition of molasses to the steamed egg gives the cake its cloud-like soft texture. And the fragrant plum offered an extra umph.
And as a parting nibble with our bill, we were each given a mini Madeleine to end the meal on. One bite of moist honey to soften the blow of a $$$$ price tag.
In closing we enjoyed our time and splurged on the occasion. The food was solid, the staff always courteous, and the setting immaculate. They continue to be one of Vancouver’s finest restaurants for a reason. And with a monthly rotating menu they are giving you every reason to return more often than not.
St. Lawrence Restaurant
269 Powell St, Vancouver, BC V6A 1G3