Eating Vancouver: Day 1’s Dinner at West

The engineering Iron Ring ceremony is supposed to be a somewhat secret ritual.  After attending mine several years ago and now attending my sister’s, I’ve come to realize that yes, the whole thing is a little ridiculous in a funny way but at the same time really unifies all engineers across the country.  I’ve come across strangers, shaken their hands and when you feel the clink of the iron you immediately feel an almost brotherly bond saying, “Oh! You’re an engineer”.  There is almost an immediate mutual respect from that first meeting even though you really know nothing about each other.  It’s kind of cool.

After my sister’s iron ring ceremony we met my parents for dinner at a place on west Granville called West.  They had been building up this place a lot that day so needless to say I had pretty high expectations going in.  The space and decor is quite nice.  They have a walled filled with wine on the right, a dining area on the left and a semi-open kitchen at the back.  They had some interesting shiny, swirling pieces of metal sheets hanging on the ceiling which gave the room a trendier, new age feel.

We ordered a bottle of wine and three appetizers to share.  I guess they couldn’t quite split up one of the appetizers into four so they gave us double of one dish.  The first cold appetizer to arrive was the sumac seasoned albacore tuna, young vegetable escabeche avacado mayo, ginger and cilantro gemalata.

The fish in this dish was excellent.  Tasty with great texture.  The mixture of other vegetables I found very interesting and very adventurous.  In my experience, raw or slightly seared tuna is usually served over light vegetables such as mixed greens.  This dish was served with heavier earthy vegetable like carrots, shallots (which added a nice sweetness) and cauliflower.  The vegetables were cooked perfectly, not too soggy and soft but still cooked the whole way through.  Mixed with the avacado and other sauce the whole bite was excellent.  I thought it was a very daring and well executed dish.  Off to a good start.

The next cold appetizer was the tian of Dungeness crab, safrron couscous and a smoke tomato gazpacho.

To me, this ia a perfect dish.  First the presentation is wicked cool.  At first you think it’s a tower of couscous with crab on top but the inside is actually filled with crab.  Next the taste.  The earthy flavor of the couscous and the sweetness of the crab meat all melded wonderfully with the smoky gazpacho.  I guess we didn’t really read the menu that carefully because after the first bite I commented that the dish had a lovely smoky flavor to it.  The waitor then informed us that the quarter, blanch and skin tomatoes and smoke those to give it that almost southern zing.  The mixture of flavors hit you one after another and then mix together in a beautiful medly.  The mix of texture also adds to the experience.  The grainy-ness of the couscous mixed with the soft and smooth crab meat was divine.  Served in the cold gazpacho also made this dish very refreshing and satisfying.  Dishes like this is what makes me say “I live to eat” as opposed to “I eat to live”.  It was amazing!

The warm appetizer we shared was the rissoto.  It’s described on the menu as a biodynamic aged rissoto of salt spring island goat cheese, preserved lemon, arugula and pesto.  Since my sister is allergic to nuts, they made the dish without the pesto.

The rissoto was good.  Warm, good texture and filled with flavor.  The goat cheese was very present but not overpowering since it was balanced out by the arugla (which had a surprisingly strong presence) and the lemon.  I felt something was missing from the dish and realized that pesto probably would have made this a real home run.  Oh well, it was still really good and considering nuts will kill my sister, I think I can live without it.  She’s kind of nice to have around… most days.

We decided to share mains as well.  The first was a fillet of smoked sablefish served over puree baked Kennebec potatoes, dashi style broth, wild and cultivated mushrooms and sliced snap peas.

I love sablefish!  Most times I’ve had it has been in Vancouver and it never disappoints.  It’s so soft that it just melts apart in your mouth.  It has a nice buttery flavor, not fishy, but light and flavorful.  I also really liked the mix of mushrooms and the potato puree was really good.  The broth was okay.  It reminded me of some Korean broth dishes I’ve had but less salty.

Next was the breast of Thiessen farm squab, crisp confit thigh, poached Nova Scotia lobster, glazed Pemberton carrots and Kabocha squash beignets.

The squab was good.  I was expecting it to be a little more moist but I think my expectations kept rising as the meal went on.  It was still juicy and very tasty but I guess I was expecting duck-like juiciness which may have been overzealous.  The lobster was great.  I find lobster can easily be over cooked, in which case it is rubbery, or under cooked, in which case it just tastes weird.  This was cooked perfectly and tasted of a lot of delicious butter.  Oh yes, and the carrots were great.  I love glazed carrots.  This is one of those thing I do myself at home but can never seem to make them as good as they make them in restaurants.

The last main we shared was Pithivier of Innisfail lamb and mint, cauliflower and Mapledale Cheddar puree, caramelized sweetbreads and Jasmine poached Corinthian raisins.  It kind of looked like a fancy lamb pot pie with very fancy plating.

The lamb itself had almost a slight gamey flavor which made you know it was lamb as opposed to beef.  I liked it.  The pastry was light and the puree was tasty.  The cauliflower was again, cooked perfectly and the sweetbread and raisins added another level of complexity to the overall flavor of the dish.  The lamb itself I’ll admit was just a pinch dry when eaten alone but mixed with all the other elements of the dish was unnoticable.  Like the tuna appetizer, I thought this was a very adventurous dish mixing an interesting mix of ingredients together to produce a dynamic tasting, multi-texture ensemble that really made for a great eating experience.

On the side we also ordered a few scallops and they also gave us a pesto nut ball kind of thing (for everyone but my sister since it would have come on one of the other plates anyways so instead of throwing it out, they just put it on the side).

The scallop was delicious.  Loaded with flavor, juicy, tender, and fairly big in size.  I personally like the outside to be seared a little more but I think this might overcook it which would be worse off.  Maybe a hot cast iron pan to quickly sear it?  I don’t know.  It was good the way it was though.  The nut treat reminded me a little macaroons… a nut macaroon treat.  And it was just that, a treat.

At this point we were too full for dessert but the waitor brought us out a small sweet treat at the end of the meal.

The chocolate truffle balls were rich and filled with a sweet creamy mixutre. In all honesty, it reminded my of Cadbury cream eggs but with better chocolate and not as sweet of a filling.

West is considered one of the best restaurants in Vancouver and it certainly lives up to its reputation.  The food not only tastes good but provides diners with a dining experience through it use layered and synergistic flavors, and dynamic textures.  After leaving, all I had to say was WOW, and thanks for picking up the cheque Dad.

~ by jlowjlow on March 26, 2010.

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