Tuesday was a “big time day”. Ever since my daughter “Jazzy” was born last summer, I rarely spend time off away from my family. I work a lot and though I love what I do, I also love spending time with my family. I look forward to my weekends and though I’m a bit of a workaholic and I do considerable work from home, I try to spend as much time as possible with “Monk” and “Jazzy.” Tuesday was very different from the norm. I was invited to an Olympic related event that evening, so I decided (with Monk’s full blessing) to dedicate the whole day to food, wine and Olympic exploration. Being a full-blown suburban troglodyte, bridge and tunneller, I hopped in the hybrid, left around 10:30am and met up with “Godfather” at his “free parking” utopia. I could not imagine being able to afford $12/hr parking on my humble cook wages, but fortunately “Godfather’s magic key fob” saved the day. The drive into Vancouver was epic, since VANOC has done such a magnificent job scaring away most car traffic into Vancouver. We had a reservation at C Restaurant [1600 Howe Street, #2, Vancouver, (604) 681-1164] for lunch and were excited about getting on with our gastronomic adventures. The weather was picture perfect and after a very Olympic inspired walk from Gastown to False Creek, we were hungry and ready to eat.
I have not been to C Restaurant in many years. Over the years I’ve known quite a few cooks who have worked there, but I have not stepped foot in the restaurant, since the Belcham days of 2005. I’m not sure why “Godfather” suggested this restaurant, but I was very much looking forward to our meal. It was a great day to be sitting at a sun filled window, looking across False Creek, while enjoying a civilized lunch. Over a Campari and soda (I don’t think the server knew what Campari was) and an $11 bottle of sparkling water (water of life?!?! yowza!!!) we decided to have the business lunch, which was a 4 course menu for $35. I asked if I could substitute the second course with a different menu item and they were gracious enough to oblige.
In a short while, bread and butter with charcoal salt was brought to the table. I’m not sure what the deal is with charcoal salt, but “Doc” has told me to cut down on both salt and butter. After my meal at C, I’ve learned that charcoal salt doesn’t taste like much, it’s a carcinogenic concept to me and it makes dirty looking smudges on the white linen. I was a little surprised by how long the first course took, but finally the crispy humboldt squid arrived. It was deep fried and served with a pickled vegetable salad and gribiche sauce. The squid was good; the seasoning spice was very tasty, but the actual fresh taste of the squid was missing and the overall dish was a touch sloppy. I’ve been using humboldt squid a fair bit this season; it’s local, sustainable, Ocean Wise and down right tasty. I feel that if it’s showcased well, the bright fresh taste of the squid should be the star. I’m not sure if I could say that about this dish. The pickled vegetable salad was fresh tasting, but presented in an amateurish way and plated in a messy manner. The vegetables were cut haphazardly and there was pickled vegetable juice running all over the plate. The gribiche sauce was quite lack lustre and dissapointing, especially since it’s one of my favorite sauces. In my world, few things compare to homemade headcheese with a well prepared sauce gribiche.
After our plates were cleared, the next course arrived quite quickly. “Godfather” had a smoked trout salad, served with a daikon/carrot salad, apples, pears, persimmon (???) jelly and a herbed creme fraiche. Forgive me, if my details are not 100% exact. As middle age approaches, my memory is starting to go and since food blogging is new to me, I usually forget to take notes and pictures. I tried to refer to the web site for a menu refresher, but unfortunately, the menu info is not current. I thought this dish was quite tasty. The smoked trout was delicious and worked well with all the different components. The fruit was a nice counterpoint to the smoked trout and though the creme fraiche was a touch bland, everything worked well together. The jelly was really tasty, but I felt it was presented awkwardly. The dish would have eaten much better, if the jelly was set a little thicker and diced, rather
than as a thin sheet and obscured. I substituted the trout salad for the octopus bacon wrapped scallops. I had heard of this combination for quite some time and was glad to finally taste it. The scallops themselves were very nice. The octopus bacon had good texture and flavor. Unfortunately, they were not seared very well, though the doneness of the scallops was ideal for me. The scallops were served with a bland fennel puree and a “truckstop” fennel salad. Shaved fennel with salt, olive oil and fresh herbs is a beautiful thing. This fennel salad appeared to have been hacked by a prison shank and there was a nice chunk of fennel root, dead center in my plate. I’m not sure how successful the whole dish was, but I love the concept of the octopus bacon and scallops and hate the execution of all the fennel components. “I can’t believe so many fennel gave up their lives to be treated like this.” Inside joke.
Next up was a maple glazed sable fish with coq au vin vegetables, pommes puree and swiss chard. The sablefish was very tasty and well-cooked. Unfortunately, “Godfather” found a few bones in his portion. The rest of the dish was a bit confusing for me. The pommes puree was very flavorful and was obviously packed with butter and cream. Unfortunately, they were slightly over worked and a touch gummy. The coq au vin vegetables on their own were very tasty, but they didn’t look very appetizing, was presented very coarsely and in no way worked with sablefish. The swiss chard had no seasoning. There were also carrot chips as a garnish on top of everything and though they were crispy and tasty, they were also burnt and black on the edges. I ate everything on the plate except for a few overly carbonized carrot chips, but I did not understand this dish at all. To each his own, I guess.
The final course was a chocolate brownie served with cocoa nibs, chocolate sauce, cocoa tuiles and marshmallow. The brownie did not remind me of any brownie I’ve ever eaten, but rather of a flourless chocolate cake. The cocoa nibs were the star of the dish and the texture and the bitterness brought the “brownie” to life. After a few bites of the dessert, I made “Godfather” reach over to the empty table beside us, grab the salt ramekin and we sprinkled flaked sea salt over the dessert. The salt component, neutralized some of the sweetness and was a great counterpoint to the rich, sweet dessert. Overall, this course was my favorite; the flavors were good, it was presented stylishly, had great textures and was a nice ending to a civilized meal.
Issue and concerns; the $11 dollar bottle of water was a rip off. Listen, I like sparkling water, I order it at most restaurants, I also sell the stuff and I know what it costs. $11 is extravagant. It reminds me of when I lived/worked in NYC and people started boycotting bottled water because of the $20+ gouging price tag. One day I’ll blog about the water sommelier at Alain Ducasse’s restaurant, but that’s a whole other story. Another major concern is the overall lack of finesse and attention to detail in regards to the food. C Restaurant is widely considered to be one of Vancouver’s top fine dining restaurants, yet though there were a lot of good elements to the meal, there were also some very poor elements. The chairs in the dining room look and feel horrible, but maybe it’s just my own personal taste. Overall, I enjoyed my meal. I hate to over think food when I go out to eat, but since I’m writing this blog and I’m trying to write it unbiased, I force myself to make observations, which I would normally keep to myself. Lunch at C was a nice way to spend an hour and a half on a Tuesday afternoon, the weather was amazing and the False Creek neighborhood is one of my faves. I am impressed by the work done by Robert Clark in regards to the Ocean Wise program and his passion for sustainable seafood. It was just too bad that the food and service at C Restaurant was not a little more refined.
On my chef’s night out scale, C Restaurant receives 3/5 SOB (slices of bacon).