Sunday, January 25, 2015

Dine Out Vancouver and Hot Chocolate Festival 2015 - Diva at the Met

Diva at the Met on Urbanspoon
Last time I was here was in the final days of Hamid Salimian's tenure and they put out a super-inventive limited-time Middle Eastern set menu. I was mostly looking for vegetarian and gluten-free $18 Dine Out Vancouver options so Diva at the Met wasn't even on my radar, but there was interest in it from our dining group so I ended up going. No regrets -- happily surprised even!

Hot chocolate was also really decent -- and yes, you can order their Hot Chocolate Festival offerings at 9:30 PM to go with dessert during a late seating dinner.

Dine Out Vancouver 2015
$38
Wine Pairing is flat $15 for pairing with all three courses.

Appetizer

Roasted Parsnip Vanilla Bean Soup
Apple Compote | Raisin Croutons | Crispy Pork Belly

or


Caramelized Beets & Goat Cheese Salad
Candied Hazelnuts | Pomegranate and Guava Dressing

or


Angus Beef Carpaccio
Hand Cut AAA Beef Tenderloin | Braised Cipollini | Capers | Shaved Grana Padano Cheese | Baby Arugula and Truffle Vinaigrette

Entree

Prosciutto Wrapped Halibut
Tomato| Lemon | Caper | Relish and Ricotta Gnocci | Basil Oil

or


Grilled Cornish Game Hen
Spiced rubbed | Red Rice | Pearl Barley | Larissa Honey Glazed Heirloom Carrots | Blood Orange Reduction

or


Wild Mushrooms and Ricotta Cannelloni
Mushroom Consommé

Dessert

Tiramisu
Star Anise Anglaise

or


Stilton Cheesecake
Rhubarb Compote | Port Sauce

Hot Chocolate Festival 2015

#21 - "SIZZLING SPICE"

Your taste buds and olfactory senses come alive when you drink this spice and herbal blend of chili pepper, star anise, cardamon, orange zest, cloves, cinnammon, hibiscus and rose hips - all brewed slowly to form an herbal tea, then mixed with Barry Callebaut cocoa and Valrhona chocolate. It is then topped with crushed rose hips to bring out some texture, resulting in a mildly spicy, herbal hot chocolate infusion. 
Served with a Raspberry Tea Cake.

Available: January 17 - February 14.

#22 - "ADULTS ONLY"

A rich, but not too sweet mixture of Barry Callebaut cocoa and Valrhona chocolate is mixed, heated, and placed in its serving vessel. Atop the vessel, is placed a flat chocolate lid, complete with a chocolate Bailey's ball. After about 30 seconds, the lid melts and the entire lid falls into the hot chocolate. Guests stir the mixture together to enjoy an 'Adults Only' hot chocolate.
Served with a Matcha Green Tea Cake.

Available: January 17 - February 14

Once again I went with a late seating for Dine Out Vancouver. They were pretty packed at 7:45 PM when I arrived for our 8:00 PM reservation, but things just quieted down nicely after that as the first seating left and there's basically no one after the second seating. Kitchen started wrapping up around 10 PM.
Trust me, time and time again a later dinner has proven to be much nicer for Dine Out Vancouver's more popular venues.

Angus Beef Carpaccio
  • Separate out the capers or the sour taste will wipe everything else out.
  • What looks like just arugula sprinkled on top is magically transformed by the vinaigrette into a tasty mini-salad. But of course you're not ordering this for salad so my vote is still on the soup being the best choice.
Roasted Parsnip Vanilla Bean Soup
  • I just got a taste of this as I was ordering what no one else ordered (the carpaccio). Totally missed out. You want this appetizer!
  • Really thick "soup" that looks and feels like apple sauce.
  • The slight sweetness from vanilla really adds an interesting, playful, tasty element to the parsnip soup.
Caramelized Beets & Goat Cheese Salad
I passed on trying it because you can't get a proper sample of salad without all its ingredients, but it looked pretty decent. If soup isn't for you, the safer choice is this salad, unless you need meat in every dish.

Prosciutto Wrapped Halibut
  • Fish isn't my first choice, especially denser-meat fish which tends to be on the drier side. Nevertheless, this halibut was quite tender, flaked easily, and very moist. Very nicely done if you like fish.
Wild Mushrooms and Ricotta Cannelloni
  • The cannelloni had dried-pasta-dirty-yellow colour but it was actually fine. Don't be freaked out.
  • This was rich and tasty. Vegetarians aren't left behind in this menu.
  • Three spring-roll sized cannelloni, easy to share if you are of mind to.
  • The sauce is on the watery side (mushroom consommé), so you might want to stash a piece of bread from the complimentary bread basket to soak some of it up.
Tiramisu
  • Inventive tiramisu dusted in chocolate and sitting on a thin film of chocolate.
  • Super tender, very tasty.
  • The lighter choice to end your meal. Smallish size -- about half the usual cube of tiramisu.
Stilton Cheesecake
  • Looks like they used the white Stilton cheese, which doesn't have the mould veins.
  • Crumbly cheese with rich flavour and slight sharpness to it, so it's not quite as heavy feeling as a "regular" rich cheesecake. Flavour was sort of like goat cheese.
  • Size is small - less than half the size of a regular slice of cheesecake (of course, what a "regular" slice is depends on where you go and I swear they are shrinking slightly all the time).
  • Crème brûlée style burnt-golden sugar top.
"Sizzling Spice" Hot Chocolate ($8)
  • The "Adults Only" hot chocolate uses Bailey's, a liquor, but they offered to do it with whipped cream instead. Nevertheless I gave that a pass and went with the more complex Sizzling Spice.
  • The "herbal tea" comes in its own little vial which is poured into the hot chocolate after they bring it to your table and your server explains what is what.
  • This is a slightly bitter drinking chocolate -- feels like slightly watered down melted chocolate instead of a "typical" hot chocolate drink.
  • Despite the complex blend of ingredients, what I mainly tasted was chocolate with a touch of star anise. I'm normally turned off by too strong a star anise flavour but this was tempered by the chocolate and acceptable.
  • As for the other ingredients -- didn't register with my feeble senses, unfortunately. You might have a better experience if you have a more discerning palate. In the worst case, you get a strong shot of drinking chocolate.
  • The tea cake is a bite-sized round slightly smaller than a macaron but really flavourful.
Overall dinner was delicious and service excellent.



Saturday, January 24, 2015

Dine Out Vancouver 2015 FOUR-Course at La Buca

La Buca on Urbanspoon
Dine Out Vancouver FOUR-Course at La Buca

La Buca ("the hole") is a tiny restaurant in sort of the middle of nowhere (unless you love The Patty Shop and go there all the time). It's so small you have to go through the kitchen to get to the single (but clean and nicely appointed) bathroom.

They do the best they can with the small space, but the space between tables is a bit tight and more or less ends up having a long-table community-dining feel. You can't look left or right without looking all the way down and accidentally staring at someone. If you are a misanthrope who must not have any eyes on your person, then consider a later 8 PM seating for Dine Out Vancouver when things will be quieter, and there'll be a chance of more isolated seating (there are two rows of seats and everyone got nudged into the row that didn't have a straight sight-line into the kitchen), plus there won't be a third seating spilling out from the cubicle sized coat check area just in the door. Speaking of which: If at all possible, sit away from the door: Despite the heavy "curtain", you get a cold blast of air every time someone goes in or out.

We were there 8 PM to past 10 PM and had a very nicely unrushed dinner. For Dine Out Vancouver with really popular restaurants, I highly recommend a later seating. Everything is just more relaxed.

La Buca offers four menu sections for Dine Out Vancouver. You can choose from three for $38 or from all four for $48. They said they were flexible about it, but I don't know about choosing dessert four times. Desserts do have a good portion size, however.

DINE OUT
Dine Out Vancouver 2015
$38 three courses
$48 four courses
January 16 - February 1

Section 1
  • Insalata of endive, radicchio, whipped gorgonzola, pear, pistachios, honey-lemon dressing
  • Mussels soup, tomato, saffron, fennel, fregola
  • Porchetta, asparagus, duck egg, salsa verde
Section 2
  • Potato and taleggio cappelletti with bacon, onions, sage, walnuts
  • Spaghetti, spicy eggplant, San marzano tomato sauce, pecorino
  • Strozzapreti with lamb ragu, peas, mint, ricotta
Section 3
  • Veal scallopine saltimbocca, Smoked speck ham, White wine sauce
  • Spicy shrimp "Fra Diavolo", braised greens, white corn polenta
  • Crisp roast chicken, lemon, herbs, olive oil mashed potato
  • Fiorentina Steak for two ($10 per person supplement)
Section 4
  • Pannacotta with basil and passionfruit
  • Chocolate nemesis, raspberry puree, pistachio praline
Items and prices on this menu are subject to change without notice.

Insalata of endive, radicchio, whipped gorgonzola, pear, pistachios, honey-lemon dressing

  • I keep forgetting that endive is bitter especially when raw and I hate that. Other than the endive, this was actually a very nice salad. The occasional sweetness you get from the pear really helps with any bitterness, so pair those up if you can, otherwise give this a pass if you can't stand bitter veggies.
Porchetta, asparagus, duck egg, salsa verde
  • The porchetta portion looked like duck meat inside a generously thick roll of skin-on fat. Nicely cripsy fat layer on the outside.
  • The fat was on the salty side (and porchetta is usually heavily salted) and there's a LOT of it. If that's not your thing, you can certainly go sparingly with it and just have the meat if the waste won't guilt you.
  • Poached egg.
Potato and taleggio cappelletti with bacon, onions, sage, walnuts
  • This was really tasty though you get only three largish ravioli-like cappelletti if part of a 4-course. If you're not into salty, then this is a good option for you on this Dine Out menu.
  • Good combination of flavour and textures.
  • Generous amount of bacon and walnuts but I would recommend you don't overload your bite when it comes to the cappelletti in order to taste the filling.
Strozzapreti with lamb ragu, peas, mint, ricotta
  • I had a little of this to try and strangely it tasted like corned beef -- lamb making it slightly gamey. Pretty decent based on the sample I had.
Crisp roast chicken, lemon, herbs, olive oil mashed potato
  • Really nicely tender chicken.
  • Wow was this salty! Separate the meat from the crispy skin if you don't want too much saltiness. Not as fatty as the porchetta, thankfully. If you're into the forbidden pleasures of tasty fat in current diet-conscious times, then this is for you.
Veal scallopine saltimbocca, smoked speck ham, white wine sauce
  • Short strips of bacon sandwiched between to cuts of veal each slightly bigger than a deck of playing cards.
  • A tad on the salty side.
  • Nothing too special here if you are looking for interesting, but nothing wrong with this dish either.
Panna cotta with basil and passion fruit
  • A glass with pannacotta topped with a yellow layer of really tart passion fruit goop. REALLY tart. Like unsweetened-juice-from-a-lemon tart.
  • Not sure how to eat this because the passionfruit wipes out any other flavour and might do so even if mixed into the creamy white beneath. If you did isolate the pannacotta, however, you can taste the subtler flavours there.
Chocolate nemesis, raspberry puree, pistachio praline
  • Warm dessert.
  • Chocolate is delicious so there's not much to say here except that the portion size is pretty decent -- about 1 measuring cup worth of chocolate cake.
Summary: Great dinner in an unfortunately small space and a bit of an out-of-the-way location that is however great for free parking (certainly when compared to downtown Vancouver). Try the late seating, or just go after Dine Out.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Special Dale Mackay / Jesse Zuber 5-Course from Fable

Fable Kitchen on Urbanspoon Got an e-mail just yesterday from fan-favourited Fable Kitchen, announcing a special 5-Course Dinner by Dale Mackay, Jesse Zuber, and Fable Kitchen.

Chef Dale Mackay joins Fable

Friday January 30th Dale Mackay and his head chef Jesse Zuber will be executing a special 5 course dinner with Chef Trevor Bird and the Fable team.  Dale currently owns critically acclaimed Ayden Kitchen in his hometown of Saskatoon but we Vancouverites know him best from his win on the first season of Top Chef Canada and Ensemble restaurant that opened shortly after.  

We wanted to be sure our past Fable diners were aware of this event since a some seats still remain available.

Menu

  • BC Dungeness Crab with lobster gelee, kaffir lime and lemongrass
  • Steelcut Oats, mushroom and coffee
  • Saskatchewan Dieffenbaker Trout with cauliflower, ras el hanout, red wine jus
  • Duck Three Ways with sunchoke pave, quince, duck skin granola
  • Apple Pie and aged Canadian cheddar


Tickets are $125 which includes all tax & gratuity for the 5 course meal.  Contact us directly by phone at Fable

604-732-1322

to purchase your tickets and arrange seating time.  Each table is booked for a 2 hour dining experience and of course Chef Mackay will be front and center on our open kitchen executing his courses and visiting with our guests.  Please say hi and let him know you are a fan!

Assuming 5% GST + 15% gratuity which are included in the $125 ticket, this five-course is priced at just about $105.