Friday, December 24, 2010

Last chance to go to The William Tell Restaurant

William Tell on Urbanspoon

After 46 years, The William Tell Restaurant (in The Georgian Court Hotel on Beatty) will close its doors. Sadly, they were not able to renegotiate a favourable lease with the new hotel owners. Our waiter tonight advises that the owner will travel abroad a few years, and then more than likely reopen elsewhere. Meanwhile, they are still taking reservations.

The Hotel blurb on the William Tell will probably disappear after December 29th, their last open day, so we've copied it here:

William Tell Restaurant

At the Georgian Court Hotel Downtown Vancouver you will find an award winning Vancouver fine dining restaurant for over 40 years. A menu that moves with the times and served in the grand manner, with a passion for detail. Warm, friendly atmosphere. Swiss-French and West Coast cuisine.
Our History

The William Tell Restaurant began in 1964, with founder Erwin Doebeli and two partners, emphasizing personal service, leisurely dining and a European approach to food. In 1971, the partners decided to separate by mutual agreement, and Erwin continued his passion for excellence and customer satisfaction.

In 1983, the restaurant moved to its present location in the newly built Georgian Court Hotel. Since then, the restaurant and Erwin have received innumerable awards and accolades. In this past year alone, The William Tell has been recognized with top awards from The Vancouver Sun, Vancouver Magazine, WHERE Magazine, and the AAA.

The BC Restaurant Food Services Association recently bestowed “Restaurateur of the Year” upon Erwin, as well as inducting him into the newly established Restaurant Hall of Fame. In recognition of his long-standing support of the Rotary Club Charities, he was the recipient of the Paul Harris Fellowship award, Rotary International's highest designation. The City of Vancouver issued a Proclamation for “Erwin Doebeli Day” October 18th , 2005.

After a long and illustrious career, Erwin and his wife Josette who has also been active in the business for many years, began a well-deserved retirement in May 2005 and took off for an extended visit to Switzerland and other parts of Europe.
Executive Chef: Preston Kittle

Philippe Doebeli, owner/manager of The William Tell Restaurant is pleased to announce the appointment of Preston Kittle-Jago as Executive Chef, upon the retirement of Christian Mosimman.

At 23, Preston is one of the youngest chefs in over 40 years of The William Tell, and he is supported by an equally young team. He is passionate, diligent and innovative.

Kittle –Jago was born in Richmond, BC, and as a young boy his interest in cooking developed from the TV show Iron Chef. He was most impressed with the chef’s abilities to create and form delicious dishes. During high school his attention and skills were captured in the cafeteria. After high school, he took cooking courses at Malaspina University.

After working at the White Spot he became a breakfast cook at the Sheraton Hotel, followed by working at the Eliixir.

Preston started with The William Tell by working in the Bistro kitchen, and graduated through Garde Manger, Entrementier, Pâtissier, Sous Chef, then Chef January 2009. He truly found his place at The William Tell and is now joined by the return of Perry Deconinck as Sous Chef at his side.

I'd dined there a couple of times over the years, though as part of Dine Out Vancouver. Tonight, I invited a friend to the William Tell for one final meal there, and was determined to try various items "prepared tableside" -- a rare treat of showmanship by the waiters which can be hard to find nowadays. (In Vancouver, maybe Le Gavroche and Le Crocodile).
The overall ambiance is also very different from many restaurants -- There is a calmer, confident service. The tables are spaced with a luxurious amount of room to walk in between (room which is also practical and necessary for a restaurant that offers tableside preparation of various menu items, which necessitates rolling out a cart with ingredients and a gas fire stove).

I made the reservation on OpenTable and added in the note to the restaurant that my dining companion was vegetarian. Nevertheless, the amuse-bouche turned out to be beef carpaccio on a thin slice of baguette. Oops. However, the waiter very quickly recovered and went back to the kitchen for a vegetarian item. Out came a stuffed baby tomato shortly after.

The dessert menu is not on the website, but they do have an extensive one, so we skipped an appetizer in favour of making sure we had room for dessert.

Dinner proper is a bit challenging for diners who are off meat, with only one meatless item on the dinner menu: the Swiss Cheese Fondue "Vaudoise" ("A blend of three Swiss cheeses - Gruyere, Emmental, Raclette, with white wine and kirsch. Served with French baguette bread. Add $5.00 for vegetables and potatoes.)

I asked our waiter if the chef might be up for a bit of improvisation, and we were very impressed that the waiter put together a dish and asked if my companion might like it. In hindsight, it sounded like Escalope of Quebec Veal, minus the veal. The regular Escalope is seared veal tenderloin served with a white wine Morel mushroom sauce, spatzli and seasonal vegetables. It looked a bit plain in the plate but my companion was pleased enough with it.

I chose the Steak Tartare (Certified Angus raw beef tenderloin finely cut and seasoned to perfection. Prepared tableside and served with toast points. Add $5.00 for Pont-Neuf Potatoes.) and we were treated to it being prepared by our waiter very confidently and with flair (everything tastes better when sprinkled from two feet above the pan, apparently).
At each step, he explained what was going into it, and just before serving, offered a small sample for me to taste, in case I wanted more spiciness from the cayenne pepper). The cayenne has a slower buildup of heat, and as I had asked for it to be on the spicy side, I found the amount added to have been judged well. Perfectly done the first time -- excellent!
The toast points came shortly after, still on the hot side of very warm on a warm plate. Possibly because I hadn't asked for it at the start, but I wasn't offered fries to go with it.

I let my dining companion choose dessert. When she asked for the waiter's recommendation, he suggested either Cherries Jubilee or Bananas Foster, which weren't on the menu.
When asked the reason the Bananas Foster weren't on the menu, he explained that not every waiter could prepare them, and that they didn't necessarily have bananas at day's end because most of it would have been used up in the morning (by the William Tell Bistro side, which has breakfast, lunch, and lunch special menus).

We opted for the Bananas Foster, which was two bananas, peeled without touching the banana inside -- which sounds difficult until you actually see how it is cleverly done in a painless way.
Although the dessert is "for two", (possibly because there are two bananas?), the portion isn't so unmanageable for one person.

My companion and I were still intrigued by the dessert menu -- in particular, the meringue with whipped cream, ice cream, and chocolate sauce, which was touted as being a restaurant favourite for 40 years -- possibly because the waiter will offer a refill of the chocolate, which comes in a gravy boat.
It's not documented on the dessert menu, but the waiter offered a "half order" -- two of the crispy meringues instead of four big ones. Same amount of whipped cream and chocolate, though.
Although it doesn't sound sexy in the menu and it's not prepared tableside, the combination of sweet meringue and its crispy texture juxtaposed with the soft whipped cream and cool ice cream was lovely in the mouth. That, combined with the plain deliciousness of whipped cream plus chocolate sauce, makes this a safe bet for a delicious dessert.
A half order would be enough sugar for one person, so I'd be careful with tackling a full one unless you're not averse to too much creamy sweetness. (If you've ever had drinking chocolate at Mink, you'll know what I mean).

Including one glass of merlot for my dining companion, the bill was $91 before tax and tip.

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