Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Half Price at Griffins until Nov 30th, 2011

Griffins on Urbanspoon

Dropped by Griffins (in the Hotel Vancouver, 900 West Georgia) on Tuesday evening with the Food Bloggers Meetup for their 50% off food special (only until November 30th).

Special Dining Offers
To celebrate Vancouver's 125th anniversary and 123 years since the opening of the original Hotel Vancouver on May 16th, 1888 - 900 West & Griffin's have some special features, including:

  • $18.88 Lunch feature available in 900 West Lounge from 11:30 - 2:00pm - Menu changes daily
  • Griffins $23 Three Course Dinner Menu*, based on seasonally available ingredients
  • 50%* off food in Griffins - Sunday through Wednesday 4:30 - 6:00pm 
* These offers are available until November 30th, 2011. Special menu price can not be combined with any other offers.

As everything on the evening menu includes their gorgeous dessert buffet, this is actually a pretty fantastic deal. Even without this offer, considering you get access to the all-you-can-eat made-in-house dessert buffet, Griffins is a great deal. If tonight's dinner was any indication, quality has gone down since I was last there for brunch, but dessert quality is still high. Also, bring at least one friend, if not three, so that you can all split each dessert portion -- more on this later.

The 50% off deal is basically everything on the menu handed to you EXCEPT what's in "the box" -- the menu inside a box, which is the $23 three-course mentioned above. That's already a special deal so you don't get half-off on top of that. When I went on Tuesday night, that menu included an 8 oz Prime Rib as one of the entrée choices. Like everything else it comes with the dessert buffet. This special offer is definitely worth a close look.

Our table of 10 were divided into entrée peeps and seafood buffet peeps. Mostly the seafood buffet peeps I got the better deal, I think, as most chowed down on a lot of crab -- although they didn't look far enough ahead to dessert and missed out on trying a lot of the wonderful cakes and small bites there.

The entrées arrived quite late and (I being one of them) dipped into the dessert buffet early instead of eating too much of the complimentary bread -- mostly a simple foccacia with blackened sun-dried tomato in olive oil (?) as a dip/spread instead of butter; but also a few small, round, chewy brown buns slightly bigger than ping pong balls. If you get those on your table, grab it! The sweetness is a nice contrast against the sun-dried tomatoes. Scoop out chunks of tomato -- don't just use the generous amount of oil.

There were orders of lamb, two orders of sirloin (one rare, one medium), one order of sirloin burger. I got the crab cakes and had a nibble of the medium-done Slow Roasted Alberta Prime Rib (classic jus, Yorkshire pudding, market vegetables; choice of baked or garlic mashed potato) which was very tender but otherwise okay.

The Prime Rib Burger (Canadian cheddar, bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion, mustard-mayo chutney; ciabatta bun, onion rings & spiced fries), weighing in at $21 (normal price, $10.50 with promotion), is a pretty massive plate. There's a good sized burger with rather typical looking toppings, a vast amount of fries, and huge onion rings. The chef among us who ordered it rated it at 6/10, and I think it was probably fair. At $21 -- considering you also get the dessert buffet -- it's definitely under-priced for what you get, and even more so during this half-price promotion.

As they had done so well with the tenderness of their Slow Roasted Alberta Prime Rib, I thought it would have been nicer if they had just cut a thinner slab of that, maybe at even 3-4 ounces, and stuffed it into the bun instead of using a patty. Typically if you try that and the meat isn't tender enough to tear through with your teeth, you end up with a one-bite burger where the first bite drags out the entire slab of meat.

My Dungeness Crab Cakes (market vegetables, basmati rice, roasted red pepper aioli) were $31 ($15.50 after the half-price promotion) and came in three small cakes each slightly bigger than a ping pong ball. They were on the salty side, mixed with herbs, and looked quite solidly minced crab meat (although larger chunks of crab would have shown this better). I asked to hold the rice and was offered either more vegetables, fries, or some mashed potato. I opted for the mashed potato.

Here's the major disappointment of the night: The sides. The mashed potato had what seemed to be an odd texture. It was starchy/gummy, something I had never encountered in mashed potato, and that disturbed me enough that I didn't finish it. Subsequent light research online revealed this from Wikipedia: "If a food processor or similar is used for mashing, it will mechanically break the starch grains, releasing amylose and giving an unpleasant gluey consistency."
The vegetables were token: Just a couple sprigs of broccoli, one half leek bulb, and a couple short lengths of carrot -- the latter which were extremely bitter for some reason, so I passed on the other piece. I had the strong suspicion that the carrot had gone bad.
I probably shouldn't have, but as the potato and carrots were just the token sides and the crab cakes seemed fine, I let it go without comment.

The dessert spread (awesome pictures of them at Eat With Jenny) wasn't as extensive as at Cafe Pacifica but that is due to the shortage of space. Because of this, you won't find vast quantities of each item. Once something is gone, you may well not see it again that same night, so start nibbling early, or at least checking out the items throughout your dinner. It's hard to review here because the selection changes, but here are some notes:

  • The only big minus for me was the massive slabs of banana cake. They weren't particularly flavourful and one thick slice could easily be it for dessert. Make sure you go with friends who can help you with the portion. It appeared later in the evening and everyone was tired out from dessert, so I still had half the slab left with no one wanting to force any down.
  • There were some large brownies which could easily have been served at half size. They had thick chocolate-like brownie on top and cake-like brownie on the bottom. An excellent shot of chocolate, but a heavy portion at about four square inches and about an inch thick. Cut this into four if it shows up that big.
  • Later in the evening was a chocolate cream or chocolate ganache cake. Quite light, smooth, creamy, and a good bitterness to it. Two thumbs up for this. I normally like heavier, thicker ganache, but when you're already comatose with trying various desserts, a lighter-feeling chocolate dessert is nicer to avoid that heavy feeling from, say, an excellent brownie.
  • There were small squares of cheese cake which were also very good, topped with one dried raisin and one dried cranberry.
  • For a lighter finish, look for something with fruit, preferably with some tang, like lemon. There was a nice lemony pie (and thankfully all the pies were sliced thin, about half the usual width of a wedge) with jellied fruit on top that would have made for a great finish.
  • Extra spoons are available at the edges of each buffet section. Grab extras if you're going to be doing a lot of sharing.
Warning: Tea is by the cup, not the order/pot.
I closed the evening with a peppermint tea. Two tea bags in a steel pot ($5, no discount). I offered one of my dining companions some, and so asked for an extra cup and saucer. We both showed a $5 tea on our bills. By then it was too late to put it all on my bill (I offered to share and hadn't meant for her to pay any), and the server said she'd have to redo our bills entirely. As it was going to be a hassle, I just gave my companion a five-dollar bill.

All in all, the entrées were mediocre. If you find those portions a bit big, you can doggie bag them and just start on desserts. In such a case, try not to ask for fries since those won't survive a trip home and still taste even halfway decent; that, or finish your fries at Griffins and bag the rest. Since the dessert is a buffet, don't expect to be able to sneak any home with your takeout bag.

2011-Dec-9 UPDATE: See some beautiful photographs and close-ups of the food and desserts at Eat With Jenny.


  1. Excellent review; you're a great writer! I wish I can write half as good as you! :|

  2. @Jenny - Thank you Jenny! I'm looking forward to your own review of the Griffins outing!