Saturday, December 31, 2011

Section(3) - NSFW menus and other things

Section 3 on Urbanspoon
I dropped by Section(3) last night with a foodie buddy who lives downtown. It always looked like more of a bar scene to me from the outside and I subconsciously avoided it, but the menu had some intriguing things on it, like an interesting sounding Baked Brie, Coca-Cola Braised Rib (apparently one chunk of meat about the width of a can of Campbell's soup and half as tall). So finally I decided to give it a go.

I had opted for an early dinner (5pm) to avoid any dinner rush or the usual Yaletown crush. At 5pm, most places there had just a handful of diners and you pretty much had your choice of seating (but I made a reservation anyway... just in case of private parties or what not monopolizing the establishment). Theoretically, this means prompt and attentive service, right? Well... not always. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

If you haven't been to Section(3), you probably don't know the history of having had a mere 48 hours to change their name or be sued. Most of that info is online as well as on their menu.

There's also a big "nerd" sign right over the bar (presently decorated with gold bears for the holidays). That was from their more frugal days when they found an old Budweiser sign and were hoping to make it spell something related to the restaurant. They came up with "nerd". Somehow it stuck, and certainly adds character and makes a neat conversation piece.

Decor is eclectic with gold buddhas sprinkled here and there with pictures of pinups. Every menu has a pinup. The dessert menu has a naked babe. Too bad for the kiddies who are allowed in but presumably not allowed to peruse the dessert menu!
The room is also more or less chopped in half so you get quite a bit of seating while still retaining a lot of privacy in each booth.

When you walk in, you are basically blocked by the hostess's table which very clearly says you are to wait to be seated. The sign can cleverly be turned around to let would-be patrons know if they are at capacity.
Yaletown being what it is, one can expect at-capacity restaurants on occasion, of course. Be aware however that Section(3) has a cancellation policy. I made my reservation on OpenTable and the confirmation came with this warning:

From the restaurant:
thank you for booking with Section (3). We require 3 days notice for cancellations on Friday or Saturday. 48 hours for Sunday through Thursday. No-shows or failing to cancel with specified notice will result in a $10 charge per person applied to your credit card. Parties of 8 or more are subject to an 18% gratuity charge. we look forward to seeing you! please leave us your email to be entered into winning the monthly draw for dinner for two PLEASE NOTE - for tables of 6 or more your ENTIRE party must be seated within 15 mins of your reservation or the extra seats may be given away to other customers.


When I walked in a couple of minutes before 5pm the table was unmanned. A waitress with a beer in her hand immediately attended but I didn't want to delay her and offered to wait. Which, incidentally, let me have a look at the array of business cards on the table. Definitely take a quick look at these! In the dim light at the entrance it's hard to make out details, but there was one for Scottish chef Ben Dodd that features a strawberry toppped with what look like frolicking cherubs.

Shortly after I was seated and patiently waiting for my guest. The usual was brought to the table: Water and menus. No sign of the $20 canapé set menu (listed under the set menu section on their website). Drat. It would later be confirmed with our server that it was not presently available. (Why? And why wasn't the website updated? Urgh.)

My companion arrived very shortly after 5pm and we were ready to go. Except we couldn't find any servers and couldn't really catch anyone's eye. Hmm... It just seemed they suddenly vanished or were maybe working the other side of the room divide. And everyone was wearing black, so it wasn't clear who was who. Finally, after 5 minutes (?) a gentleman came to our table -- someone whom I could have sworn was actually a patron.

Anyway, away we go! It still wasn't very busy so we quizzed him on the nerd sign, the canapé menu, the appys, and the desserts. My friend and I had made a pact on having a really decent dessert, so we were cautious about not ordering too much. We opted to start with two appys and browse the dessert menu.

She went with a Roast Corn and Chicken Chowder with Hickory Corn Chips sprinkled on top ($4). Creamy, and very thick with chunks of ingredients, in a regulation sized bowl (about the size of the bowl-like cups you get at Blenz when you order a "for-here" hot drink). Not a huge amount, but what do you want for $4? Also, the filling factor of having an bowl of almost solid food makes it a nice choice for the price point. It definitely wasn't as soupy as my experience at Burgoo, which gives you a slightly bigger bowl at a slightly higher price.
The downside of it was the slight blandness of it -- chicken being chicken I suppose.

I went with the Baked Brie ($13) with Spicy Brown Sugar Crust, Roasted Garlic, Mayer Lemon Chutney. At $13 in Yaletown you might expect a two-bite appy, but there was enough on the cutting board on which the Baked Brie appetizer was served to double as a light dinner for one.

The brie was a small cake of brie just over 1 inch thick and maybe 4 inches in diameter, cut into eight wedges, and served with more than enough crunchy baguette slices that had been drizzled with what looked like a stripe of balsamic vinegar.

The brown sugar crust portion of this was a disappointing gob on top, some of which at some point dribbled down onto the wooden cutting board on which the appetizer was served. We found that you had to deliberately cut a chunk of brie with visible sugar on top or you got none of it, and even then the flavour didn't come out strongly enough to justify its existence. Maybe if there had been more, it might have at least mattered taste-wise.

Nothing to comment about on the roasted garlic except that if you are garlic averse, you may find a clove just fine smeared on a baguette with nothing on it. The taste was mild compared to having a straight shot of raw garlic. So don't fret!

The Mayer Lemon Chutney was very... unexpected. The spelling is probably slightly off from Meyer Lemon, a particular type of lemon-like hybrid fruit. The chutney portion was not what I expected at all. Here we got rounds of a lemon cross-sections. No lemon juice and so much of the seed taken out that one can suppose what remained were overlooked refugees. It was preserved and chewy to cut, and the taste was only just short of eating raw lemon rind.
By "chutney" I had honestly expected something more diced, sweeter, and maybe still in some gooey syrup. In any case, it was yuck to eat it straight or on a baguette, BUT the bitterness was nicely tempered with a half wedge of brie sitting on top of it.

I probably wouldn't order this again, but at just $13 it's a nicely sized sharing plate.

Bill came out to be $19.04 after tax, before tip.

We were considering the Five Layer Chocolate Cake, but ultimately gave it a pass to try Ganache Patisserie nearby -- which was already closed at 6pm! ARGH! We trekked to Bel Cafe at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia instead.

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