Monday, April 9, 2012

Tax (slightly) Discounted at the Twisted Fork Bistro

Twisted Fork Bistro on Urbanspoon
Like Cafe Medina, the Twisted Fork Bistro is one of those places that is said to be perpetually busy. Still, there's no guarantee of this, and our server said it was really hard to predict when they'd be pressured with lineups, and when it'd be quieter. When I went out with the Vancouver Fine Dining Club last Saturday, we were the only ones there right at 5.30pm when it opened, and at around 7:40pm when I left, the restaurant was still at only about 3/4 capacity.

The room is long, narrow, and small. For a larger group, you could squeeze in around a single table right at the window, or go for one of two tables right at the back. The rest is basically booth seating. Whichever you choose, a single table for 6 persons is really tight on real estate for dishes. When we chose to sit in the back, we ended up joining the two tables, which the restaurant allowed, but warned that if things got too busy, they might have to take one table back.

I always try to order strange and interesting-sounding things, and this time was no exception. But somehow the snails and duck rillettes came out surprisingly boring. I also got a nibble of chicken and portobello mushroom mains, and they seemed boring too. For me, the only stand-outs were the fish cakes and the various desserts we tried.
  • Buns
    • The obligatory free bread came after my duck rillettes and snails, which I had ordered to share with everyone.
    • These were largish buns, slightly bigger than a tennis ball. Very chewy crust that made it hard to simply tear apart without some squishing. Tender and light on the inside, with a freshness than suggested these had been baked in-house not too long ago, though not so recently as to still be warm.
      • Since they are largish, go easy on them if you want to have dessert as well. The mains here are a fair size, even if half your plate is grains.
    • Plain butter.
  • Fernie Frites ($6.75) Yukon gold, parsnip and sweet potato with herb aioli.
    • Three types of fries. Strangely, the dipping sauce (herb aioli) reminded me of tartar sauce.
    • Sorry, I thought this was boring.
  • Duck Rillettes ($10.50) Duck rillettes with a hint of armagnac; with cornishions, pickled brussel sprouts, dijon mustard and baguette croutons.
    • Despite how it sounds on the menu, this was rather boring.
    • The "baguette croutons" were very crispy toasted baguette slices. Came with a small pile of greens as well.
    • Try to pace yourself so that you use up the garnishes with the duck. If you end up with no more duck, be very cautious with mixing the mustard into your remaining greens as it has a sharp flavour and you no longer have any duck to balance it.
  • Snails ($9) Tender garlic snails cooked with shallots, mushrooms, herbs and white wine served with tomato basil sauce, arrugula and crushed croutons.
    • This came out tasting like snails (pulled out of their shells) in tomato sauce. There were quite a few snails hiding under the small arugula salad.
    • I suppose you could order it for the novelty of eating snails, but snails don't have a particularly strong or pleasing flavour to begin with, so you might want to get it somewhere else, perhaps where they do it in a more traditional in-shell snails-in-garlic-butter way, with a stronger mix of herbs (although this also then typically features quite a bit of artery-unfriendly, if flavourful, butter).
    • The "crushed croutons" turned out to be the same sort of thin and very toasted baguette slices.
    • This also turned out quite boring in taste. As snails aren't super-flavourful to being with, there wasn't any point in taking your time eating one snail at a time. Also, in terms of sharing, only one other person wanted to try them. Everyone else was apparently too queasy about eating snails. Humph.
  • Haddock Fish Cakes ($9.50) A mixture of Oceanwise haddock, house pickled eggplant, herbs, spices and panko served with a roasted red pepper coulis and an arrugula cucumber salad.
    • Finally, something really tasty! The mix of herbs here was nice and strong, but not overpowering. I thought it was tasty enough all on its own, and didn't need any of the sauce at all.
    • The order is two fish cakes, each about 3 inches in diameter, and almost an inch thick.
  • Stuffed Portobello Mushroom ($19) Filled with arrugula, and pesto vinaigrette, topped with a cashew dill crust served with lentils, baby carrots and tomato basil sauce.
    • There was one mushroom, maybe 4" or 5" in diameter. I had just a small bite of this and thought the filling/crust here was okay, but I don't know if I'd want a while mushroom's worth.
    • More than half the plate is lentils and the carrots, which looked quite tedious to go through.
  • Free Range BC Chicken Supreme ($22) Stuffed with hazelnuts, goat cheese and spinach, served with wild rice, bussel sprout ratatouille and baby carrots finished with chicken jus.
    • The chicken came across as a bit small and slightly on the dry side, but that might have been because I got a chunk nearer the end.
    • Most of the plate was the wild rice. The actual amount of chicken was maybe half a breast and about the size of a cappucino cup (about 1 measuring cup worth?).
    • The filling, because it has goat cheese, had a slight pungent smell which dominated the other ingredients. I am biased against goat cheese, so this was off-putting for me.
  • Caramel Napolean ($8.50) Almond tuilles filled with caramel mousse and fresh raspberries served with house made maple ice cream and raspberry coulis.
    • The almond tuilles here don't look like what you might typically find online. They have a deeper brown colour, like melted brown sugar or the top of a crème brûlée. There are no almond slices, and they are very porous and therefore much more delicate.
    • The server's advice was to simply break/smash the flat disks instead of trying to cut them, as that would just result in the mousse sandwiched in between being smushed out.
    • This is a pretty-looking and rather tasty dessert doesn't need any ice cream or raspberry sauce to help it along.
  • Tarragon Crème Brûlée ($8.50) Tarragon scented creme brulee with biscotti and house canned chocolate conserve.
    • The chocolate conserve here has a chocolate flavour but, strangely, also a fruity texture and slight fruity taste.
    • This is a very creamy crème brûlée. Strangely, the person who ordered it gave a pass on the chocolate conserve and didn't try to put the two together, nor did she touch her biscotti.
    • The biscotti had good chunks of chocolate inside, though not particularly well distributed. I think it would have worked out quite nicely if either dipped in the crème brûlée, or if it had some of that chocolate conserve spread on it. Alas, this wasn't my dessert so I didn't get to experiment too much with it.
  • Maple Pear Tarte Tatin ($8.50) Fresh BC pears cooked in maple syrup and brown sugar cooked with puff pastry, served with sour cream ice cream and fresh raspberries.
    • The pear and the crust came out looking quite the same colour, so it was a bit hard to tell them apart until you put it in your mouth.
    • A sweet, but not burningly sweet dessert. A good choice for a slightly sweeter dessert than either the crème brûlée or the caramel napoleon.
    • The ice cream melts very quickly, so get to work on this right away. However, it is good enough without any ice cream or raspberry, although the ice cream lends it some pleasing coolness in the mouth.
Take a close look at your bill next time you're there. In red, it reads, "For your convenience prices on [receipt] include HST". However, the prices are all conveniently rounded into multiples of 5 cents. If you deconstruct it at 12% HST, it works out that you actually pay slightly less than the menu price. For example, Haddock Fish Cakes are $9.50 on the menu, which means $1.14 in 12% HST. On the bill it is $10.50, which is 14 cents less than what it should be. Hmm!

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