Monday, October 8, 2012

Spacious Seating at Bacchus

Bacchus Restaurant and Lounge (Wedgewood Hotel) on Urbanspoon I've seen this place, walked by it many times, and even heard about it once or twice. It's hotel dining, and that often carries a stigma of being overpriced. Bacchus Restaurant and Lounge is the older places in Vancouver, a city known as being a tough place to start a restaurant, and I figured it was time to go before it gets renovated into something unrecognizable.

The lounge half of the restaurant has comfortable seats that invite you to linger with intimate company, and the generous spacing means despite the somewhat loud buzz of conversation, there's still a degree of privacy. A live pianist adds to the old school vibe of this place. The ambiance is more than just the decor -- the overall vibe is one where you are invited to stay and enjoy your time with whoever you came (or came to meet). As opposed to a more open layout where eyes are cast outward people watching or where you are on display. Which isn't necessarily bad -- it's just a different sort of lounge.

The restaurant half of the space is quite small and far enough removed from the Lounge to escape most of the noise there. Our party of just 6 were given the large table arrangement all the way at the back, and enough table space for 10 at many other restaurants. You are definitely not squashed in here. Lighting was dim.
You are waited on by male servers, served by female bussers. Our server was not the house sommelier, but nevertheless confident with the wine list to make suggestions; apparently all the waiters at Bacchus have some training. For the one more discerning (or, if you prefer, pickier) diner with our group, he did in the end call for the sommelier.

The Wedgewood Hotel, being practically a stone's throw from the courthouse, sees a goodly number of lawyers coming through, so you can guess at the clientele they are used to serving. Given that, the menu looks awfully cheap for where they are and who comes in.
  • Virgin almost-Moscow Mule ($8)
    • I was looking for a house ginger beer (not available), but settled for their recommendation of a palate-cleanser type non-alcoholic drink. I'd had a virgin mojito at C, so I opted to give a Moscow Mulet a go. It was the closest thing they could whip up to a ginger beer -- diced ginger with lime juice and soda water, if I remember correctly. A Moscow Mule is supposed to have actual ginger beer, but that was not available.
    • Not enough kick to this. Next time I'll get a real ginger beer or just choose something else. Maybe a fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice.
    • On the bill it showed "limonata" for $8. A bit steep, I thought, for a non-alcoholic drink.
  • We got two small bites for a complimentary amuse bouche. Can't really remember what they were. Oops. A bit of bread but mostly biscuit-hard very-thin flatbreads in the bread basket.
  • Bacchus Truffle Frites ($6)
    • Two of us put in an order each of these to share. Each order is one bowl-ful of regulation thickness fries and if used as an appy, probably good for just one person or two to share.
    • Slightly salted. Made to order, of course: Came to the table hot and crispy on the outside.
    • The aroma of truffle reached me over a foot away. Clearly present in taste but not overdone. Probably the best truffled anything I've had.
    • A bit sad to say, but I would have opted for two more bowls of this over my main course.
  • Chicken Liver and Cognac Parfait ($12) fig chutney, toasted brioche
    • Soft, very smooth chicken liver cut from blocks that were encased in what appeared to be a 1.5mm thick coating of pale butter.
    • The cognac didn't really come through for me, but the wine drinkers at our table assured me it was there.
    • Other interesting things on the plate were a lemon-yellow paste and a yellow jelly that was probably some sort of jellied consomme.
    • The portion is about 7 square inches, and a half inch thick. Not terribly much, but an okay price at $12 and fairly tasty. Smear it generously on the brioche, which is really just a vehicle to move it to your mouth. If you run out of brioche, there's the bread basket.
  • Kennebec Potato and Chive Gnocchi ($26) artichoke, oyster mushrooms, zucchini, kale, toasted sourdough gremulata
    • This was the only vegetarian option. Assuming that the sourdough crumbs didn't use dairy substitutes, this is not vegan.
    • With only one option for non-meat-eaters, I figured it would be either token, or they'd try really hard and make it great. I think it came out as being token (but I'm picky). Decent, but nothing "wow", which I had hoped for at the price point.
    • The "sourdough gremulata" was fine crumbs of toasted sourdough. Somewhat salty unless  you mingled it with the rest of what came on your plate.
    • If you're vegetarian or vegan stuck at Bacchus for dinner, I'd put together my meal with the sides. Definitely go for the truffled frites.
  • Dessert Platter for Three ($29; normally desserts are $10.50 each).
    • The server was quick to correct our misconception about the platters. They aren't a little of everything. Instead, you get either two desserts for $19 or three for $29. It just doesn't quite sound anything like that.
    • We opted for the Baked Lemon Souffle Pudding, Michel Cluizel Dark Chocolate Ganache Tart, and Peach Crumble (seasonal fruit crumble)
    • Desserts were decent and an okay portion size. Seemed slightly overpriced but the quality of what you get makes up the difference. Whether you appreciate that extra edge in quality will determine whether you feel each dessert ought to be $3 less.
    • Nothing in particular to note about the desserts, possibly because they were all good enough that no one in particular stood out from the others. I'm partial to the chocolate ganache tart (which came as a long chocolate bar) over the others, however, as the safest choice.
For me, based on my dinner choices, I'd say highlights were the truffled fries and dessert. The chicken liver parfait was good, but didn't strike me as exceptional enough to be worth a specific recommendation.

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