Friday, September 22, 2017

Busted at H2 Rotisserie

H2 Rotisserie & Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato You may remember I got the opportunity to attend a Yelp Elite garden party at H2 Rotisserie and Bar. They gave attendees an extremely generous $50 voucher to come back, obviously with the intent to be reviewed on Yelp.
As it would be gauche to go back solo and eat practically free because of the voucher, I rustled up a few friends to come along. Was also hoping to go undercover, but I was immediately busted.
It was probably naive of me to expect otherwise because the voucher could only be redeemed by contacting someone specific and using a code that included the word "YELP".
Still, when I arrived early and my server said I looked familiar, I tried to deflect it by saying it was my first time here. When she brought over a complimentary salmon tartare however, we figured I'd been made. This was further reinforced later in the evening when the chef and various higher-ranking staff dropped by to check on us.
Oh. My. Gawd.
This was basically the first time any restaurant paid any attention to what I was doing. I mean, I take pictures and play with my food all the time but no. one. cares. I'm sure they're too busy serving customers to notice!

EDIT (2017-Sept-25): Based on feedback from the restaurant, it turns out it was more probable that the server remembered me from the Yelp event instead of the reservation. In any case, brownie points for her to remember me at all from the hundreds she sees every day and after over a week. Do I really need to buy a fake moustache now?
And that Salmon Tartare -- Don't quote me on this or count on it necessarily, but on the restaurant's initiative they might offer returning diners a complimentary appy. (It'd be awfully crass to ask for it, so don't.)

So... With that said, you'll have to decipher what parts of my experience may have been extraordinary -- or contaminated -- depending on how you want to look at things. I just wanted that disclosure up front. The complimentary salmon tartare? Or was that just an amuse bouche, which is common in fine dining restaurants? Our friendly and attentive server? The plate changes? Maybe even every dish that hit the table?
At least our server didn't appear to know about the voucher because I had to let her know about it and she applied it manually to the bill.

H2 Rotisserie and Grill is not only a nice venue, but has various different spaces, including a large outdoor space. And nice extras - Live music every night and during weekend brunch, and the possibility of roasting your own s'mores over a live fire pit. Lots of lovely outdoor seating and some romantic spots. That in itself earns them extra credit for ambiance (or rather, the ability to choose what you like in ambiance).

They are a restaurant in a hotel and as is typical, price is higher just for that reason without necessarily being justified by what you get. Overall it's fine dining quality food, service, and presentation; but not adventurous quality with rarely seen or unrecognizable ingredients. Expect an instagram presentation but feel lucky if something here wows you taste-wise.

TIP: Do NOT just walk in, especially if they look busy! This is a wait-to-be-seated-first establishment, as most dining establishments are now. And absolutely do not grab a table and bully or intimidate the server into letting you stay -- Yes, I saw and heard this happen when I was waiting for our party to arrive. Plus it was an older couple who did it, which is doubly disappointing for their lack of manners. You have no idea if that table is reserved. Heck, they might be walking someone over to that table you've squatted on. When it's busy at a restaurant it's even more important to be civilized and wait your turn. Don't be an asshole.

  • Yeah, I'm gonna talk about the water because the upsell started right away with a closed-option question of whether you wanted sparkling water or filtered/Tableau (?) water. For a lot of people it's uncomfortable asking outside the box for normal / tap water.
Salmon Tartare ($14) smoked salmon chopped tartare, avocado, balsamic vinegar, micro greens
  • Scrape that avocado off first. You're here to taste salmon aren't you? Have that separately with the toast. Do not put the salmon on toast.
2017-Sept-21 - H2 Rotisserie and Grill - Salmon Tartare

2017-Sept-21 - H2 Rotisserie and Grill - salmon tartare

Beef Carpaccio ($12) hand sliced paper thin certified angus beef tenderloin, barnston island micro arugula, truffle oil, maldon salt, parmesan
  • If they ask if you want cracked black pepper on it, say NO. Otherwise you're just going to smell and taste freshly cracked black pepper. Even a little bit can go a long way. Just say no. We made this mistake. Huge mistake. If you're not here to taste the beef clearly, why are you even ordering this?
  • There was truffle oil? Actually, never mind -- An extra spritz and all you smell might be truffle oil.
  • Take off any capers, salad, or parmesan (which was in rather large flakes), otherwise you'll miss the flavour of the beef.
2017-Sept-21 - H2 Rotisserie and Grill - beef carpaccio

2017-Sept-21 - H2 Rotisserie and Grill - beef carpaccio

Pinch Me... West Coast Crab Cake ($16) stuffed with crab meat and pan seared, served with lemon wedge, and herb-and-picked-shallot mayo
  • Single largish cake for $16. A fancy gourmet burger can cost you that much in this city, so I don't know if I can really criticize price for portion here.
  • Just not crabby-tasting enough. Heck, I got silence when I polled our table about crab flavour. For a crab cake, that is not a good sign. And if you use the mayo (which is decent tasting) you are basically obliterating any chance of tasting crab.
2017-Sept-21 - H2 Rotisserie and Grill - crab cake

2017-Sept-21 - H2 Rotisserie and Grill - crab cake

2017-Sept-21 - H2 Rotisserie and Grill - crab cake interior

Fraser Valley Lamb Sirloin ($32) mint, pea puree, red jacket potato mash, local field mushrooms
  • My friend's order. She asked for the lamb to be medium well and looks like she subbed her potato for a Caesar salad.
  • I got to try a bit of it and it tasted fine -- tender and juicy.
2017-Sept-21 - H2 Rotisserie and Grill - lamb sirloin medium well

Maple Hill Farms House Rotisserie Chicken ($26 half chicken)
  • There's a lot of chicken / white meat here to slog through if you are trying to solo a half-chicken. At the same time, the quarter chicken just isn't good value when for $6 more you can get such a large portion. You might want to immediately ask for the half to be cut further in half and pack a portion to go.
  • As a main for TWO persons, this is a great choice at H2, and works out to $13 per person, which puts it at one of the better values on the menu as far as mains go.
    • We needed to be more coordinated with the ordering. Two half birds. DUH. That's one whole bird. How did we miss that?
  • You get the choice of two sides. You WANT the panko crusted onion rings. Sweet onion. Crust is thin and stays very crunchy for a long time. We're talking actual crunch sound crunchy. Crust isn't falling off the onion and looking sloppy. Whatever they are doing to those onions in the kitchen, they're doing it right. And them rings are BIG and fun!
  • You do NOT want the steamed veggies. It's boring. The carrots there aren't honey-glazed either, which are the fun and tasty ones and if they did them right, will not be crunchy and raw-ish but fairly tender.
  • Check the bun before eating it. We were in for dinner so I guess you can expect end-of-the-day buns. These were end-of-the-day buns. Firm outside, dry inside. Just pass on them. If they can't give you a fresh bun, I'd have preferred they didn't give me a bun at all. And with a half chicken you have so much breast meat to work through you don't need the bun filling you up anyway.
  • If you compare their rotisserie chicken to the super-moist super-tender possibly-undercooked supermarket chickens for possibly around $10 or under, you will be super-disappointed and you shouldn't order this. It may sound strange to bring up this comparison, but that's what my dining buddy compared it with.
  • Dark meat portion not juicy at all and disappointing. Yeah, even the thigh. Meat basically fell off the bone though, which is convenient if you are not using your hands. It's nice to look at a half chicken instead of chopped up bits, but if it means the dark meat's gonna be sacrificed, I'd rather they hacked the bird into quarters and tended each separately according to the type of protein there.
  • Breast meat NOT dry! Didn't need gravy or water to eat a good bite of this. Not exactly juicy, but definitely not dry.
2017-Sept-21 - H2 Rotisserie and Grill - half chicken

2017-Sept-21 - H2 Rotisserie and Grill - half chicken

2017-Sept-21 - H2 Rotisserie and Grill - half chicken

No One Does It Better Layered Carrot Cake ($9) carrot ginger cake with orange cream cheese icing, sugar spiced pecans, served with a scoop of gelato
  • I didn't check for every ingredient but I did note there were what looked and tasted like raisins. Don't like raisins? (Yeah, some people are anti-raisins). You won't really taste it amid the rest of the flavours.
  • Decent tasting carrot cake that is also super-moist. The cake on its own is basically really tasty but nothing special. It's the rest of the plate that elevates this to more than a slab of carrot cake.
  • Don't be fooled by the thin slice -- under the ice cream is more cake so it's actually a pretty fair portion, considering you get a small scoop of ice cream, some fresh fruit, and candied lemon.
  • Don't throw that lemon away or munch on it too early. It's pretty interesting with a sweetness followed by a bitterness from the peel. Interesting contrast to nibble on in between bites of the sweet cake.
2017-Sept-21 - H2 Rotisserie and Grill - carrot cake

Drop It Like Its Popped, Salted Caramel Popcorn Cheesecake ($9) New York Cheesecake with oven baked caramel sauce and topped with salted caramel popcorn.
  • Don't forget the caramel sauce unless you want to really be careful with the sweetness on this dessert.
  • Bouquet of popcorn gives this safe-choice familiar tasty dessert a fun presentation and elevates it above a simple slice of cheesecake.
2017-Sept-21 - H2 Rotisserie and Grill - cheesecake

Selection of Gelato ($9) your choice of two scoops of cappuccino, vanilla, chocolate or strawberry
  • In a city where $6 might not even get you one scoop in a dessert shop, this is decent value. Plus you get some fruit.
2017-Sept-21 - H2 Rotisserie and Grill - gelato

Dessert Plate ($15) salted caramel popcorn new york cheesecake, s'mores, chocolate mousse, gelato
  • This is actually a really good deal since you get a substantial bite of each dessert, possibly good for 3-4 persons to share if you all just want a good portion to taste. If you are going solo I'd advise eating strategically in order to fit this in. The main issue would be the s'mores and the heavy graham cracker being pretty filling if you didn't moderate your appy and main.
  • You'll notice this platter is missing the ice cream. I think the person who ordered it forgot to tell the server which ice cream they wanted.
  • Mousse was bittersweet chocolate, and tasted very smooth. I think it might have been more fun to have more crunch and texture to the chocolate sand on top and inside the cup, but that's more personal preference. Nice to have some fruit to balance the richness and bitterness.
  • Cheesecake here is basically half the portion of the regular order, and with the convenience of the caramel sauce right on the cheesecake.
  • This critique is not specific to H2 Rotisserie: Overall, I do not recommend ordering s'mores anywhere for a bring-to-your-table dessert. By the time it gets there, your marshmallow will probably have started to harden again. It is not clear if ours had done so or just wasn't toasted enough to be melted on the inside; in any case, when I pressed the s'mores together it sprang back almost fully. There's also way too much cracker, making it dry in your mouth.
    • Recommend you eat this open-face: Open up the s'mores and have one marshmallow on each piece of cracker, and eat the halves separately. In this way you are also minimizing your chances of chocolate dripping where you don't want it.
2017-Sept-21 - H2 Rotisserie and Grill - dessert plate

It's unfortunate that H2 seems to have garnered several low-scoring reviews before their shakedown cruise period as it were. Trattoria in Burnaby had the same problem -- now it'll take a disproportionately high amount of high scores to adjust the average back to reflect current food and service standards. (This said, I don't deny that there's pressure to be profitable as quickly as possible, especially after a probably pricey renovation reinventing the Seawall Bar and Grill.)

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