restaurants


Sanity has returned and I am once again able to focus on my favourite subject, great food!

The Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics are over and have been deemed a success by most people, myself included, though being tropical-born, I’m not crazy about winter and, unfortunately, am not a true-blue (red?) hockey fan either. But I have to say, even the chickens were quiet during those few overtime minutes when we were all afraid to breathe, in case the puck went into the American fire instead of the Canadian frying pan.

So that’s my excuse for being absent from this blog for so long — way too many distractions! I return with a neat trick I learned by having lunch at Market Restaurant earlier this week. Market is New York uber-chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Vancouver outpost. I ordered the Soy Glazed Short Ribs with Apple – Jalapeno Purée and Rosemary Crumbs.

The meat was perfectly seasoned, tender and delicious. But what took it over the top wasn’t the apple – jalapeno puree, which, to be honest, was a little too mild; I expected more fire. But those rosemary crumbs. Wow! They sat in a little hillock just north of the meat, waiting to do their thing. Ribs are slow braised, and once they’re perfectly cooked, they become deeply flavoured, but while you’re blissing out on the flavour, you don’t expect much more than meaty velvet in the way of texture. Enter the crumbs. Dip a morsel of the rib in those crumbs and heaven happens. The happy intersection of tenderness and crunch is outstanding. And it occurred to me that this might be something you could do with any juicy but tender meat or seafood, for example pot roast, a simple wine-based beef stew, or even a mild-flavoured, tender grilled salmon (think pink). Serve the crumbs in a small dish alongside the main plate because the crunch will fade quickly in the presence of liquid. (more…)

We headed for downtown Vancouver to soak up the Olympics vibe on Valentine’s Day, and what a scene it was. From where we were standing to get a look at the then-imprisoned Olympic cauldron, masses of humanity six-deep and more filled the sidewalks as far as the eye could see.

It was a day for ambling to the various event venues where Olympics-sized lineups caused us to keep walking. A great day in all, but we weren’t sure where we might sit down for a meal on what is normally the busiest restaurant night of the year, since our trip into the city was spur-of-the-moment and didn’t include reservations.

We did end up in Gastown and were early enough to snare one of two remaining tables at a restaurant that had squeezed in extra tables to accommodate the masses. The food was okay, though a little overpriced, and the service excellent, considering how busy the place was.

If you’re planning to head in for the same kind of once-in-a-lifetime experience that includes a nice meal, check out the Globe and Mail’s take on what to go for — and what to avoid — in terms of food, both that at the national and provincial pavilions, restaurants near Olympics event sites and even restaurants and bars where you might spot a celeb or two.

“I was able to confirm earlier reconnaissance: Vancouver is among the best eating towns in the history of the Winter Games.” SAM SIFTON, The New York Times

Okay, so it’s partly because Vancouver is one of the largest cities to host the Winter Games, so there are “a lot of people cooking here,” he points out. But Sifton, who was in Vancouver and Richmond in late January, literally swoons at the wide variety of great food that we who live here mostly take for granted. He lists the usual suspects (Vij’s, Tojo’s, Sun Sui Wah) plus a few places you might not yet know. Don’t be too hungry when you check out the multi-media offering on the left side of the page showing some of the restaurant dishes mentioned. Most of those photos are done by local pro Kim Stallknecht, who could make dirt look appetizing. You’ll be tempted to lick your computer. Oh, for one of those Celebration Rolls. . .

Black garlic. Wenzel duck. In-house smoked bacon and in-house dry-aged beef.

These are just some of the fabulous playthings in Kris Kabush’s new culinary sandbox.

Kabush, 27, took over the reins as Executive Chef at Burnaby’s  Hart House Restaurant last month, and black garlic — originally a Korean and Japanese fermented health food that’s recently become all the rage with North American chefs for its unusual, intense and sweet flavour — is on the menu in several of his dishes. “It’s delicious,” he says.

Kabush, born and raised in Surrey, grew up in a family of foodies. His mother taught cooking and other home ec arts in the Surrey school district, and his dad, he says, is an avid cook as well, particularly when it comes to barbecuing.

Although he began making pancakes for the family when he was four years old, Kabush didn’t discover a real passion for cooking until high school, when he got his first restaurant job. Once he graduated, he began working as an apprentice at the Wedgewood Hotel, finished the Red Seal program at Vancouver Community College and completed his apprenticeship at Vancouver’s Four Seasons Hotel before working in the kitchens of such highly rated restaurants as Lumiere and Cioppino’s. It was the passion and the drive for excellence he saw in the people he worked with that inspired him to go for the gold himself.

His mission now is not only to update HH’s menu but to obliterate the fusty perception that the restaurant is “a place to take your grandma” as he oversees a range of inventive dishes that are Mediterranean in spirit and flavour — “Italian, Spanish, with a kick of French influence,” is how he describes it. That black garlic? He buys it at South China Seas Market on Granville Island in Vancouver, and the Wentzel duck is  an Indiana farm product he prefers because “I find the quality and flavour of their ducks superior to any other available to me.” (more…)