Dineout is upon us, and these two weeks will be a great excuse to try some new tastes and flavors being offered in the city. Though most of the restaurants only offers a dinner menu, some of them offers a lunch menu, with one of them being convientintly located near my place of employment. Off to the side from the Granville Island entrance is Bistro 101, a restaurant run by current students from the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts. With a reputation of having great food for a low price, I’ve never gotten the chance to visit this room, until now. Read on to see what’s being offered in their $18 Dineout menu, and how this is the only $18 Dineout menu you should really go for.
I walked pass this restaurant many times, usually on my way to Granville Island to get some fish and chips, weather permitting. When I entered the building, apparently the inside was divided between a coffee shop and the bistro itself. The maitre’D awkwardly seated me close to the entrance, near the bar area. Every time the door opened, I felt a cold chill down my spine. I would rather be seated further into the restaurant where I would get a good view of the kitchen, where I could see most of the action of the restaurant (and not be blasted with a cold chill at regular intervals).
Before the first course, a server/chef/student served an amuse bouche to start my palate. He explained the ingredients to me, however, he didn’t sound confident, not unlike a high schooler doing his first presentation, a reminder that this is a school after all.
I was debating between the Kabocha Squash Ravioli gewurtztraminer & shallot cream reduction and the Roast Chorizo & Winter Kale Soup spiced pastry twist for my appetizer. Given that it was chilly that day, I went for the soup. What surprised me was the broth was somewhat spicy, but packed with flavor. The kale and the tomatoes were cooked soft enough as to not to disturb the texture of the soup. I loved the meat as it was delicious, and I wished there were more of them in the bowl. The twisty pastry had a powdery texture, and it worked as an additional garnish to the soup.
My next course was the Pork Tenderloin Saltimbocca arugula, roasted elephant garlic, balsamic infusion. When I was presented with the dish, I was blown away. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting anything of this calibre for an $18, three course menu. The dish was beautifully plated. For taste, there were a lot going on in here. There were the sweetness of the balsamic fusion which went great with the pork. The vegetables bought an infusion of different tastes to the dish and cut down the richness of the pork. My only problem with the dish was the pork itself: I felt that it was a bit on the dry side. The flavor was there, but the meat was a little tough.
And now, for the dessert. I’ve always order an ice-cream type dessert because it cleans the palate without being too filing, so naturally I went for the Deep Freeze semifreddo with dried fall fruits. Again, presentation was great. It was really a duo of coconut (?) ice-cream and green apple sorbet resting on a bed of pastry with strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries. I loved the green apple sorbet, it was sweet and had a minty taste. The pasty was moist and mushy, and added a bit of texture when eaten with the ice-cream. It was one of the better ice-cream dessert I’ve had.
Given that the front of house were also staffed by students, you can’t expect world class service. From the way they served their dishes and the way they moved around, I could tell they lacked confidence and experience. But at the same time, you could also tell they were trying their best, and they wanted to be there – I liked that. It would be great if they explained the dish when it was presented to their customers, given that they were also chefs.
This is perhaps the best $18 Dineout menu that I enjoyed. My experience with Dineout was that the $18 menus were not even worth it for the quality you are paying, and I vow never to go for an $18 menu again. Bistro 101 proved to be a star in the $18 category, and I would come back. What blew me away was the level of quality and finesse in the food from what I was paying: it was fine dining with a university student’s shoe string budget. Granted, the food and service was not top notch: there were some misses, and you will be served by inexperienced staff, but these guys are students after all. Who knows, maybe in a few years, the girl serving me could have her own Michelin star restaurant. Or her friend could represent Canada on the Bocuse D’or. If you want flawless execution and world class food, West is just up a few blocks, but be prepared to pay at least triple.