How to celebrate a birthday, FinestDish.com style? How about an award winning restaurant with excellent service, reputable chef, multicourse dinner, and dining at the chef’s table with a full view of the kitchen?
West is a beautiful looking restaurant on South Granville, in a posh shopping district between Kitsilano and Fairview. It was awarded Silver in Best Upscale Restaurant in 2011, Bronze in the Restaurant of the Year, and Gold in Best Service in 2010. Its brigade in the kitchen is headed by Executive Chef Quang Dang, formerly at Diva at the Met, and at, well, West before that.
I specifically asked to be seated at the chef’s table so we could see all the action in the kitchen. Though it was not actually in the kitchen, the table offered a full view of the presentation kitchen so you can listen to every order being called out and feel the heat whenever the pans are fired. It was a great show in itself, and it would be a rewarding experience for any food enthusiast.
One if by land, and two if by sea. What if it’s both? West features a Sea, Land, and Vegetarian tasting menu. Not wanting to be shot by the FinestDish.com secret police, we strayed away from the Vegetarian menu. I got the Sea Tasting Menu while my friend got the Land.
I’m embarrassed to say that I managed to screw up the pictures again. Maybe I should spent less on food and clearly more on much needed photography lessons. I’m saying this because the food tasted than it looked here. But moving right along…
Our first course was the amuse bouche consisted of marinated halibut. It synchronized our taste buds to fine dining, and it did the trick. It was very tender, and the marinate was quite savory and refreshing.
My Sea menu’s first course was the Vancouver Island Octopus, Crushed Peas, Aged Balsamic. This dish definitely set the tone as to what is to come. The octopus tasted fresh, and the ingredient spoke for itself. I loved the crushed peas, which pretty had the consistency like a puree. It had a bold, sweet flavor which balanced out the octopus.
My friend’s Chicken Liver Pate with Rhubarb, Mountain Berry Tea, Brioche from the Land menu looked delicious. I tried one small bite, and I think its flavor could be stronger. My friend, however, liked it more than my octopus. He also commented the sweetness of the raspberries worked with the richness of the foie. To each to it’s own.
My next Sea menu course was the Cucumber and Spring Onion Soup with White Prawns, Truffle Aioli, Chives. When it was served in front of me, I frowned because I realized it was a cold soup. I hate cold soup and I think it was the most pointless thing in the world. Not this. The soup in front of me was refreshing, creamy and packed with flavor. The consistency was perfect on the dot; it was rich but not too thick. The prawns broke up some of the creamy texture and its saltiness helped season the flavor. This was definitely THE soup for the summer, and the biggest surprise for the night. I love it.
My friend’s next course from the Land menu was the Thiessen Quail with Pemberton Beets, Caramelized Cippolini Onions, Chorizo. I had a little bite, but I still preferred my soup, although my friend preferred the Quail.
My next Sea course, the Smoked Sablefish Cake with Romano Beans, Gribiche Sauce, was a surprise. It looked like a frozen fish cake with a side salad. The sauce tasted like tartar sauce. This dish was almost like an over-glorified fish and chips. I didn’t like it.
My friend fared better with the Foraged Mushroom Risotto with Crispy Confit Duck, Plums with Thyme Emulsion from the Land menu. I had a piece of the duck, and it was tender, well seasoned, and meaty. I’m sure the duck on top of the risotto would make a hearty dish…at least that’s what I figured while I was working on my fish and chips.
At this point, we have already moved on to the last of our main courses. Time passed by so quickly when we were tasting sensational food! The action in the kitchen was heating up too at this point. My last Sea course was the Haida Gwaii Ling Cod, Seared A La Plancha, Slow Cooked Beans, Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette. The fish was just slightly overcooked and dry for my taste. The couscous did moistened the fish a bit, and its mushy texture contrasted well with the flaky fish.
I preferred my friend’s Peace Country Elk with Baby Leeks, Yukon Gold Potato Puree and Okanagan Cherry Brown Butter from the Land menu. The elk, while looked rare, was actual very tender, much to my surprise. It was cooked to perfection, and I clearly got that delicious gamy taste. If this was a regular menu item, I would definitely order this next time.
All things must come to an end, and that was signaled by our pre-dessert (some kind of berry with syrup). This thing was super sweet. If there was an alarm bell in my mouth for sweetness, I could probably still hear it ringing in my ears when I was walking back to my car. It did a perfect job of nuking any remnants of aftertaste and prepared us for the real dessert.
Sweetness nuclear bomb.
Although technically nothing was from the sea in my dessert, nonetheless, my last course for the night was the Almond Frangipane Filled Crepes with Bayleaf Roasted Cherries with Honey Lemon Mascarpone. I wasn’t sure how I should approach this, but I thought it needed more focus. I was trying to taste it with different combinations of the ice-cream, the sweet berries, and the doughy crepes, but nothing was working.
Once again, my friend’s land menu had my favorite dessert, Chocolate Creme Brulee with Raspberry Ice Cream. I didn’t get to taste it though.
If I were to come here again, I would probably go for the Land tasting menu, although I was impressed by the Sea Tasting menu’s Octopus and Cucumber Soup. I still think that they needed some more work on the dessert, it’s just missing that wow factor that the other courses have. Service was top notch, and its Gold in Best Service was well deserved. I was here twice for lunch and dinner, and both times the maitre’d asked us if we needed transportation. It were small touches like this that made patrons remember this place. Other members in the front-of-house team were noticeably observant and was able to take care of its guest down to the finest details. This I like.