Undoubtedly the long time reigning vanguard in the formal dining category – I lost count of how many years – Hawksworth represents the pinnacle of fine dining establishments in Vancouver. We wanted to experience the core of their cooking with the only way: their seasonal dinner tasting menu – no freebie events or brunch for us!
Housed in the historic Hotel Georgia, one step into the stunning dining room and anything casual was thrown out the door. They didn’t built this place for locustic food bloggers with a shoestring budget, they built this place for the Queen. One of the most beautiful dining rooms in the city, one can enjoy the interior of the luxurious room with an impressive wine collection or gaze out the glass window and people watch in the chaos outside. We were among the first to arrive, but our fellow diners, the immaculately dressed One Percents, slowly filled the dining room.
Crispy Fried Oyster, Piquillo Pepper, Malt Vinegar – Intricately fried, the paper-thin batter accentuated the fresh, impactful flavor of the oyster so well that I was impressed that the batter did not drown out the natural oyster taste like many other lesser restaurants. The dollop of pepper puree completed the acidic and heat component of the dish which further elevated the key ingredient.
48hr Corned Beef Brisket, Rye, Beet, Mustard, Dill – An underwhelming cold appetizer, this deconstructed rye sandwich look-alike hesitated to deliver any focused flavors. The combination of the ingredients reminded me this would be something I would get from a Montreal deli cafe, not in a room like this.
“Bread and Butter” Soup, King Crab, Spring Ramp, Amaranth – A balanced dish, the bold, salty broth faced off against the milder, fresh king crab – I could still taste the crab even when it was drowned by the broth. The toasty amaranth finished the soup nicely with an offsetting crunch.
Wild Striped Bass, Basmati, Curry, English Pea, Nettle – A meeting of East and the West, the beautifully cooked basmatic rice and cumin based curry sauce was paired with the melt in your mouth sea bass with a divinely seared skin. The peas and nettle cleverly enhanced the rice’s tastes and texture.
Confit Pork Neck – A rather plain looking dish (considering where we were), what it hid was the tender pork drenched with the sweet sauce. The contrasting tastes between the fried parmesan balls and the sweet onions added another dimension to the dish. Clever use of these ingredients helped accentuate the taste of the pork without the use of heavy sauces. Plain and not so simple after all.
Dark Chocolate Cremeux, Coffee, Banana – Nothing too remarkable about this dessert, besides the fine balancing act between the salty chocolate and the refreshing banana ice-cream tied together with the coffee drizzle. Maybe it’s because I was expecting something more ground breaking?
Though there were some misses in this menu, I must applaud the chef’s ability to highlight the natural taste of the ingredients without the mask of heavy sauces or seasoning. Drawing inspirations from Asian cooking into an otherwise Western menu was also a bold and commendable move.
Beautiful room, attentive service, and a ever changing, borderline creative menu with minimalistic Asian influences that won’t alienate the “playing it safe” hotel guests upstairs, Hawksworth is a fine destination to impress your out of town guests or clients. But please, please: leave your college sweatshirts and Lululemon pants at the door.