C Restaurant in Vancouver -- report
My girlfriend and I were in Vancouver this weekend and, based on my perusal of the Chowhound board, we chose C Restaurant for our Saturday night dinner. All in all, in was an extremely good choice. Here's the rundown:
Appetizers: I had the warm lobster salad, which was beautifully presented and very tasty. My girlfriend had the lobster bisque, which was even better than my lobster salad. Two servers presented the dishes in a very professional manner.
Main: I had the B.C. salmon, which was a little undercooked for my taste, but it came with this salty, candied salmon that was super. The salmon also came with this pumpkin gnocchi that was a great complement. She really enjoyed her crispy fresh trout that came with new potatoes and sauteed spinach with a thyme butter sauce.
Desserts: We were pretty stuffed by the dessert time, but we had mentioned to our waiter (who was very nice) that the chocolate plate with truffles sounded good, so he subsequently told us that we could get a half-plate that was terrific. I had a yerba mate tea that my girlfriend pilfered because it was so good.
Wines: She had an Antonin Rodet Pinot Noir from France. I had the Cedar Creek Pinot Noir (from B.C.), which went well with my appetizer.
All this for C$175.
My wife and I ate at C last Sunday night. We really enjoyed it.
The first ting that distinguished our evening was the service. We had to change our reservation time at the last minute (we were late getting from Whistler that afternoon. They still managed to honour our request for a nice window table (in fact, we ended up getting to the restaurant earlier than we expected, but they were ready for us when we got there).
Our server Ken was friendly, knowledgeable about the menu, and keen.
We limited ourselves to the taster and appetizer courses (altogether six items) - we prefer a tapas style menu rather than large main course. Everything was beautifully executed. I would say that the prawn salad and cured trout were the least successful dishes. Although we were clearly not the biggest spenders in the place that night, we were treated like we were.
The lobster bisque was genuinely the best I have ever tasted - it avoided that "liver-y" taste that bisque can have. We were each going to order a bowl - Ken recommended we share - bisque is rich, and we were following with fois gras.
The seared fois gras (nice big portion - with fresh and paper thin-cut dried apples perfect contrast of flavors and textures playing off each other) was heaven, and the cured scallops were sublime - a disciplined dish; I couldn't identify the cure, but it served to enhance, not obscure the flavor of the scallops.
Total with tax and a $60 bottle of wine (Castle Rock SB from California) - $165.
This kitchen aims to be innovative. We all know that this can lead to mistakes, but overall, their innovations were in the service of good flavor, not novelty for its own sake.
As the check arrives - an offer to call us a cab and let us know when it arrives - necessary in this location. We are in good hands from start to finish. This is a restaurant that understands service.
I didn't love the decor - a little bit stark and white for my tastes (the main design feature is two-storey floor to ceiling windows looking out onto the water - but we were there after dark in October. I suspect it shows to best advantage on summer evenings. We plan to see for ourselves on our next trip to Vancouver.
re: rbp foodie
My husband and I went to "C" 2 weeks ago. It was a very big dissappointment. The food was quite average, my husbands halibut was overdone and my dish was really salty. It seemed that the waiter was stumbling through his first job. Not what one would expect from such a highly rated restaurant.
The restuarant was half full on a sunny evening - I think "C" is doomed.
I've retrieved my prior write-up on this restaurant, based on a single meal there last year.
I had a very poor lunch at C Restaurant in Vancouver. Attempts at Pacific Northwest/Asian fusion were misguided, with flavors that were uncontrolled and, in many cases, uncomplementary. In my view, C is sadly an example of a restaurant that not only has an overly complex cuisine lacking in direction, but also is pretentious. While C has garnered certain favorable media reviews, a visit may be at a diner's peril.
I sampled the following:
(1) C's Taster Box (C$29.00 or approx. US$20)
-- Apple Cured Wild Salmon Belly, apple and celeriac salad, pecans, brown mustard seed emulsion
-- Szechuan Ahi Tuna Tartare, pickled kumquats, daikon sprouts
-- Dungeness crab and sea urchin panacotta, smoked salmon cracker
-- Five-Spice Crusted Fanny Bay Oysters, shrimp and pineapple spring roll, sweet and sour plum sauce, fried ginger threads
The C's Taster Box is a modern-looking, wooden box-like frame that allows the four component dishes above to be displayed at different heights. (The box had different levels) While the presentation was not unattractive, only one of the dishes included was good. That one dish, together with the octupus bacon (described below) and banana/lychee sorbet, was the only appealing food item taken at C. The Apple Curred Wild Salmon Belly was good -- the flesh near the belly offered appealing, more "tension-filled" and denser (in a good way) texture. The curing had been done well, enhancing the tastes of the wild salmon and adding developed connotations of slight (but not simple) sweetness. The color of the salmon pieces was attractive too, having almost burgundy tones. While the chunks of salmon belly were attractive in this dish, the other aspects of it were distracting: (1) a tall-ish inverted pastry shell (not well prepared) on top of which the chunks had been placed and which contained a coleslaw-texture-like mixture of celeriac and green apple julienne, (2) a small amount of quince gelee, which was superfluous in view of the apple connotations inhering in the curing process for the salmon belly, (3) pecans, and (4) an overly aggressive, yellow-colored grainy mustard mixture. This dish was good because of the salmon belly (described as being from Atlantic line-caught salmon), and in spite of the other items gratuitously included in the dish.
The second dish included in the C Taster's Box was the Szechuan ahi tuna tartare. Here, medium-sized cubes of tuna were overwhelmed by a coating of sauce that, to me, contained a bit of hoisin sauce, a bit of sesame oil, orange-colored chili oil, very small bits of red pepper, diced carrots and onions and small juliennes of blackwood ear mushrooms (with a somewhat crunchy texture). Toasted sesame had been sprinkled onto certain parts of the tuna dish. This dish reminded me of a Chinese restaurant's saucier suffering from muscle spasms near the condiments tray. The pickled kumquats introduced further confusion into the dish, although I did find the bitterness of the daikon sprouts to be a neutral aspect. The seasoning for the tuna was very harsh and, in sum, poor tasting.
The third dish in the C's Taster Box was Dungeness crab and sea urchin pannacotta. The pannacotta was bland, although quite beautiful (a blush color). The two small chunks of Dungeness crab atop the pannacotta did not, shall we say, have an appetizing smell. The smoked salmon cracker was a dried, somewhat elastic piece of smoked salmon that did not taste good.
Finally, the Five Spiced Crusted Fanny Bay Oysters had a batter coating that was unappealing dense. The deep frying appeared to have not been done shortly prior to the serving of this dish. The included spring roll of shrimp and pineapple tasted misguided. Not only was the spring roll skin thicker than one would have expected and not reflective of recent deep frying, but the inclusion of pineapple with the shrimp cheapened the dish. Note that, together with the pineapple and shrimp segments inside the spring roll were sliced blackwood ear mushrooms, carrots, onions and additional ingredients. While the sweet and sour plum sauce accompanying this item was appropriately subdued, the rest of this dish was a disaster. Note the inherent quality of the Fanny Bay oysters did not appear poor; the oysters had merely been denigrated by the culinary preparation.
(2) Dungeness Crab and Lemon Myrtle Cake, carrot and snail fondu[e], coconut and candied ginger chutney (C$16.00)
My main course of Dungeness crab cake was poor. First, there was an akward unknown coating surrounding the Dungeness crab that was dry and unappetizing. Second, the Dungeness crab strands and segments of shrimp inside were not sufficiently moist. Third, the lemon myrtle (described as being akin to lemon and pepper in taste) lacked acidity for interest. This manifested itself in the cream-based saucing for the dish, which was nondescript. Fourth, there was an unduly large volume of julienne of carrots that overwhelmed the plate. Note I had already asked that the coconut and candied ginger chutney described on the menu for this dish to be excluded. The fifth reason this dish was poor was the gratuitous use of toasted black sesame next to the crab cake. Overall, a dish of which I took in less than 20%.
(3) 1/2 Order of Seared Scallops, octopus bacon, yukon gold potato and mushroom cake, cognac and dark veal stock reduction, grilled asparagus (C$25.00 for full portion; supplement of C$15.00 for inclusion of seared Quebec foie gras, which was not ordered)
I was surprised by the restaurant's response to my request that I sample the octupus bacon standalone as a side. The restaurant presented a 1/2 order (including scallops), and charged me for it, without consulting me in advance. Ordinarily, when one requests an item, is told specifically that the restaurant would be happy to offer it to be sampled, and then receives additional items, one does not expect to be charged for the additional items.
Leaving aside the unhappy service issues associated with the octupus bacon, the bacon standalone was interesting. It had a slightly smokey flavor, and yet was tender and had the elasticity of octupus. The restaurant described the octupus bacon as having been prepared by (1) brining whole octupus legs, (2) cutting them into strips, (3) smoking them using maple chips, and (4) preparing a confit with chicken fat. The inspiration for the octupus bacon wrapping for the scallops was described as having been bacon wrapping for filet mignon.
Alas, the rest of the dish did not fare as well. The large scallop around which the octupus bacon was wrapped was "mushy". The cognac and veal stock reduction was unduly harsh and unappetizing. The reduction likely contained a bit of oyster sauce. Its temperature was also a bit "off", for a thin film had formed on top of it when the dish first arrived at the table. The mushroom cake contained decent mushrooms (the type commonly found in Chinese cuisine -- matsutake, sic) in julienne, but was a supporting player in the dish. The asparagus were overcooked to the point of being a weird shrivelled mass. Another depressing dish.
(4) Passion Fruit Souffle, Banana & Lychee Sorbet
The passion fruit souffle was a bit too sweet, but the banana and lychee sorbet was expressive of the flavors of the featured fruit. It is sad that sorbet, the cured salmon belly included in the appetizer and the octupus bacon were the only three items in a lengthy meal that were not affirmatively poor.
-- Other Depressing Aspects of the Meal
There were a number of other problems with my lunch at C. First, I had ordered a 1998 Pouilly Fusse, Drouhin (1/2 bottle) (C$50) from the fairly good wine list. It turned out that the bottle I received was a 1999 version of the same wine. When I brought this to the attention of the waitress half-way into the meal (when I noticed the discrepancy in years -- I did not verbally articulate this, but pointed to the wine list entry and the different year on the cork, as an adjacent table included the restaurant's sommelier seeking to obtain an allocation from a certain relatively well-known Alsatian producer), she thanked me quietly, but took no action. The mistake was not a big deal for me, and nothing was noted, except that I verbalized to the waitress at the end of the meal that the wrong wine had been brought (due to the absence of response to my previous, very innucuous actions). This brought the maitre d' to my table. He asked me, in a relatively confrontational and unapologetic tone, whether I had noticed the discrepany in years when the wine was first presented to me for sampling. I politely responded that I had not noticed until half-way through the meal. I felt the maitre d' might have been implying I was partially responsible for not having noticed the mistaken serving of a bottle of the wrong year. The maitre d', surprisingly, then asked whether there was a difference in taste between the actually sampled 1999 and the ordered 1998. I noted that it was not a question of whether there was a difference in taste, but whether the restaurant's approach to wine service was appropriate. At this point, the maitre d' finally provided the apology that was called for, realizing that the Alsatian producer at the next table was focusing on the described exchange. I had tried not to make a fuss and to register my dissatisfaction non-verbally, but the absence of any response (let alone a satisfactory response) to my first communication on the wine led me to a verbal communication that was, unfortunately, rather embarassing for the restaurant. Of course, I paid for the wine and received no concessions from the restaurant. C is generally considered to have a good wine list, and I do not disagree with that assessment. There were some interesting bottles (e.g., Laville Haut-Brion white burgundy 1980 at C$250, an expensive range of sake by the bottle). In my case, the service received was crude (including with respect to temperature, which was significantly above the range appropriate).
Second, I was literally the only paying diner during the lunch in question. While I generally like dining alone, being the only paying diner in an entire restaurant does alter the restaurant experience a bit. I can't say that the effects were positive or negative, though.
Third, the sommelier was pitching to the Alsatian producer at the adjacent table in not-too-subtle terms. What was said by the sommelier, who was eating with the members of the producer's team, can be called laughable. For example, the sommelier indicated that (1) the chef at C is considered by many the best chef in Canada (pl--ease), (2) he had asked another Alsatian producer to change the color of the foil on similar, but different, bottles to avoid future occurrences of his staff's having served two superior bottles to clients that had ordered other bottles (I wonder whose fault that might be?) -- appropriately, the producer had laughed at him, (3) the chef at C voyages significantly to France and to the US (when asked by the Alsatian producer which chef the chef at C knew well, no specifics were available), and (4) the chef likes to utilize unusual presentations (e.g., silver-colored ice cream and gold leaf -- in my personal assessment, these gimmicks are generally a negative sign). It was a form of "noise" to listen to the presumptuous statements emanating from the sommelier at C Restaurant. Also funny was the very obvious gurgling sound made by the sommelier with almost every gulp of wine. While some sound is typically generated by certain methods of tasting wine, this individual's sound could be heard from half a room away, I would imagine, and was quite exaggerated. After over 45 minutes of unavoidably listening to the sommlier's pitche, I felt glad to leave the restaurant.
In sum, C is a restaurant with an overly-complex and distressed cuisine. Flavors that are unduly stark; too many ingredients in a dish; the masking of incompetence with attempted use of Asian spices. C seeks to position itself as a "contemporary fish restaurant" that pushes the envelope, at least in the context of Vancouver. The only direction in which C is heading, in my book, is downwards.
-- Location and Decor
C is located near Howe and Beach, on the downtown side of Vancouver, but adjacent to the water. It looks out onto a beautiful stretch of water, yachts, a certain part of Granville Island properties, and the Granville and Burrard bridges. A wonderful view that is not put to use, in view of the depressing cuisine.
The decor is modern and attractive. The floor is tiled, and the tables are a darker wood. The chairs have a burgundy color for the wood of certain parts of it, with black-colored wood for legs and a textured, medium grey fabric covering the back and certain portions of the arms.
It would have been interesting if the chef had been asked for the names of who he knew in various kitchens throughout France-with you sitting at the next table!
Seriously, we totally AGREE on C. This was a major disappointment for us when we went about five or six years ago. I've never understood what anyone liked about it other than sitting outside on their terrace in the summer and the view.
I do love Vancouver, though. I've represented a Vancouver company for 13 years and have spent a lot of time there.
re: Joe H.
re: Joe H.
I appreciate my report is about a year old, but I have to restate my belief that a cuisine **that misguided** cannot miraculously reinvent itself over the course of a year. Also, given the generally favorable professional critics' reviews of the restaurant (who knows why?), there is not necessarily a strong perceived need on the part of the restaurant to reinvent itself.
I ask -- why would anybody go to "C" when there are Lumiere, West and their respective "lighter meal"-type menus and/or affiliates? Now, this is a condemnation of "C" -- I would rather go to Star Anise or William Tell than go there. C is not inexpensive by Vancouver standards, on top of that.
As Joe suggested, what is quite offensive about this restaurant is its pretensions to be a great restaurant, when it is clearly not. There's a certain blind sense of self-superiority on the part of the restaurant that I felt as a diner. And it's frustrating that that self-perception is slightly reinforced by certain professional reviews the venue has received.
re: Oakland Omnivore
I have to throw my two cents in: Having eaten at C on multiple occasions, Lumiere on multiple occasions and twice at Ouest/West. My first meal at C was dinner about three years ago. The service was very good and the food was quite nice. We were outside and enjoyed the gorgeous view and the balmy summer night. This past summer I enjoyed lunch at the restaurant. The food has definitely changed in that time. I found the flavours more subtle and refined. We started with a lovely espresso cup of lobster bisque accompanied by a toasted baguette chip with chevre. This was my guest's favorite dish. It was rich without being heavy and the earthy chevre played up the flavors of the sea. Next, we had an amazing foie gras dish. It was lightly seared and served with white peaches and celery. I thought celery was an odd acompaniment, until I took my first bite. The fresh sweetness of the peach and the melting lushness of the foie was totally balanced by the crisp crunchiness of the celery. The sauce was so deep in flavour that I considered licking my plate clean. Our entree was Salmon in a garlic broth with gnocchi. The salmon was the proper doneness and the broth was awash with umami. The gnocchi were satisfyingly chewy and there was "Romanesque"(sp) broccoli as well, which I'd never even heard of before. We had some super chocolatey thing for dessert and a creamy/crackly little creme brulee.
I'd have to say the meal was better than my last dinner at the French Laundry.My guest, who'd been included at our previous dinner agreed that the food was on a different level than on our last outing.
Just by looking at the menu at www.crestaurant.com you can tell that the flavors and combinations have advanced. I also have to say that one bad meal does not equal a bad restaurant.
I just find it very difficult to accept your view as a properly informed opinion about a restaurant after only one visit. I find it short sighted and very misguided. Who knows what else was going on in that kitchen that particular day. Or if you were having a bad day. I just find very contrary that every time someone posts a good experience about C, you have to post your bad experience. Let it go. At least professional restaurant critics go to C more than once to form a less subjective opinion.
knuckles -- I don't generally make the determination that a restaurant is good after one meal, but I can tell if it's very poor (like C). Even if the chef were not around (I couldn't tell), or there were some other identifiable mishap, I wouldn't have held that necessarily against the restaurant.
Each diner can obviously draw whatever conclusions she wishes. My assessment of C restaurant is so clear that I refuse to go and eat there again. Why go to C when I can hang out at Lumiere (incl. bar area) or West? I might go to C for the view of the waterfront, but that is literally it.
I post this whenever I see a review of C because I believe C is *terrible* relative to its aspirations and relative to the general assessment by professionals.
In the case of C, the problems are not just with respect to the *execution* of the dishes, as with their composition *as well*. In other words, it wasn't a case of too heavy a hand on a given day with salt or another seasoning ingredient. Or having removed an item from the stove a bit too late. It was a question of a **systematically** flawed approach to a number of dishes that included obfuscation of the intrinsic flavors of the principal product.
It is amazing how one person can be so negative about 1 place after 1 visit. I am not sure what you do for a living, but would you like your clients to remember you for the odd 'off day'? I am fairly certain that none of us are perfect, but instead overall attempt to be the best we can be. I haven't dined at 'C' yet, but I know 20 Clefs D'Ors Concierges dined there on Tuesday evening and raved about everything. I will visit there my next trip into Vancouver, as on my last trip I had distinct pleasure of dining at Bis Moreno (WOW!)
I have just read all of the emails about one of my favorite restaurants in Vancouver, C Restaurant. I must say that I can't believe how angry and out to lunch cabrales is. You need to see a therapist! This must be an awful restaurant. It has only won the Best Seafood Restaurant in Vancouver award for the past 6 years. The restaurant has only been open for 7 years. It is the most award decorated restaurant in Vancouver by the Vancouver Magazine Awards. Have you been up in the wine cellar. The walls are covered in awards. They must be doing something right!
I have yet to try C during one of our visits although it has been on my "list". Although my "better half" is not a seafood fan I certainly am and my "read" has been that I would enjoy the style of food and ambience.
One thing I have noted is that reviews and opinions are almost "black and white" in nature.
People are either are enthused about C or down right "vitriolic" [purposely exaggerating...not a "shot" at you Cabrales]in their criticism.
What is your take on it Knuckles?
Cabrales, your opinions and insights are always very welcome here. Chowhound is a refuge for those with strong and sometimes unconventional views.
However, your stated determination to repost that same review and reinterject your view each time you ever spot discussion of this restaurant is inappropriate. You've made your point very articulately, and that suffices. Please allow others to opine, and let your prior statements stand on their own merit.
You last ate at this place a year ago. Unless you have new experiences to relate, please turn the discussion over to newer faces. Our resource thrives on constantly refreshed opinion, and would be harmed if the same people constantly reinjected their same conclusions ad infinitum.