Report from Vancouver : West (with pictures)
The evening of our arrival we had our anniversary dinner at West. As we were in on a Sunday, we weren't sure if Chef Hawksworth would be cooking (he wasn't) and we missed Brian, the general manager as well. Not to worry, the kitchen was headed up by a more-than-capable sous chef, and we had the opportunity to get to know Owen, the beverage manager, with whom we had shared previous emails.
We started off with a couple of cocktails from their specialty menu. Even with 2 previous visits, we had not discovered this gem at the back of the wine list..an array of cocktails the likes of which you might not see anywhere else.
I went with a Beet-Nyk, a Luksusowa Vodka martini with the addition of muddled golden beet juice and some Manzana. It was a lovely cloudy bronze color, garnished with lemon and dill, and tasted addictive. The lovely Denise chose the Jolicouer, with muddled grapes bumping up the Grey Goose Citron, along with splashes of Sauv Blanc and elderflower syrup. It was uniquely delicious as well.
We opted to go with the West tasting menu and wine pairings, and ensured total gluttony by starting off with a dozen Malpeque oysters on the half shell. They were lovely...plump and nicely textured. Served with a kickbutt Bing Cherry Mignonette and some finely grated horseradish, they made for a superb start:
Next was the amuse, a lovely little sardine concoction served on a wonton chip, which we enjoyed with another round of cocktails.
First course was their in-house Gravlax, served with an herb salad and oyster beignets. While technically not beignets, the fried oyster morsels added a nice textural contrast to the silky salmon, while adding a nice ocean dimension. The herb salad was bright and a bit peppery and cut throught the fish richness nicely. As we are bubbly people, the pairing of the Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Rosé made for an excellent choice to get things ramped up.
Next up was the Roast Foie Gras with Summer Fruit Chutney and Honey Vanilla Syrup. While the lovely Denise is the foie ho in the family, I continue to gain an appreciation, much to her dismay. This was my favorite rendition so far...the liver was perfectly trimmed and almost tasted like melting chocolate juxtaposed with the chutney. Amazing stuff, as was the Sauternes served with it, the Le Dauphin de Guiraud '02.
The hits just kept on coming with the Nova Scotia Lobster, enhanced with cilantro and a heady pine mushroom broth. The shellfish was succulent, the richness contrasted nicely by the bright herbs, and the broth was poured into the serving bowl from a heated cruet, adding a nice earthiness to the proceedings. One of our favorite whites, the Yalumba Viognier '05 accompanied and was another excellent choice.
Next was my favorite dish of the evening, perhaps my fave thing so far in 3 visits. Quail's Egg with Truffle and Butternut Squash ravioli still has me swooning every time I think about it. A lovely al dente ravioli was stuffed with the quail egg and served up in a gloriously rich sauce that offered a hint of gorgozola in the background. Luscious and rich, it was further luxurified by dots of truffle oil. The piece dé la resistance was a thin ruffle of marvelously smokey and salty Smithfield-style ham. It cut throught the richness like a balanced knife edge. The wine was a nice, dusky Pinot Nero "Savarda" '03, from Cantina Beato.
By now we were starting to slow down, but were eagerly looking forward to the next course. Another winning number, the Beef Tenderloin Poached in Red Wine with Chanterelles and Horseradish Chantilly was another beautifully conceived dish. Only drawback was we thought the tournedos could have been trimmed a bit better. There was plenty of beefy flavor, but the texture was a bit sinewy at times. It was coupled with the lusty Alejandro Fernandez "Condado De Haza" '03, from Ribiera Del Duero.
Mercifully we were winding down, with the cheese course up next. A lovely offering of tiger blue, sharp white cheddar and some pear slices went ultra-yummily with the 10-year Tawny Port from Taylor Fladgate.
Finally it was dessert...the Chocolate Hazelnut Frangelico Cake with Chocolate Sorbet and Vanilla Ice Cream Swirl. And because we had not consumed near enough food and drink, they insisted on plying us with 2 lovely glasses of Lustau Solera "East India", also from Portugal.
Apparently all the wine finally caught up with us as we forgot to take pictures. My apologies...
All in all another amazing meal, at my favorite restaurant anywhere. The kitchen is in fine hands when the head chef is away, and the dishes continue to impress with their quality of concept, preparation and ingredients.
The most expensive meal I've yet to enjoy, and worth every penny of it.
You are correct on the sous chef. We did not catch her name, but enjoyed watching her and the rest of the staff work. We always get the back booth directly across from the kitchen so we can watch the proceedings.
11 courses? OMG...I would've been one sated puppy. I was totally at the wall with the 7 courses we enjoyed.
This could very well become a regular anniversary celebration for us. We love the city, and there are a bevy of repositioning cruises to choose from around that time of year.
Hey groovin', great pics from West. Was the sous chef a girl in her mid to late twenties? If so, she prepared our last meal there in May, also very capably. I live across the rockies in Calgary and last time I ate at West I literally drove over night, spent the day walking around Vancouver until dinner, also on a Sunday night, had a great!! experience(11 course tasting), as usual, then turned around and drove home for an event on Monday evening in Calgary! Happy to see that someone else keeps the praise coming for good food. I have yet to have a meal elsewhere that matches the ones I have at West.