Nose-to-Tail and Back Again - A Chowdown at Fuel (Vancouver BC)
Eating High (and Low) on the Hog at Fuel
Fuel, as many here know, is one of Vancouver's premier localvore restaurants. This localvore ethic naturally should come with the concept of eating Nose-to-Tail...not wasting the precious Nasty Bits. Serving offal at premium restaurants is a growing trend....and why not? The stuff, when well prepared, is delicious.
Eight of us Chowhound regulars met at Fuel last night to partake in this special chef's menu....and the dinner did not disappoint. The entire meal contained pork - right down to the dessert. I had the well matched wine pairings...the standout was the red (was it the Motagu Merlot? Anyone remember?)
Amuse: Thin slice of lardo - cellophane thin and subtly savoury.
Spiced Pig Trotter Salad - nothing hoofy in its appearance at all. Prepared as a sliced sausage. Served with Fava beans two ways - fresh and deep fried (the deep fried version reminded me of Campagnolo's deep fried cecci).
Wild Leek, Potato Ravioli, and Fried Pigs Brain - all three components were outstanding. The fried brain is reminiscent in flavour and texture to a fried oyster.
Sloping Hill Farm Pork Belly Rack - this was just amazing. Here I go...I'm going to use the "U" word....it was Unctuous and buttery. Clearly a lot of good fatty bits incorporated into the roll.
High Point Farm Raspberry - this was served with crystallized bacon. Crystalized Bacon! (in a Homer Simpson voice).
We were served little candy treats (various nougats, and so forth after the dinners).
All the dishes were outstanding and it was hard to pick out my favorite....I think it was the Belly Rack....but the dessert bacon was a close second. I should mention that you should phone ahead if you plan to partake in this a Nose-to-Tail as it is not part of their regular menu.
1944 West 4th Ave, Vancouver, BC V6J 1M5, CA
I think yum-tacular is the word of the week (thanks to Tom at Fuel for coining it). After the first bite of pork belly, I was ready to throw in the fork and die happy. That meal is now in my top three best multi-course meals ever -- La Buca and La Ciccia are the others. Everything about it just worked for me.
Each course was beautifully presented without being fussy, the service was spot on, the flavours were true and strong, the ingredients fresh and local, the cooking expert without being rote (definitely a spark of passion there from Tom). Lots of nice details such as the whole rack being brought out on a platter for us food weasels to ogle and photograph before it was plated, a special mignardise of bacon fudge which reminded me of the panocha my dad used to make, willingness to split a wine pairing between two of us who wanted to try the flight but had to be with it the next morning and more. The pork belly and the dessert were the standouts for me as well -- in addition to the crystallized bacon there was a nifty almond candy in there, like upscale Skor bar, and the raspberries were gorgeous.
The staff really made us feel welcome and taken care of, but I don't think that is unusual behaviour for them :-). If you're wondering about the cost, the meal was $65 and the optional wine pairing was $40 for four full pours. For a meal of this calibre, I'd say this is an outstanding value. If someone took me here for a special occasion and pre-ordered this menu, I'd be in heaven. I just can't think of one thing to whinge about, and that may be a first :-). I even liked the merlot and I'm not a red wine drinker!
The Merlot was Tom's Montagu Cellars Three Barrel Merlot.
The Belly Rack was probably my favourite..... simply because it was just ridiculously awesome in all ways unhealthy goodness. Yum-tacular, if you wil.
But, the dessert was easily the most interesting and one of the better desserts i've had in a really long time... bacon and raspberries... who knew?