West - a Vancouver institution, and birthplace of David Hawksworth - in my opinion, the most talented chef in Vancouver.
But this post today is not about David Hawksworth - rather, his successor, Quang Dang.
Now, I’ve been to Hawksworth on numerous occasions and was blown away every time, so suffice it to say West had some serious shoes to fill. I suppose you’re always a little skeptical when a famous chef leaves a restaurant to open his own place, but West did in no way disappoint.
I opted for the land tasting menu, and my date went for the sea tasting menu. I’m a big fan of doing tasting menus whenever possible because it’s really a chef’s greatest showcase. That and you get more food and more tastes. For any fat girl/foodie/binge & purger it’s an easy choice. I’ll only really be commenting on my own dishes because they’re the only ones I tasted - but I’ve got photos of everything, at least!
And I got the wine pairings because I’m a drunk. Whatever. Don’t look at me while I drink.
Honestly, I can’t remember what the hell this is. Some sort of croquette. With a yuzu vinaigrette. But I remember not being able to taste the yuzu, because I love yuzu and was a little bummed. Delightful, regardless.
First Course - Land
Foie Gras Pate, Spiced Apple Jelly, Frisee, Brioche
Paired with: Pfaffenheim Gewurtztraminer 09, Alsace
Without a shadow of a doubt this was one of the single best foie gras dishes I’ve had in my life. Now if you don’t know what foie gras is, it’s goose liver. It’s boycotted by many (it’ll be illegal in California July 1) because the geese are force-fed with funnels to excess to fatten them up and make their livers swell up with fat. Being strapped down and force fed - that’s pretty much my idea of heaven and I’d pay someone to do it if I wasn’t just a poor blogger so I don’t see what the big fucking deal is. (I’m just kidding - legitimately it’s terrible but it’s SO good - order it and spank yourself later). But to each their own. Regardless, the texture was absolute velvet.
The spiced apple jelly was a really wonderful addition - acidity but familiarity - making the goose liver pate somewhat reminiscent of a luxurious christmas dinner. Only complaint is there wasn’t enough brioche for the more-than-ample serving of foie. So I used my table bread too.
The wines of Alsace sing to my wino heart, and Gewurtztraminer is a grape varietal often seen on the bottles littering the floor of my tiny one bedroom apartment on a Wednesday morning. Light, refreshing, palate cleansing and perfect with fatty fatty goose liver.
First Course - Sea
Citrus Cured Steelhead Trout, Poached Kumquats, Fromage Frais, Parsley
Paired with Sumac Ridge Brut “Steller’s Jay” ‘07 - BC
I didn’t try it (as I was face planted in goose liver whilst clutching my wine glass and quietly sobbing) but I was a little jealous my date got sparkling. I’m jealous of the booze in anyone else’s glass, really.
Second Course - Land
Thiessen Quail, Pemberton Beets, Toasted Almond Gel
Paired with Laughing Stock Chardonnay 09, OK Valley
This was awesome. I LOVE beets (probably because they have the highest sugar content of any vegetable - big surprise) and the preparation here was lovely. Some house pickled, some raw, varying colours and textures. Add to that beautifully cooked quail that’s both crispy and supple - the richness of the meat cut beautifully by the tart pickled beets. The almond gel added a really nice round finish to the entire taste combination.
Now, I generally don’t like chardonnay. I’m just not a huge fan of oak in white wine, but here, the chardonnay was lovely. It’s the almond in the dish that really made the fullness of the wine work here.
Second Course - Sea
Vancouver Island Octopus, Cracked Olives, Barigoule Vinaigrette
Pairing: Cantele “Alticelli” Fiano ‘09. Apulia
I don’t get super preachy about eating specific animals, but octopus is one of those things that I am reluctant to eat. Octopi are insanely intelligent. They’ve been seen using tools. That puts them in a comparable intelligence bracket with primates, elephants & canines. Plus, I ate a fair bit in Argentina before I found out about their intelligence level and feel rull bad about it.
So, I didn’t try this. But my date said it was lovely. I politely held my tongue (because I hate when fucking vegans start their PETA rants while I’m elbow-deep in a bucket of KFC.)
Third Course - Land
Foraged Mushroom Risotto, Pickled Veal Tongue, Thyme. Truffled Pecorino.
Pairing: Poggio Vignoso Chianti 10, Tuscany
This was easily the dish of the evening for me. Honestly, risotto is one of those things that should NOT be put on a menu unless you know what you’re doing. These guys know what they’re doing. Foraged mushrooms - earthy, lovely. Pickled veal tongue (don’t focus on what it is) rather, imagine a wonderfully tender and thinly shaved piece of meat that melts in your mouth. Then, truffled pecorino - salty, with that background of truffle that is so so subtle. I can’t stand overpowering truffle but this was just right. But the best part?
These guys go through a crazy process with their arborio rice - they buy it in advance and age it in house *i believe* in steel barrels. Real risotto should never have cream in it - and this one certainly didn’t. The rice was firm and al dente put perfectly tender and creamy. Creaminess in risotto should come from the starch in the rice. That’s why arborio rice is so prized - it’s high starch content.
I’ll know I’ve found the man for me when I can find someone who makes risotto this well - hell mine is nowhere near this good. It’s good, but this - this is some life changing risotto.
And guys, I’m not kidding. All I want in life is a feeder, mmkay?
The wine was lovely, but truth be told I was so enthralled in my risotto I didn’t drink it until afterward.
Third Course - Sea
Shellfish Bisque, Brioche Croutons, Truffle Froth
Pairing: Miner “Simpson Vineyard” Viognier ‘09, California
I did get a chance to taste this bisque and it was lovely and rich - the froth was a nice touch. But again, risotto distraction.
Fourth Course - Land
Blackberry Crusted Peace Country Elk, Smoked Shallots, Potato Pave, Rosemary Jus
Pairing: Montes “Alpha” Syrah ‘09, Colchagua Valley
West is the type of restaurant where you can know, comfortably, that all the meats are locally sourced and ethically raised. That said, I really love game meats because the likelihood of ethical treatment is far higher for exotic meats.
This was an awesome meat and potatoes dish. Elk is incredibly lean so it needs to be quite rare, but it was mild and delicious. The rosemary jus was on point, the braised shallots sweet and mellow, cabbage slightly tart and the potato pave was flakey and rich.
The wine pairing was perfect - the Syrah was rich and jammy and paired beautifully with the elk - most game meats need a bigger wine to stand up to their flavors, like Cabernet, Syrah or Barolo. This was just perfect.
Fourth Course - Sea
Haida Gwaii Ling Cod, Porcini Tortellini, Brussels Sprouts
Pairing: Drouhin-Vaudon Chablis ‘09, Burgundy
So honestly, for most of the night I kinda felt bad for my date because my food just seemed generally better. I was making all sorts of horrifying noises while eating and my date was silent and very polite. Don’t get me wrong, the food was all wonderful but my menu that night really was exceptional.
All that aside, this dish was fucking sexy. I was blowing it kisses from across the table. Awkward for my date? Sure. But when I see something I want in me I go for it.
CRISPY FISH SKIN IS EVERYTHING. This was beautiful! Porcini tortellini! Brussels sprouts! BONER! Expertly prepared and the plating was outstanding. Never tried the wine pairing but I was suitably impressed.
Warm Manjari Chocolate Pudding, Condensed Milk Ice Cream
Pairing: Chapoutier Banyuls ‘09 Languedoc-Rousillon
I’m gonna come out and say it: I’m not a huge chocolate guy. Little bits here and there but on the whole it’s not my fave. This was very nice, and the ice cream was very rich and silky. The pairing was well done, a port-style wine with chocolate notes of its own.
Tofu Cheesecake Wrapped in Omelette Crepe, Coconut Rice Pudding, Mango
Pairing: Quail’s Gate Optima 10, OK Valley
This sort of dessert is far more up my alley - I’m really a fan of cheese/fruit/pastry. Cheesecakes and tarte tatins make me weak at the knees and tight in the pants, and this playful take on cheesecake was really creative.
It’s rare that a restaurant who that is so well known for its Chef is able to maintain its quality and creative flare when that Chef leaves. But Chef Dang has some mad skills and I’ll be thinking of this meal for quite some time. Definitely back again soon.
West gets a crazy 4 3/4 Rachael Ray nip slips out of 5!