This is my last post about Vancouver and then it’s back to food in London! As Father’s Day is coming up, I thought I’d take my father and brother out for dinner in Vancouver as I won’t see my father on the actual day itself. It was a toss-up between West (considered to be the best restaurant in Vancouver) and Market by Jean-Georges (a newcomer to the Vancouver restaurant scene but run by Jean-Georges Vongerichten) but in the end, Market won out, mainly because my wallet had been hit so badly the previous week.
Market bills itself as a “destination” restaurant – I found this very cheesy but went along with it anyway – why not? It’s located in the new Shangri-La hotel in Vancouver and is the first Vancouver restaurant of Jean-Georges Vongerichten. The restaurant is separated into four different areas: the terrace, the cafe, the bar and the formal dining room. When I booked, I was only given the option of the cafe and dining room – I suppose the terrace was already fully booked. Anyway, I chose the dining room.
We arrived about 20 minutes early to our reservation that night. Though the dining room was half empty, we were told our table was not ready and would we like to sit at the bar? Sure, we would!
[Break for humorous story. Two very skimpily dressed girls entered the restaurant just before us - I mean, looking like they just threw shirts over their bikinis and walked in. I entered the waiting area just in time to see an older couple ask the hostess what the dress code was for the restaurant. The hostess reassured them that what they were wearing was very suitable for the restaurant's business-casual code, which they were. The lady replied, "Oh, I was asking because..." and then waved her hand not-very-subtly towards the two young ladies. I almost burst out laughing. End humorous story break.]
At the bar we ordered a few drinks off the bar menu – a cherry yuzu soda for me, a Thai Rye for my brother, and a glass of a red wine that I’ve forgetten for my father. Along with the drinks, the barman brought over small bowls of rosemary popcorn and glazed nuts. These were topped up when we’d munched our way through them (how did that happen?!). My soda was alright.
When our table was ready (actually, it was ready when we arrived – I guess they were hoping not to overwhelm the kitchen with orders), we were brought to it along with our drinks and snacks. After being seated, we waited a good 5 minutes before menus were brought to us – very odd for a restaurant appearing to aim high. Luckily, it didn’t take too long for us to decide what we wished to eat.
My father started his meal with three Oysters on the half shell, Mignonette ($3 each). When he sees oysters on the menu, he’s sure to order them. The Mignonette turned out to be a shallot vinaigrette; a cocktail sauce was also served on the side. Three different oyster varieties were brought to him and he enjoyed each and every one.
For their appetisers, my brother and father both had the Dungeness crab cake, ginger-lime jus, marinated cucumber ($14). A large crab cake chock full of crab meat was served with slices of mango and the cucumber. The bite I had was quite good and they both cleaned their plates.
I started my meal with the Foie gras brulee, Meyer lemon-pineapple jam, rose seasoning ($16). A disc of foie gras pate sat on a circle of toasted brioche and its top was sprinkled with sugar and caramelised. Its rich creaminess paired well with the sweet-tartness of the jam. The rose seasoning was dusted onto the plate but I wasn’t sure what it added to the dish.
My main course was the Slowly cooked Arctic char, mashed potatoes, sugar snap peas, truffle vinaigrette ($23). My large fillet of tender char was cooked to medium (the waitress explained when I ordered that this was how the chef rolled) and sat on top of an equally generous serving of smooth mashed potatoes. The truffle vinaigrette was drizzled around the mound in the middle and while it was too strong by itself, it paired nicely with the char and potatoes.
My brother, who loves fish, went with the Pacific halibut, snow peas, almond broth, chili oil ($25). A large bowlful of fish in a creamy white broth was brought to him. I couldn’t taste the chili oil but I only had a small bite. My brother did enjoy it and would have drunk the broth too if it hadn’t been so rich.
My father, who loves beef, chose the Soy glazed short ribs, apple-jalapeno puree, rosemary crumbs ($22) for his main course. He liked it though the bite I had was a little chewier than I expected for something that flaked so easily after its long slow cooking.
In case there weren’t enough vegetables, my brother also ordered the Grilled asparagus, lemon juice, olive oil ($7) on the side. I loved the char on these stalks but I found the asparagus itself a bit flavourless – possibly due to being picked a long time ago? I am spoiled by the lovely asparagus from my farmers’ market!
My father dislikes dessert and anything else sweet and so skipped dessert. My brother who similarly dislikes sweet things surprised us by ordering the Warm chocolate cake, Tahitian vanilla ice cream ($8). I can’t remember much other than it was chocolatey.
I chose the Butter cookie, coconut cream, raspberries ($8) as so many seemed to be passing me throughout dinner – it was very popular! However, while everything was just about perfect (perfect crumbly/crisp butter cookie, perfect frosting-like coconut cream, perfectly ripe raspberries, lovely raspberry coulis in the centre), there was nothing novel about this dessert. It’s just a cookie, with fruit and some cream.
There was nothing really wrong with any of our food but I’ve never been so underwhelmed by someone of whom I had great expectations. I’m not thick – I don’t expect Vongerichten to actually be cooking in the kitchen – but I do expect that there’s something in the makeup of the dishes that makes me sit up and really pay attention. I recently happened upon a review of Jean-Georges (the restaurant in New York) at Dos Hermanos and was very surprised to see the same dishes (the foie gras and the halibut) at that three-star (Michelin) establishment. I’ve had much better and more interesting food at La Trompette and even Wild Honey in London (both one star) and overall better service too.
Market By Jean-Georges
(In the Shangri-La)
1128 West Georgia St