Sunday, May 21, 2017

West Restaurant + Bar (Vancouver)

West Restaurant + Bar on Granville Street serves contemporary Pacific Northwest cuisine, and it is one of seven restaurants in the Toptable Group restaurant group. Helmed by Executive Chef Quang Dang, West came highly recommended by my good friend Mijune of Follow Me Foodie. Even though it was not on my Vancouver restaurant "hit list", I was more than happy to try out West given that Mijune and I have very similar taste in food.

West's sophisticated dining room boasts a temperature-controlled wine wall (on the right), a Werner Forster installation from the ceiling (Forster was a well-known Vancouver architect), etched stone tabletops, and Mario Bellini designed original chairs found at MoMA. There are also two chef's tables for guests who like to see all the action in the kitchen.

Pretty pink cocktails to start. Forgive me but I don't remember what spirit and ingredients were in them. All I remember is that they were very tasty and, contrary to how they may look, not crazy sweet.

Bread course.

You can never go wrong with cold and refreshing bubbly!

West (Instagram: @westrestaurantFacebook: West Restaurant + Bar) offers three kinds of tasting menus - sea, land, and vegetarian - but Chef Quang (@chefquangdang) did a special off-menu tasting menu for us that showcased a bit of everything.

Mole verde, red currant flower

An amuse, yes, but already so good. If this was any indication of how dinner will be then I'm a very happy girl. I really enjoyed the bright and fresh mole verde with the halibut (verde is the lightest and freshest-tasting mole of Oaxaca's "seven moles"), and the dish came out very vibrant and deeply flavoured.

Have you seen such a small geoduck before? I certainly haven't. Chef Quang wanted us to see this adorable baby geoduck before we...well, it. It's not the prettiest of mollusks but I still found it cute.

Cucumber, jalepeno, watermelon radish

If you've never had geoduck before, think of it as a cross between a chewy clam and a tender abalone, but crisper in texture than either. Personally, I think geoduck is best served sashimi style (I've had tough versions of it cooked). Here, the crunch from the cucumber and radish worked well with the geoduck, and the jalepeno brought out the sweetness of the oceanic clam. This ceviche had a nice flavour contrast to the previous ceviche, as this was more delicate and the halibut was more bold.

Coho Haida Gwaii Salmon, shoyu ikura, fresh local wasabi, miso mustard

The Haida Gwaii of BC have some of the best salmon fishing in the entire world, and it's not everyday that I get to have Coho salmon so I felt extremely lucky. If you haven't noticed already, Coho salmon has a darker, reddish-orange meat than most other types of salmon. Profile wise, it's medium fatty with a milder flavour than Sockeye or King Salmon. I love how it's prepared here. The Coho was thickly sliced, like steaks, and because of its lighter flavour, I found Chef Quang's use of ikura (for savouriness) with miso mustard and fresh wasabi (for a slight heat) to be very smart and thoughtful. The dish overall was very well balanced.

Caramelized onion, caramelized onion broth

The natural sweetness of the caramelized onions enhanced the taste of the prawns, but the highlight of the dish was actually the caramelized onion broth. Both Mijune and I were shocked that it was a pure vegetarian broth (i.e. no beef stock) since it was so intense in flavour. Just by looking at the colour of the broth you could probably tell how sharp and deeply flavoured it was. This broth was a umami bomb!

Bird’s eye chili, rice cracker, miner’s lettuce

I have to admit, the slight grayish hue of the tartare irked me, but taste wise it was good and very flavourful. The rice cracker was extremely thin so I couldn't really use it to "scoop" any of the tartare but it provided a nice crisp quality to it.

Smoked Yukon gold potato ravioli, local brown truffle vinaigrette, celeriac puree, miner’s lettuce, pickled fingerling potato disk.

This course hits all the right notes: creamy, filling, and comforting. Although stuffing ravioli with potato seem plain, it's very classic and its gently chewy consistency was delicious. Paired with the silky celeriac puree and the fragrant brown truffle, the ravioli was very satisfying to eat, especially after all the seafood dishes. Carbs do wonders.

Soy sake glaze, sake kasu emulsion, squid ink tuille, daikon, enoki mushrooms, broccoli, nori

Sablefish, butterfish, black cod, whatever you want to call it, is highly prized for an intensely luscious, buttery flavour, which is why it's one of my favourite type of cooked fish. The richness of the sablefish was pleasantly complemented by the mild-flavoured daikon and the earthy enoki. The broccoli and nori also added nice texture.

Seasoned asparagus, crisp kale, pork bone broth

This was my least favourite presentation of the evening. I was surprised with it because the rustic plating seemed a bit inconsistent with the rest of the courses. Nonetheless, visuals aside, both the pork belly and the pork bone broth were superb.

Yarrow Meadows duck breast, puy lentil jus, foie gras jus, microgreens, fava beans

Duck breast and lentils. I cannot get enough of this combination. I've never had these two ingredients at the same time before but it's friggin amazing! There's something about pairing those perfectly cooked peppery puy lentils with meaty duck breast, a result that is so warm and soothing to eat. And of course, the foie, which slowly melted into a jus with the lentils, elevated the dish several notches. This was a really decadent and savoury plate.

SORREL ICE CREAM (palette cleanser)
Red currant flowers, lemon verbena syrup

This was so good it should be twice the size :)

Tofu cheesecake wrapped in Japanese egg crepe, Usuyaki Tamago ice cream, plum syrup, citrus salt, banana and sesame tuille.

Not the most exciting looking dessert but don't judge a book by its cover - this tofu cheesecake really delivered. I was honestly shocked at how good this was, from the smooth and light tofu cheese cake and the thin egg crepe, to the Usuyaki Tamago (egg crepe flavoured) ice cream and sweet plum syrup. This was the perfect dessert for me (and probably most Asians) because it was light and sweet, but not too sweet.


This dessert was very different than the tofu cheesecake but it was still very good, especially because the cake was soft and moist, and I could really taste the wine. Even though this was a richer dessert it was still not too sweet (yay!) and the blackberry sorbet was fantastic. The portion was just right since we've already had a lot to eat by now.

Almond and cherry truffle, pistachio shortbread, orange blossom truffle, raspberry passion fruit gel, caramel truffle, and tiramisu macaron.

I was blown away by this menu. Chef Quang went to great lengths incorporating the freshest seafood and local ingredients, showcasing them in the best way possible. There were bold flavours on the menu, which I love, yet everything was very well-balanced with no one ingredient overpowering another. Every single seafood course was outstanding, and even the meat courses were stellar as they were executed with much more restraint than what I'm used to in Toronto (i.e. way more balanced, less rich on rich).

West was my second dinner in Vancouver and I was already floored. I had seven more dinners to go. "Will another restaurant be able to top this?", I thought to myself, and even Mijune agreed that it could be tough. I can confidently tell you now that this dinner was indeed my favourite during my stay in Vancouver, and that speaks volumes considering I visited many awesome restaurants during my 9-day stay there.

*This meal was complimentary. The opinions and views expressed on this post are my own*

Related Post:

West Restaurant + Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato