Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Parkside

I was completely charmed by this restaurant. The whole restaurant has this great tucked-away feeling (being in a quiet residential area in the West End near Stanley Park, hence “Parkside”). Just perfect for an intimate dinner to talk the night away, the room is elegantly casual, and the service was special. It was fairly empty when we went, on a Monday night, but I get the feeling that their service is always up to snuff. There were nice touches to the service, like when we ordered coffee and tea with dessert, they automatically brought both cream for the coffee as well as milk for the tea. I should say that I went in wanting to love this place since we went for a birthday dinner, and chose from a big list of nice restaurants that we have both wanted to try. I was not disappointed. I think the menu is priced very reasonably for this level of dining, with the three course dinner for $40. Dishes can be ordered a la carte as well ($10 first course, $24 main course, $8 dessert), with additional cost for cheese course and for the rack of lamb main.

The cooking is described as classically grounded, using fresh local ingredients. The menu included traditional dishes from various countries, so that when I quickly browsed the internet for these dishes, it was like taking a mini culinary class on international foods. Again, I find that absolutely charming. I learned about vitello tonnato (thinly sliced veal with a tuna “mayonnaise” on top, from Italy), pithivier (puff pastry dessert traditionally filled with an almond cream, named for the town of Pithiviers, from France), and dulce de leche (“milk jam” from Argentina, a dessert or spread made from caramelizing sugar in milk).

We started with a couple of very pleasing cocktails from their fun list, the El Cid, and the Dark and Stormy. For the first course, I chose the salad of duck confit, endive, roasted beets, and walnuts. My dining companion chose Roquefort and Prosciutto di Parma, arugula and fennel salad, with blood oranges, Pietra Pinto olive oil. Both combinations worked wonderfully, and made for a very satisfying start to the meal. The poppy seed bread they served that night was wonderful too.

For my main, I had the fillet of halibut, wrapped in Parma ham, wild mushrooms, spring vegetables, and roast chicken jus. The vegetables, sitting in roast chicken jus, were beautiful, including morels, baby asparagus, pearl onions, root vegetable cubes, baby carrots, and other wild mushrooms. I definitely enjoyed the dish. However, I probably wouldn’t choose this one next time. I think I gravitated to this dish because I hadn’t ever had halibut wrapped in Parma ham and served with chicken jus before, but in the end, I found the combination to be a little too much for the fish, and a bit too salty for my taste. I think my companion’s dish of seared Alaskan scallops, shrimp, spinach and corn risotto, tomato and garlic butter jus worked better. That tomato and garlic butter sauce was lovely.

The desserts were beautiful. I chose the absolutely adorable caramel trio of dulce de leche, honeycomb parfait, and crème caramel. I could have had a big bowl of that honeycomb parfait, with its smooth creaminess and bits of crunch. I loved the smooth textures of all three, and enjoyed the beautiful presentation and garnishing (like the macerated raisins on the crème caramel). The chocolate pithiviers, espresso cream, Viarhona chocolate ice cream made me change my mind about puff pastry (which I tended to shy away from in the past, thinking of dry versions that are like eating a paperback). The dessert has a warm gooey chocolately centre, wrapped in a nice dome of pastry. Even the little biscotti served with the coffee and tea were really tasty and charming. I almost feel like I should put a spoiler alert in these posts for things like that, because those little extra touches, like serving a biscotti with your coffee, are best as surprises, that show off the restaurant’s particular attention to detail, and that make the meal feel extra special.

My only regret is that I didn’t take a peek at their patio, which is supposed to be really nice in the summer. I guess I’ll just have to go back when the weather warms up!

1 comment:

Dumpling_Girl said...

Please note that the halibut dish I described, wrapped in Parma ham is now changed on their menu. In fact, it's one of the few things that have changed on their menu. The halibut has had a couple of different configurations in the two days since my post (probably a coincidence, right?). It's neat that they update their website menu daily!