Monday, January 09, 2006
Lift-ing My Spirits
Okay, I'll be honest, I was prepared for the worst, when I visited Lift. Lift is the type of restaurant that I consider well out of my price range, targeted to the fashionable, hip, and well-to-do. I also haven't been all that interested in dining there for it's million-dollar view (in Coal Harbour), since I'm lucky enough to be able to get that view for free everyday (and so can anyone else - just go for a walk or bike ride on the paths down there anytime). So I was mentally bracing myself for a snobfest, and possibly a place that relies too heavily on the visuals (view, crowd, architecture, interior design), when I had the idea to stop by for a quick late night cocktail for a chance to check out the interior, and some fun cocktail combinations without breaking the bank. It was about 9:45 on a Friday night. Since Dine Out Vancouver has sold out so quickly this year, it occurred to me that we could check the place out on any night, now that it's possible to have a drink at a restaurant bar without being obligated to order a meal. Incidentally, the Lumiere Tasting Bar is another way to check out the place extremely reasonably. So Cheeseboy and I go in, and the place is beautiful as expected - the bar itself is lit up, there's a gorgeous fish tank at the entrance, the huge windows make you feel like you're out on the water even when you're inside the first floor room, and there is a definite hip, modern vibe going on. What I didn't anticipate was how friendly the staff were, how comfortable we were made to feel sitting there at the bar, and how much I would like the menu. I discovered their Whet on Wet menu. Beautiful little pairings of a drink and a bite ($12 each). Cheeseboy had the Opulence. The menu describes the pair: "seared and chilled foie gras with saffron poached pear captivate a fusion of golden pear liqueur and sparkling wine." It was a beautiful combination, and I think it actually made a foie gras convert out of me (as long as I don't think about the geese too much, I guess)! I have had foie gras at some very nice places (including Lumiere) as part of set menus, but it has never grabbed me, despite the fact that I actually like the taste of chicken liver. I don't tend to order it. This stuff was delicious, with that nice bit of crispiness on the outside. I had the Ambrosia: "ice wine, vanilla vodka and crushed grapes finesse a frizee of poached lobster, tarragon and vanilla vinaigrette." I really enjoyed this. Both were beautifully presented, yummy, and so much fun to taste. Our bartender/server was very welcoming, and all the staff appeared to be having a good time at the bar. The upstairs patio looked great, and I can imagine it to be a very nice place to dine in the summer, especially since I've heard that they have a non-smoking patio for those of us who like patios but don't want all that smoke in our faces. And the experience did lift my spirits in general, because I was starting to lose faith in finding unpretentious service at "non-ethnic" restaurants in town. A place that I thought could be the height of pretension wound up being one of the least pretentious experiences I've had lately. Somehow they managed to make me feel that they live up to their hype and surprisingly, in no way did I feel like anything looked overpriced (mains are $25-35). And there are plenty of fun things on their food menu. If we had had the time and the appetite, I would have been tempted to sample their "Whet plates," tapas type plates ($10 - $21), including their take on poutine which has beef tenderloin, mushroom ragout, petit pont neuf (stacked pomme frites), and bocconcini! I was thinking "uh oh," since this place is so conveniently close to me, and hanging out at the bar could easily become a dangerous habit. Anyway, I am aware that expectations are everything, and it definitely helps that my expectations were low here, but I dare you to try this place without enjoying it, even if it's just for a little nightcap in the middle of a waterfront stroll.