Sunday, September 24, 2006

Pleasure and Pain - Elixir in the Opus Hotel, Yaletown

I had this amazing meal at Elixir Restaurant in the Opus Hotel in Yaletown...delicious, beautiful, interesting, deeply flavoured, perfectly served...a real pleasure. But a real pain came later...intense abdominal pain, fevers, chills, and the urge to poop within two hours of the meal. I did let the restaurant know, through email, and got a follow up reply asking me to call. I called and left a message, and then hadn't heard from them again. Oddly enough, I'm not holding a grudge...the meal was that good. Maybe it was because I was dining with Instant Noodle Girl, and her Cordon Bleu graduate hubby, who are great fun to overanalyze a meal with, but all the flavours and presentation really seemed to pop that night. Instant Noodle Girl and I even checked out the much talked about washrooms together at one point. They have a transparent wall disguised somewhat with a beaded curtain separating the men's and women's washroom, so presumably, you could give the hottie washing their hands on the other side of the wall a wink while you're washing yours. Unfortunately, there weren't any men to be silly with on the other side on our visits to the washroom. And yes, one of the urinals is visible from the women's side, if you're wondering. The mirrored wall above the sink featured cool blue lights, and mini monitors embedded at eye level so that you can check out the action in the Opus Hotel Lobby.

As trendy and pretentious as Yaletown has a reputation to be, this little modern French bistro was warm, cosy and welcoming. There are three rooms to choose from, one of which has dramatic red velvet banquettes, another is more of a summery, feminine patio, and the one we dined in is the main area, includes the bar, and has that French bistro feel, with leather banquettes, and brass bars.

Service was outstanding, with the manager making us feel like he was really taking care of us. I'm just guessing that he was the manager, with my clue being that he wasn't dressed in some ultra chic all black outfit as the other servers were. It IS a bit intimidating to see the servers better dressed than you are, but again, I felt only warmth, instead of pretension that evening. With this being a quiet night due to the fireworks, and this place being a fine dining restaurant, the service was really perfect, as it really should be at this level of dining. This is the kind of place that you will return to a neatly folded napkin, if you make a trip to the washroom. They were enthusiastic about the food, and the timing was great. Probably the only thing that could be improved was just checking on our water a little more frequently. They had the bottle of bubbly Vos water that we ordered in an ice bucket out of reach, which meant that we were dependent on the servers to repour. On the subject of drinks, I had the Serendipity cocktail, which was heavy on the sparkling wine, and lighter than I expected on the flavours from the Calvados, apple juice, and fresh mint. But let's talk about the food!

Amuse Bouche of Chilled Organic Tomato Soup

I really enjoyed this shot of chilled soup to start. It was sweet and tasty, and we tried to guess what went into it. I think we decided there must have been some garlic in it, but whatever it was, we all enjoyed it.

White Walla Walla Onion Soup

I couldn't stop saying "Walla Walla" all night long. This soup was a seasonal special. And we found out that Walla Walla's are sweet onions from Washington's Walla Walla Valley. They are available mid-June to September. Quite a nice soup, and very different from a traditional "French onion soup."

Tuna Tartare Special

I didn't order this one, but I had a bite and it was tasty. There were some really nicely balanced Asian flavours here that I can't remember exactly, like miso, and maybe sesame.

Tomato Tarte Tatin with Avocado Sorbet ($12)

This is the starter that I ordered, off of the Petit Plats menu. It was very sweet, and caramelly, just like a regular apple tart tatin. Definitely the first tomato tarte tatin I've ever had, and the avocado sorbet with it was light and lovely. It was still a bit like starting dinner with a dessert, but that's kind of fun. Not an appetizer for someone who doesn't like sweets, but for me, it was great. Really interesting, and different, yet familiar at the same time since it's based on a very traditional French bistro dish.

Pan Seared Wild Salmon with Sweet Corn and Green Onion Risotto and Tomato-clam Vinaigrette ($29.95)

Doesn't this dish look inviting? Beautifully cooked salmon - moist, and tender, not overcooked at all, but still with a great crispy skin.

Ahi Tuna with Coriander and Fennel Crust with Blackberry Ginger Gastrique, Roasted Cippolini Onions and Sauteed Collards ($30.95)

Assiette of Duck - Confit, Breast and Ravioli, with Armagnac Jus ($30.95)

This was my dish, and I loved it! I also suspect this might have been where the food poisoning occurred, because my dining companions didn't have any of this one, and they were fine. The armagnac jus with the duck breast was delicious (cooked medium rare, which the servers made a point of checking with me about), and I loved the creamy sauce under the confit leg too. And the duck ravioli was delicious, with a wonderful chewy pasta wrapping. And I loved the baby veggies too.

Lemon Curd Cheesecake with Blackcurrent Sorbet ($9)

I really enjoyed the bite I had of this lemon curd cheesecake.

Warm Chocolate Cake with Caramel Cardomom Ice Cream ($10)

My warm chocolate cake, with a gooey centre and a very nice cardomom ice cream was the perfect end to a very decadent meal. They made me a nice Americano when I asked for coffee. Their teas are loose leaf. All the little nice details add up to a wonderful place to have a substantial dinner. It won't be cheap, but I feel like it's worth it. I've only had one visit so far, but I'd definitely like to return. I can't imagine that I would get sick again, but I'll let you know if I do. Perhaps I just need to work on my fat tolerance? It was a very rich meal, but the fat and sugar is what makes it taste so good! Go ahead, splurge a little, calorically and monetarily.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Best Donut Joint Ever!

Okay, first of all, apologies for the lack of posting lately, and really this particular post might not be what Nancyland foodies are looking for, but there's some food porn on it's way soon, I promise. But in the meantime, I just wanted to say that I went to the coolest donut store ever last week - the Duffin's Donuts on 41st and Knight. That place has an amazing number of food options for a donut store. It has great cheap torta subs (Mexican sandwiches), pho (Vietnamese noodle soup), bahn mi (Vietnamese sandwiches), an array of fast food type Chinese food, AND donuts. And the place is open 24 hours! I had a bbq beef torta, that had a beef steak drenched in barbecue sauce, on a wonderful roll, with avocado and onion in it, along with lettuce and tomato (I think), and it was a whopping $3.50. I loved it. That was a good sandwich. I also had this incredibly sugary "buttermilk" donut (85 cents) that is quartered and stuffed with (in my case) custard cream. Yah, I gobbled that thing up, but I had to do it in two sittings. All fast food places should be like this place. There is a smaller Duffins on Main St. too. Please do not confuse this with "Nuffy's" and their nuppets. Possibly the worse donut store I ever went to, back when there was one at the westerly end of Robson St. That place was 24 hours, and I swear they had 3 nuppets and a donut there one night at about 9 pm. "When are you getting more donuts?" "Oh, probably not until the morning."'re a DONUT STORE, I almost said. Okay, I admit it, the real reason I like telling that story is because I like saying the word "nuppets." Can you blame me?

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Upcoming Birthday Festivities - Nancyland Meet, Anyone?

My birthday is coming up at the end of October, and I have traditionally (well, it's a new tradition, only a few years old) held a big dessert buffet extravaganza at my place, potluck style, complete with secret ballot voting for the grandmaster champion of desserts. There's fanfare, prizes, and adulation for that champion, and there's a dizzying array of sweets for everyone involved to indulge in. You can get one hell of a massive sugar high, and the ensuing sugar hangover, but I think it's worth it! I'm still thinking of throwing another one of those, but as much as I'd like to, I just can't invite the whole world safely into my home (though I imagine some of you Nancylanders could bring some pretty fabulous treats with you). So, I'd like to see if there's any interest in an October Nancyland meet at a public place. Please use the comments section to express interest, and to throw out ideas for a venue. Keep in mind, it should be hassle free - each person can show up and pay for themselves directly to the lounge/bar/restaurant. I would likely have it on a weekend, so perhaps the evenings of Friday October 13th or Saturday October 14th. Or perhaps on a weekday.

Last Year's Nancy's Dessert Buffet Winner - Bak'n Girl's Amazing Apple Frangipane Tart (a.k.a. That Apple Pie Thing)