Wednesday, May 30, 2007

And The Winner of the Best New Restaurant of the Year is...

Nu! Though the news of this is certainly not new. Here are photos from the EnRoute Air Canada Magazine 2006 award ceremony/press release/cocktail party in that I was invited to way back in November that I have talked about in other posts. Vancouver was well represented by Nu, in first place, and Rare, placed at No. 5. I was a much bigger fan of Rare, personally, but now that patio season has rolled around again, I will probably find myself at Nu again. Though I do hope they have some time to mix things up a little and rework their menu. Their stuff is exciting and fun the first couple of times, but I want to see new (haha, sorry, I just can't stop) things from them. I have not had a chance to re-visit Rare, after their (sous?) chef Quang Dang left. The party was a great time though, and my first media event resulting from this blog, so this was all quite exciting for me. I was once frenetically invited to talk on CBC Radio, but wound up missing out on that opportunity unfortunately. The event organizers for the EnRoute Magazine event, in an attempt to be coy about who won, sent out the invite to the event with the address and yet not the name of the restaurant. Nu had an opportunity to show off their game at this event in the form of neverending cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, including one of their most talked about signature items - a little fried oyster impaled on beer-filled pipet. This is meant to squeeze the cold beer right into the hot little oyster as it goes into your mouth. I'm happy enough with a dry, crispy, salty battered oyster without the beer, myself, but it's certainly fun to try.

Crispy Oyster with Granville Island Lager Injection

Ginger Beer Cocktail - this is a really nice cocktail that I have ordered a few times at Nu. Lots of interesting things happening in it, with the spicy ginger beer and the muddled mint.

Beet Chip with Creme Fraiche

Tuna Tartare

Lobster Bisque. I think I enjoyed this little cup of soup the most out of the bunch of nibblies that came out. These were all labour intensive hors d'oeuvres incidentally. Almost all of them required the serving staff to come back and grab the serving vessel, utensil, or lab equipment it came with. I'm not too sure about this trend. The little cups or chinese spoons do make for beautiful presentation, and opens up a variety of foods that would not otherwise be able to be served in this format, and the staff were quickly swooping in to collect them, so you weren't left trying to find a place for the little things, but I quite enjoy the more old-fashioned idea of being creative with various edible carriers.

This is me getting on TV! And yes, a coworker confirmed for me the next day that he saw me on the news.

My Favourite Part of Nu's Decor - the Neon Chandelier

Harry Kambolis accepting Best New Restaurant in Canada for Nu

Tim of Rare which made No. 5 in the Top Ten New Restaurants in Canada. A very friendly guy and I hope all goes well for his new restaurant. I haven't heard anything about Metro since chatting with him about this at this event in November, but I'll look out for it. There is a slew of new restaurants I want to try these days, and it sounds like some of them have had enough time to get into their groove.

Nu's Kitchen

The Busy Bar (note the lovely cocktails ready to go, and Jamie Maw)

Duck Rillette with Cranberry Jelly, and a stubby pretzel to eat it with

Drunk and hungry for something more substantial, I tottered along the seawall until I found myself at Fiddlehead Joe's. I posted about my lovely experience there before, and I was truly pleasantly surprised by the place. Below are the photos from this again. For more details, see my Christmas post.

Beet Panna Cotta, Fiddlehead Joe's

Meringue in Chocolate Chili Sauce

Monday, May 21, 2007

Lucky Diner

This one even surprises me. I mean, I expected to like this place before I even got there, just because I knew that it is one of Sean Heather's establishments, and I can tell the man has taste in food, style (someone who really appreciates the Gastown neighbourhood) and lures quality staff just from having gone to Salt. But a diner in Yaletown? For a girl who loves going to old dingy Chinese-run "authentic" diners that still have 70's glassware hanging around and duct tape on their vinyl booths, isn't this place going to feel overpriced, ingenuine, and snooty? The answer? Not at all. I loved it. I loved it so much, I had to go back just to make sure it wasn't the Jim Beam bourbon milkshake (which I loved too) that was making me bourbon goggle the place. I ate at this place three times in the span of a week and a half (partly because I almost lost my new camera there). Something about the place makes you feel as if whatever you are eating is the best in its class. I found myself wondering "are these the best onion rings I've ever had?" and that's a hell of a lot of fun when you find yourself thinking that thought for just the garnish! There were a few lovely batter-covered onion rings stacked on top of the steak dinner I ordered on a return visit. They just go ahead and call their Reuben "The Best Dang Reuben Sandwich" which is what I ordered on my first visit. With a side dish, it was only $11, which I thought was really reasonable since the time I bought some of Mike Vitow's corned beef at Granville Island, the smallest chunk I could get was $10, which made about a sandwich and a half. So upon seeing the prices, I was pretty happy and feeling like I was going to get good value, which was a nice surprise in Yaletown. I wasn't even expecting the $11 to include a side dish. For my side dish, I chose the green salad since I figured ordering fries on top of ordering a fat reuben and a bourbon milkshake must break some sort of law of decency somewhere. I'm all for indulgence, but sometimes you've got to set some sort of limit. The dressing on the salad was nicely balanced - something that I think I must be a bit sensitive to these days, as a lot of times, I feel like dressings are too sour. And on top of that, have you ever received an "amuse bouche" in a diner? The charming and attractive waiter brought me a lovely bowl of their tomato cumin soup. Very yummy. Um, I mean the soup, of course...

Anyhow, this restaurant is really suited to my taste lately. High quality food in a completely casual and comfy environment. I wouldn't be able to find a speck of snootiness in that establishment if I had a magical snoot-detecting magnifying glass. Okay, that was an awkward phrase. Let me elaborate. That steak dinner I mentioned with the great onion ring garnish? It also had for its veggie sides: golden beets, braised fennel, and swiss chard! I've had this theory about the key to setting up a really successful restaurant is to set yourself up to exceed people's expectations, and this place is perfect for that. Make it a diner so that people are just expecting typical fare, and then blow their socks off with the ultimate versions of those classic comfort foods. The steak dinner also came with buttermilk smashed potatoes, and the meat was tender and not overcooked (which I'm also a bit sensitive about, having recently had a medium rare order come to me totally brown at a chain restaurant). So I got this great main dish that would hold its own in a finer dining establishment, yet I felt totally comfortable sitting in the room with my grungy work cargo pants. The perfect comfort food restaurant. The slogan? "Come sad, leave happy." The burger I had one night was really thick and beefy, on a great housemade roll, and it had a wonderfully agressively horseradishy sauce on it. (I think it takes some balls to put a sauce like that on a standard item like a burger, and have the confidence that people will like it). I had the fries with that one and found myself playing with the thought "are these the best fries I've ever had?"

And just now, as I'm typing this post (a redo of a post I worked on earlier but lost during my recent computer death), I just did a search for the link to their online menu again, and found the news on Urban Diner that the place is closing! Just when I found my perfect "neighbourhood" restaurant. They even get their coffee from the place I like getting my coffee from - JJ Bean. Oh well, all good things must come to an end I suppose. I just wished I had found it earlier. I really wanted to make my way through the entire menu. I especially wanted to try the mac and cheese, and potato salad. Looks like I'll be trying to make my way back before the place closes, if it hasn't already. Perhaps someone will take over, for a third time (it was originally Diner before Lucky Diner, and I didn't have any interest in visiting then). Anyhow, it may not have been appreciated by the masses, but I certainly was a fan.