Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Perfect Birthday Dinner at Le Crocodile

Although I've meant to go to Le Crocodile (100-909 Burrard St., on Smythe, downtown Vancouver, 604-669-4298) in the past, a shared birthday dinner in October was my first time at this established Vancouver restaurant. They've been there, tucked away just off Burrard street, for over 20 years, and let me tell you, the experience shows. In my mind, the service was absolutely perfect, and the food was a delight. The charming French waiter looked like he had been at the restaurant for much of that time. I was pleasantly surprised by how many choices there were on the menu, as well as several specials. I have to admit, my expectations were high, and I think they were actually exceeded. Below are pictures of some of the dishes we had. I don't have pictures of the appetizers that Bac'n Girl and I had. The escargot in tiny pastry cups dish that I ordered was probably the only thing I wouldn't recommend of the dishes we had that evening. I was impressed by how crisp the pastry shells stayed but the dish just involved too much butter for me (yah, I didn't know that was even possible for me). I think Bac'n Girl had the wild mushroom ravioli which was really delicious. And we shared a beautiful pan-fried goat cheese on curly endive salad. That was great too, and much larger than I expected.

This was Bac'n Girl's main dish of Chilean Sea Bass, which was one of the specials of the day. I didn't order this because I think this species is still being overfished, but damn, is it ever a tasty fish. Those piles are potato purée, and she got a cute little pastry fish garnish. I can't remember the sauce right now, but do remembered we both enjoyed it.

Pommes frites came with dinner, yay! And they were really crispy and perfect.

This was the main dish that I chose, off the specials of the day. It was a beautiful piece of halibut served with a lemon butter sauce. The dish also had lobster tempura and noodles. It was delicious.

We were given complimentary servings of their fantastic pear sorbet. Best I've ever had, with its deep pear flavour and texture. It was a sizeable scoop too, not just a little palate cleansing mouthful. Bac'n girl impressed me with her ability to "Name That Pear!" and identified it as a Bosc pear sorbet. Yum.

Then came the desserts.

This is Bac'n Girl's pear tart, which was delicious.

I was very happy with my choice though - a Grand Marnier soufflé, which the server gracefully served in the traditional manner of poking a hole into the top and pouring in the yummy crème Anglaise. Soufflés are one of those things that are absolutely worth the wait. Though to be honest, I don't remember this taking longer than other desserts (but then again, we were engrossed in the pear sorbets). I have had soufflés before, but the texture of this one really knocked my socks off. I loved the crispness of the outside of the poof. This is the way it should be done. Dessert was finished off with their adorable little light and dark crocodile chocolates. Yup, we polished those off too.

The room was warm and cosy feeling, with its golden walls, traditional decor, and the animated chatter of all the happy people around us, filling the room on a Wednesday night. This was definitely not a stuffy atmosphere. As much as I love modern decor, sometimes they can veer towards the austere. This was a lovely change. There is a nice little bar where I had a drink while I was waiting for my dinner companion. Again, service could not be better. Our waiter graciously made us feel comfortable to linger and talk after desserts, and saw us out the door, like a host saying goodbye to dinner guests at home. I left the restaurant kicking myself that I hadn't walked through those doors sooner. This is partly because I couldn't afford it in the past. But if you can, it's a fantastic place to treat yourself and your friends.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Kitchen Nightmares

I was watching Kitchen Nightmares last night and I had the realization that the appeal of the show is exactly the same as the appeal of the classic show, The Littlest Hobo. Chef Ramsay is the grumpy, foul-mouthed chef version of that beloved German shepherd hero of Canadian television. Think about it. Ramsay wanders from town to town, he stops in and finds a restaurant in trouble, hangs around, barks a lot, solves their problems, and then happily trots off to the next restaurant in need once his work is done. In the episode I saw last night with Ramsay helping a restaurant in a small town called Paloma, they even did the classic shot of the hero wandering off into the distance at the end of the show (after everyone's teary-eyed thanks), and I got the exact same gooey, happy feeling at the end of the show that I used to get watching the ridiculously hokey, yet effective Littlest Hobo.