Sunday, December 30, 2007

I Miss Summer!

Remember the days of sitting on a seaside patio sipping a crisp white wine, and eating seasonal local produce like heirloom tomatoes, while the sun leisurely sets itself down in a clear sky? I can't wait for those warm summer evenings! I love that the days keep getting longer. Here are some photos of a summer meal on the Nu (1661 Granville Street, just under the bridge on the Concord Pacific side of False Creek, 604-646-4668) patio to remind you what it was like. I had an heirloom tomato and longbeen salad with a little shaved fennel, a big bowl of mussels with a really nice glass of white wine I wish I could remember, and this lovely fresh cherry tart with black pepper sorbet. I remember stellar service, complete with competent wine recommendation, and a cosy little lap blanket to keep me warm as the sun set next to the Granville Island view.

Simple and Beautiful - Heirloom Tomato Salad

Cherry Tart with Black Pepper Sorbet

This dessert was delicious, though quite different from the brilliant mini desserts that were originally on the menu. I really enjoyed the black pepper sorbet with the rich cherry tart. And something that doesn't happen too often these days for me - I actually had a hard time choosing because several desserts on the menu piqued my interest. I really enjoy the little service details at Nu too, such as their regular coffee coming in a cute silver pot, giving you several cups of coffee. This was a spur of the moment quick meal that renewed my faith in Nu. Now if we could only get them to take that damn music off their website.

Saturday, December 29, 2007


I was thinking about expectations today, and I'm starting to think one way to have real success is to set up people to have relatively low expectations, and then surprise them by exceeding them. I've talked about this before in several posts, including my experience at the very casual (and now closed) Lucky Diner where the food quality and service really knocked my socks off because of how casual the restaurant was. The photo above is another example. It's the "portabello" brunch dish at Lift Restaurant in Coal Harbour. They highlight the portabello mushroom in the menu description, and make it the star of the dish. But then the dish comes, and you have this bounty of fresh seafood surrounding the single mushroom cap, and some nice little potato pancakes, and suddenly you're thinking "Wow, look at all the seafood!" It's quite a nice dish, and you can't beat the view on a sunny day, but be warned that the service was just so-so when I went on a weekend afternoon a few months ago. The hostess initially tried to stick me at the bar because I was alone, even though there were tables, and I had a hard time flagging down a server to even take my order, and managed to only flag down the other server two times when I needed one, rather than the one assigned to my table. Good service at the fine dining level usually means not having to "flag" someone down at all, and at the most, it should just take a bit of eye contact.
Expectations are also set by what you receive at other surrounding restaurants. I wasn't even consciously aware that I was getting used to a certain amount of underlying snobbiness in fine dining service until I walked into Senova for the first time, and was pleasantly and warmly greeted by the host, given my pick of tables, and checked on throughout the meal by the server and the host. That meal was a success because they exceeded my low expectations based on my recent experiences at other restaurants. I ate out constantly in Spain, Italy and France on my trip for a couple of weeks, and never ran into the service problems that I've had here...not even in the simplest places there, and they don't even work for tips there, plus they had to deal with a tourist that didn't even speak their mother tongue. I really think we could do better here.
I am aware that I am a person prone to having high expectations in a lot of areas of my life. Right now, I'm realizing that sometimes it's nice to have slightly lower expectations, and to just be mellow and enjoy things for what they are. But around the corner, there's usually a pleasant surprise waiting. Here's to getting your expectations exceeded.