West is Best

My par­ents are vis­it­ing us for a few days, so we took some time out with them to enjoy the city, part­ly as tourists again. Tomor­row, They’re going to ride the Trol­ley and do some sight­see­ing and Tues­day we might do a lit­tle shop­ping. This morn­ing we went to the Muse­um of Anthro­pol­o­gy at UBC, which I’ve been to before, but I was busy play­ing in a Game­lan con­cert at the time. Yes­ter­day, we spent a lit­tle time chat­ting, walk­ing around near­by Granville Island, and going out to din­ner in the evening. That was a real high­light. West has the rep­u­ta­tion of being one of the best restau­rants in Van­cou­ver (in fact, for 2006, it won for best restau­rant of the year in the Van­cou­ver Mag­a­zine Restau­rant Awards, and the year before that, Best Chef of the year in the same pub­li­ca­tion — it was named as one of the 10 best restau­rants world­wide in the UK Sun­day Inde­pen­dent), and based on our expe­ri­ence, I’d have to agree.

The din­ing room is gor­geous: sleek and styl­ish with­out being stuffy with strik­ing pat­terns of met­al on the ceil­ing and a wall of wine bot­tles that takes up near­ly the entire north wall of the restaurant.

To start out, I had a Dun­ge­ness Crab and Alba­core tuna appe­tiz­er, a cool and refresh­ing sand­wich of two per­fect­ly cut and skinned slices of toma­to, filled with a chopped mix­ture of the two fish­es, as well as a sort of chunky avo­ca­do sauce (like a gua­camole), and it was sit­ting in a sort tart, lemo­ny apple and toma­to sauce.

My main course was Duck meat — hunks of breast meat and a leg, with onion crust­ed pota­to, a huck­le­ber­ry sauce (with fresh huck­le­ber­ries) and one of the most incred­i­ble things I’ve ever tast­ed: a Foie Gras ‘bon bon’. What’s that? The chef’s inven­tion: a round ball about the same size as tater tot, maybe a lit­tle big­ger. Bread­ed with a crunchy bat­ter and fried, the mid­dle con­tained an ooz­ing, incred­i­ble bit of foie gras (for the unini­ti­at­ed, that’s fat­tened duck liv­er, orig­i­nal­ly a French del­i­ca­cy that some have called cru­el, but upon clos­er inspec­tion, the prac­tice has been found not to be so bad. In fact, the ducks love being overfed, and despite their obe­si­ty as they approach the time that they’ll be ready for slaugh­ter, they are actu­al­ly bet­ter tak­en care of and lead more com­fort­able lives than most farm ani­mals. My moth­er, who shares my inter­est in gourmet cui­sine, gave me an arti­cle about the prac­tice, hence my being a bit more up on it these days). Cru­el or not, it was unbe­liev­ably deli­cious, and as I said to the wait­er: ‘This ought to be ille­gal’ — not for the pro­duc­t’s his­to­ry, but because it was so good that it real­ly felt more like a con­trolled sub­stance than mere­ly food. For desert I had a local Camem­bert, some warm wal­nut bread, glazed toast­ed hazel­nuts and some ele­gant­ly fans of sliced apples. My father, who has a great aver­sion to gar­lic, forced them to impro­vise, and the result was a piece of spring salmon with a love­ly white foam that seemed to enve­lope the fish. My moth­er had squab, stuffed with a minty cous cous and expert­ly sliced — the meat almost like chick­en liv­er in its rich­ness and tex­ture. Pam had tuna with a ‘decom­posed Salade Nicoise’, as the menu put it (some of the ele­ments of the same, but instead of being tossed togeth­er, ele­gant­ly arranged on her plate like a work of art).

Wait­ers were atten­tive and very well informed, and more than once they went to great pains to insure that every­thing was exact­ly as each din­er want­ed. It’s pret­ty amaz­ing to me that we have a restau­rant that in terms of ser­vice, ambi­ence and food is world class with­in walk­ing dis­tance. The last time we had food like this was in New York City at Aqua­vit a cou­ple of years ago (and unfor­tu­nate­ly I was­n’t feel­ing well enough to tru­ly indulge). We were all thrilled to be able to share a meal as good as this together.

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