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.