by Lauren Mote
I often wonder when I go out for a snack, a meal or grocery shopping, am I really that picky? Or does the public stomach eat whatever is put in front of them BECAUSE it’s called food? I feel like the mouse in Disney’s animated film, Ratatouille, he just loves food so much that he would rather go hungry then eat garbage. Sounds exactly like me, except the mouse part.
Let me regale a story about last night. My partner and I decided to go out for dinner, somewhere mid-price range, located in our neighbourhood (Yaletown), and a rating of at least 4/5 stars on average, pertaining to the food, service and ambiance. We found a restaurant baring all of those characteristics, happily, 2 minutes from our apartment. While browsing the dinner menu online, John notices the Hanger Steak; he hasn’t had one in ages, he’s excited, and I am wiping his drool off my keyboard.
We get ready for a casual evening, despite the rainy weather, and made our way up the street. Yaletown is perfect for us, we can always find something to suit us, regardless of what we feel like eating, feel like wearing, or feel like spending. Hamilton Street Grill, located just south of Nelson on Hamilton, is situated amongst beautiful cobblestone walls, and looks really inviting to people from the outside, and this fact would prove true during the course of our meal tonight.
Upon entering, we are greeted by a server, doubling as the maitre d’; a slow evening in town, so it’s understandable. We are shown to our table, lit by candles, a stripe of white linen glides along the centre of the table, revealing the dark stained wood underneath. Polished cutlery is neatly tucked into a white linen fold, with a water and a wine glass. I glance over the wine list and see the array of BC wines to choose from, I am not surprised. As I continue to peruse the menu, our server comes over and informs us that the “Taste of Yaletown” Prix-Fixe menu is available, and the Hanger Steak ($26), the Chef’s signature dish, is unavailable… damn.
I taste a BC Pinot Noir sold by the glass, Cedar Creek, it’s alright, nothing special. It took every ounce of my financial strength not to order the Foxtrot Pinot Noir which we desperately wanted, for a price of $55 higher; it was not to be a pricy evening! We order appetizers; John orders the Crab Cake ($12) and I order the Black and Blue Ahi Tuna ($12). Our first course comes up fast, which is great as we’re starving! I ask the server to describe my dish and then John’s. The Black and Blue Ahi Tuna arrives true to its name; 5 slices of tuna, hot sear on the outside, perfect cold blue on the inside, and a line of roasted sesame seeds sprinkled along the centre of the fish. The tuna melted in my mouth without a “fishy” aftertaste. There are two sauces on the bottom, wasabi aioli and a ponzu sauce. I find the contrast of the sauces interesting, but do not get the heat from the wasabi and I find the ponzu is over salted. The right side of the plate houses roughly sliced scallions and the left a brunoise of red bell pepper, it was nice to have the freshness and the crunch of both. John’s Crab Cake was soggy, and sinking in a sea of red pepper aioli. On a dish such as a crab cake, you want a crispy brown skin on either side, and a SIDE of aioli to spread on each bite. The delicate taste of the crab was completely lost on the palette due to involuntary over-consumption of the aioli.
We pop outside for a quick cigarette break before our next course. Our server appears on the patio with our wine glasses, which we thought was a nice gesture. He was pleasantly attentive, but not overly so. Sometimes service goes overboard once staff find out you work in the same industry.
For main courses, I order the Pacific Halibut ($26) and John orders the 16 oz Ribeye Steak ($34). The entrees arrive, and at first they look lovely. The portions are monstrous. We haven’t experienced such large plates in a long time. As we start to chow down, I have second thoughts about the halibut. It’s overcooked, and served with mashed potatoes that taste bland and out of a box. I don’t expect every meal I consume to knock my socks off, but the basics should be there. The dish has nothing special happening. The vegetables are usual backyard barbecue accompaniments; grilled zucchini and grilled bell peppers. It just seems so “80’s”. The plate is finished with freshly chopped parsley and olive oil. The amount of parsley was overkill. John’s steak was medium rare in some parts and rare in others. Ribeye steaks are difficult to keep the same colour because of different thicknesses throughout the steak. The steak was truly under-seasoned, and the Kennebec frites were over salted. John enjoyed his steak overall, he’ll never complain about a grilled ribeye and frites at a restaurant with “grill” in the title.
Throughout our dinner, a few tables joined the restaurant, all walk-ins. This restaurant, as I stated before, looks so inviting from the outside, who could blame them!? To our right was a table of three ladies, all of them ordered the prix-fixe. As each course arrived, the ou-ing and ah-ing became louder and longer. It was funny to hear. They seemed to be very impressed by the portion size, as we were.
We decide to skip dessert as nothing really entices us from the menu.
Overall, the service was great, no complaints there. The food was moderately enjoyable, but not very creative. This truly is a “grill”, so don’t expect to be blown away by baked, seared or poached items.
I don’t think I am picky, I just know what tastes great. I think all chefs should strive to create something special. It doesn’t always have to be surprise ingredients in a terrine du foie gras, but even a little bit of the chef’s passion will translate on to the plate, but we didn’t see it here.
Hamilton Street Grill
1009 Hamilton St