by Lauren Mote
As an avid diner, and passionate restaurant worker, it has always been my rule of thumb to go with Johnny, the perfect dining companion, and spend an evening marveling, or questioning the methods and dishes of potential employers before my first shift – as you will read in previous reviews, if I cannot believe in the food, service or concept, I am as good as dead when it comes to client satisfaction. Chow Restaurant on the other hand, was an experience to be marveled – and I knew this walking in the door – Chef JC Poirier’s reputation precedes him.
The room is elegant, and modern. The layout reminds me a little of the set up at Lumiere, before it was recently renovated this summer. Bar on one side, and behind it, the seating for about 35-40 guests. The lounge can easily satisfy 14 people around the bar top, and another 16 within the lounge tables. The menu is concise – city renowned cocktails, a small but established wine list, and modest food make it into one book.
Cocktails will take you back to the 1930’s origins in New Orleans. The Gin-Gin Mule, Hemingway Daquiri and Greenwich Sour grace the cocktail pages, boasting a recipe twist using classical ingredients and methods. However, bartenders are eager to show their knowledge and technique – a classic Negroni made with Punt e Mes, an Old Fashioned Cocktail (if bourbon’s your thing) or a Pisco Sour perhaps? Well known for their Earl Grey Martini – where Tanqueray Gin is infused with earl grey tea leaves, then shaken with freshly squeezed lemon juice, organic cane sugar syrup, and an egg white. Or the Last Word – green Chartreuse, a liquor infused with botanicals and herbs, is shaken with freshly squeezed lime juice, Maraschino liquor and Plymouth Gin. The perfect aperitif with pulled pork croquettes, or marinated olives. I indulged in an Americano Cocktail, consisting of Cinzano Rosso (Italian sweet vermouth), Campari, orange, lemon and soda, served over ice, whereas Johnny started with a glass of Kronenbourg – the obvious aperitif for this chef.
For first course, Chef Poirier surprises us – an amuse of epic proportions. Tuna tartare with avocado carpaccio, green papaya, preserved lemon and taro chips. Both Johnny and I received our own 4 ounce portion; this was no amuse, this was an appetizer! Next, Heather brought us our ordered appetizers – I had the Beet Salad, made with candy-cane and yellow beets, local Juliet goat cheese, Belgian endive, grapefruit segments, finished with a tarragon oil. Johnny started with the crusted mozzarella, marinated in anchovy, fried and crisp, served on thinly sliced zucchini, with yogurt and mint, finished with a red pepper vinaigrette. We savoured a glass of Joie Riesling to carry us through our appetizers.
It has become apparent that foodies are incapable of making decisions when out for a meal – this I firmly believe is the reason for the inter-mezzo (or the inter-course as I blatantly called it when out with friends at La Buca! – how humiliating…). Arriving was the ‘Polderside Farm’ duck pâté, served with house-made duck prosciutto, pickled vegetables, and a honey mustard, with grilled bread. This was like a traditional country pâté – coarse and with pistachios, without the pig intestinal casing .
For our mains, we both enjoyed a glass of Marcel Vedeau Pinot Noir from Languedoc with my grilled Vancouver Island scallops, served atop braised veal cheeks, celeriac purée, romaine lettuce, radish, celery salad. John had the oh so famous, ‘Sloping Hills Farm’ organic pork, served atop sweet onion purée, roasted beets, glazed cipollini onion, and pork jus, with a “cassoulet en coquotte” of garlic pork sausage and navy bean ragout served as a side dish.
For the desserts, we took a trip down to the kitchen, where Suyin, one of the pastry chefs Johnny and I worked with at Lumiere and Feenie’s, prepared some special dishes: chocolate brownie, topped with a bit of fleur de sel, a peanut butter emulsion, caramel-peanut nougatine ice cream and a chocolate ganache, finished with petites meringues d’arachide. The second dessert was tarte au sucre ‘in a glass’, with salted crumble, a whipped cream filled hazelnut cannoli, and vanilla bean ice cream.
Chow Restaurant flaunts the Organic West Coast cuisine theme, and it works. From the kitchen to the bar, “green” and environmentally sound practices, and the use of local sustainable products maintains that Chef Poirier and co-owner Mike Thomson are giving the modern Vancouver food enthusiast what they want. The time for gravy is over. We want more puree, more gastrique, and more fresh flavour. Pair this with humble, but experienced service, and you have entered the future of haute cuisine on the West Coast.
3121 Granville St.