Dineout Vancouver 2010: My three dinners

So, I only managed to go to three Dineout Vancouver 2010 dinners and I can’t really imagine a fourth one topping the dinners so far, if only because I’m so Dined Out now.

hidden tasting bar + lounge

I was so excited to try hidden, a new restaurant in the centrally located Westin Grand hotel, within a week of it opening, and I knew another couple would be game for the ride. Plus, if it was a real bust, it was only an $18 Dineout (3-course) menu. We joked (not that I tend to find it really funny) about going to Cafe Gloucester after the dinner to fill up–word of mouth had it that you only get one mouthful of food, it being a tasting bar and all, and we were preparing for the worst.

The restaurant/lounge is located on the second (feels like third) floor of the hotel and from our curved booth, we were looking up and out at the majestically curving Vancouver Library – Central Branch building. (Aside: I’m so glad there was adequate natural light at my dinners to not need to use flash, something that cannot be said when Dineout takes place in January.) For the dinner, I think the appetizer and dessert were the tastiest. We all ordered poutine, making the easy decision to forgo the other option: beet salad with blue cheese, anyone? It was a good portion uniquely topped with Hollandaise sauce in place of gravy and with a little bite (or, in Frank’s case, a mini steak) of halibut. I thought my seared and smoked tuna was a good light second course but hold to not particularly enjoying smoked meats and it was seared too long for my liking. Dessert was a joy. I love Beavertails (aka whale tail, elephant ears) so it was a delight to have a gourmet one with generous cinnamon sugar topping and a small scoop of tangy ice cream. The rootbeer parfait was a natural choice for NPY but we all thought jelly rootbeer tasted weird.

Abigail’s Party

I would say that Abigail’s Party sticks out in my head because I believe Lydia of Fizz Eats had mentioned it more than once very favourably, amongst alphabetically listed restaurants, you didn’t have to scroll down the combo list box to see the restaurant name, and the restaurant name is also listed in all caps compared to the sensible title case used by all the other restaurants! Carina and I set out from her house which was still a 30 minute walk–45 minutes from mine–to the Yew/York area of Kitsilano that is an intersection heavy with unique restaurants. (I didn’t know that play on words for the area until yesterday.) It was unbelievable windy but great built-in exercise before and after dinner.

The restaurant feels like a cozy bar and we felt comfortable right away. I don’t know what possessed me, but I agreed to sharing an order of poutine in addition to our 3-course meal. I suppose it was because the poutine at Hidden was not made with gravy and my stupid appetite wanted gravy, too. We both ordered the “bruschetta” which was the least colourful bruschetta ever. In any case, it was very generously topped with brie and with three slices of bread, three times more plentiful than it needed to be since it was so rich. I polished it off anyhow and started to feel self-conscious when we were also digging into the poutine (meh, but there was gravy) and the waiter–with no snarkiness, mind you–remarked that we were hungry girls. A waitstaff should never say that!! I’ll show you how hungry I am… Carina ordered steak frites and anyone who knows her wouldn’t be surprised and her dinner looked just great with a layer of green peppercorn sauce. She really loved the creamy shallot vinagrette that came with her salad. I ordered cod and that is not surprising for me either, fooling myself that it is “light”; mostly, NPY took my cod dish from a previous dinner so I was “making up” for it. I like my cod a little less baked but enjoyed the roasted kale and the risotto croquette.

Dessert was definitely the highlight even though I had indulged in three Dineouts in four days by then. I ordered, truly typical of me, the chili-chocolate tart because I’m a nut for spicy chocolate. It was wonderfully creamy and spicy and the dense tart shell gave it substance. Carina ordered a unique house special dessert called “Coffee & Smoke” because espresso panna cotta caught her eye. Now I know what panna cotta is and how divine it is when it is espresso-flavoured and tastes like chilled cappuccino on your tongue. The “smoke” was the most delicate chocolate roll with brandied marscapone cream in the middle.

Gramercy Grill

We kicked off Dineout Vancouver 2010 with dinner at Gramercy Grill, listed as an American/New York-style restaurant in Kitsilano. In years past, I have noticed their menu as seeming more enticing than others and this year, we finally got to go! NPY and I worked together really well to try out as many of the options as two of us could, ordering different items for each course. The food is mostly not earth-shattering so it comes down to environment (like casual posh, very remotely Manhattan-like) and service (a little slow, but that’s okay). I liked the seared jumbo scallop as it was sufficiently jumbo and sat on a bed of spinach, the latter part NPY enjoyed. The server said the Italian sausage of the tagliatelle was only a little spicy but that was his error because even I, with moderate spiciness tolerance, thought it was spicy right away. Thus NPY and I traded and I lost my cod dish. It was very nice and smooth flesh as I like cod to be but it was prepared with such typical Asian flavours, YaWn. NPY’s mint chocolate ganache was tasty but not the voluminous dessert he deserved. And my lemon tart was a little special because it had a caramelized sugar topping layer and the lemon curd was very nice and creamy.

On this day..

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