Showing posts with label trout. Show all posts
Showing posts with label trout. Show all posts

St. Lawrence Restaurant (Vancouver)


Eating at a French-Canadian restaurant in Vancouver seemed like a waste of a meal. But after hearing about all of St. Lawrence Restaurant’s accolades - #5 on Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants list and being crowned best new restaurant in 2018 by multiple publications – it also seemed imperative I visit a place that delighted Canada’s west coast. I envisioned a glutinous meal that would make us feel sick like Au Pied de Couchon, but thankfully found a more restrained offering that was hearty yet didn’t leave me clutching my stomach.

St. Lawrence offers a rotating prix fixe menu that changes roughly monthly and during our June visit happened to be a 5th Anniversary special ($85 for three courses) highlighting a mix of past favourites, traditional French offerings, and special dishes the chef wanted to whip up.

To start off, our table shared warm buckwheat rolls with a delicate pork spread, which was barely enough to smear onto the bread and left us wanting more. Our waitress warned us not to use the foie gras custard as a condiment since it is best eaten solo. Indeed, it’s like a decadent savoury and sweet panna cotta where the silky creamy custard is enhanced with crispy crumbs.

The height of the vol-au-vent puff pastry was astonishing, the hollow flaky pastry filled with pea sprouts that added a fresh element against the mushroom mornay sauce. Such a lovely quintessential French dish that forms the only vegetarian offering on their menu, not counting desserts.

We would have liked more chips for the bison tartar – it’s as if the had reached the bottom of the bag and threw on the final broken ones that were left – as the crunch goes so nicely with the delicate tartar. Nonetheless, the flavours were on point, enhancing but not overpowering the bison, and the creamy béarnaise sauce a great addition.

St. Lawrence smartly left the orange “jus” separated from the duck ballotine as to not cover the lovely duck flavours also pairing the fowl with a savoury citrus less sauce. The orange segments were ideal for cleansing the palette against the chunks of rich meat. If you’re in the mood for a substantial French main, this one will hit the spot.

I thoroughly enjoyed the trout à la dieppoise, which was an ideal dish to highlight French-Canadian fare using fresh B.C. ingredients like the fish and side stripe shrimp. The seafood was delicately poached with not a speck of skin or shell remaining, so that each bite was merely covered with the white wine cream sauce. On the bottom, the various greens soaked in the last of the sauce to create a decadent warm salad.

This being my first experience tasting tarte au sucre, the dessert reminded me of a firmer butter tart without the runny centre. The fluffy vanilla cream and crunchy shortbread covering the sugar tart added a beautiful touch without any more sweetness. Overall, it’s a delicious and surprisingly light dessert.

St. Lawrence’s rice pudding tasted like airy sweet cream, the fluffy pudding a great consistency but the rice too hard. If the grains were only cooked longer, it’d help create a creamier concoction to better contrast with the crunchy pecans and salted caramel.

Reservations are pre-paid through Tock, and spots are limited given the restaurant’s diminutive size. In fact, they even created a slim high-top for two in the waiting area to allow those who are waiting to mingle or host those who want to converse longer after their meal is finished.

The intimate environment creates a warm casual feel, despite St. Lawrence’s beautifully plated cuisine. I’m glad we could tuck into lovely French creations without the pomp and circumstance. So, leave your ties behind and just arrive comfortably with an empty belly. 


Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Vancouver, Canada
 Address: 269 Powell Street


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____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


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The Feast of St. Lawrence (Toronto)


Just imagine dining outdoors on Front Street with two hundred fellow guests. That's two long tables tucking into a six-course meal prepared by some of the best restaurants the St. Lawrence neighbourhood has to offer. Better yet, indulge in all this food and drink and support Second Harvest, a leading charity that rescues food that would otherwise go to waste and diverts it to shelters and food banks. A noble foundation that not only helps the hungry but also helps the environment.

If this sound like a cause you can get behind, than you can't miss out on the Feast of St. Lawrence. Taking place on August 9, 2019, the evening begins with oyster and charcuterie stations to wash down drinks as you mingle and listen to a jazz band performing in Berczy Park. 

Restaurants will also be serving hors d'oeurvres, such as Hawthorne's sous vide trout with Ontario saffron velouté topped with caviar. The bit of smokiness in the fish with the salty finish from the caviar makes this a great pairing with white wine. And yes, you heard right, there is a farm in Ontario that cultivates saffron!


Batch's beef tartare arrives in its own container, a crunchy shrimp chip that's deep fried until fluffy. Inside, the Korean inspired tartare is mixed with kimchi and Asian pear so that you get a bit of heat and sweetness. They say it's the perfect bite to pair with their IPA, which cuts the fat from your tongue. Wine, beer, and that cute dog fountain? What a way to begin.


Afterwards, the feast consists with six courses, all paired with Ontario wines. Having sampled four of the six dishes, there is certainly variety as chefs pay homage to the local ingredients Ontario offers in the summer.

Farm'r starts their salad with thick slices of roasted peaches that will just be hitting shelves in August. The bits of mint, salty feta, and peppery arugula helps balance out the sweetness and makes a delicious combination with quinoa. 


Trust me, you're in for some good food. Having tucked into a sample of Cantina Mercatto's smoked corn sugo cavatelli, the light cream base with chewy pasta, which is almost reminiscent of a tiny gnocchi, is absolutely delicious. There’s meaty chanterelles, a bit of heat from birds eye chilies, sweet corn kernels, and refreshing pea shoots. The dish is so good I went back for a second sample.


Having done a quick preparation of Cirillo’s Academy’s grilled octopus, it seems like such an easy dish to create …until Chef Cirillo actually describes how they make the octopus: slow braising it with stock mixed with its own liquids, breaking it down to remove the inedible pieces, and then finally finishing sections on the grill. You’re left with meaty bites of octopus mixed with quickly seared tomatoes, chickpeas, and arugula. It’s a nice bridge between the pasta and the heavier main.


Normally, serving 200 guests lamb done two ways would be quite the feat. But, the Omni King Edward Hotel has served large numbers of guests for decades. While I would have liked the lamb belly fat rendered a bit more, the meat was so tender. Meanwhile, the lamb chop was done a perfect medium and has a lovely salty rub.


To keep the dish summery, they finish it off with a lovely pea puree and sweet charred leeks. And if you’re hesitant about having lamb due its potential gaminess, the salty spiciness from the accompanying andouille and crouton side will surely balance it out.

The night continues with whisky cocktails from CC Lounge's onsite whisky bar and if you're too full, you can just dance throughout the evening… it’s not often you can dance along Front Street.


And if you need a little post-dinner activity, try to find the birds that are part of the dog fountain. Hint: the cat is looking at it. Once you discover this hidden sculpture you'll be a St. Lawrence insider. 

Disclaimer: I attended a media event to try the dishes above, but I'm am not being paid to promote the event. Rest assured, as noted in my mission statement, I will always provide an honest opinion.


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada

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Drake Devonshire (Prince Edward County)


In Prince Edward County, the opinions about the Drake Devonshire are mixed – it’s a nice place to hangout (in an area where there’s not a lot of bars or places close early) but it feels too “Toronto”. In fact, locals are baffled by why Torontonians want to escape to the county just to hang out in the city again. To be fair, the venue is nothing like the multi-floor Drake Hotel downtown or the retro Drake 150 in the financial core. To start, the sprawling building overlooks the lake and the décor is lighter and whimsical. For another, the food is much better than the Drake Hotel.

The asparagus almondine ($14) is a simple starter, the spears of asparagus lightly roasted and topped with slivers of toasted almond in brown butter. A squeeze of lemon adds a hit of acidity, but otherwise the nut and vegetable are the prominent flavours. It’s a little plain as a starter, and works better as a side.


Their warm dandelion Caesar ($14) is on the other side of the spectrum - packed with flavours: the slight bitterness of the dandelion, garlicky dressing, a faint umami essence from the bonito flakes, sweetness from the dry crispy pork floss pieces (in lieu of bacon) and salty pecorino sprinkles. It’s tasty, but best shared as an entire dish of the Caesar would be fairly overpowering.


Perhaps, the sole starter, I tried, that could stand on its own is the salt cod pierogies ($12). The chewy soft dough was a tad thick, but there was plenty of salt cod mashed potatoes inside. I’ll admit, the slightly fishy filling requires getting used to, but once you add some of the tangy crème fraiche or thick apple sauce, it gets tastier.
  

Overall, the Devonshire prepares fish pretty well. The trout’s ($28) skin could be crispier, but the meat was moist and flakey. Being an oilier fish, it was properly paired with a refreshing vegetable medley consisting of roasted red peppers, zucchini, and green onions. Once in a while, you’ll also get a sour crunch from the fermented green beans.


For me, the lamb rigatoni ($24) incorporated too many frou-frou items - hen of the woods mushrooms, pine nuts, and spruce? Sure, I guess the spruce and the mint will help alleviate any of the lamb’s gaminess, but all together the elements detracts from having the rigatoni become that rich homey dish that’s notorious with pasta.


Although I found the Prinzen chicken ($27) dry (it could have been the piece of breast I cut from the side), my friend found it was cooked well. For me, it was the saffron spaetzle that stole the show: soft and chewy with a well toasted crust – exactly what I crave with this German pasta side dish.


You won’t leave hungry with an order of the pork schnitzel ($26) – I lost count of how many pieces were actually included with the dish. To be fair, I wouldn’t classify it as schnitzel as the slices were way too thick. If they’re named breaded pork cutlets with honey mustard, it would be more accurately described.


The truffle and cheese fries ($11) were okay – it’s hard for fries to be terrible, but the Devonshire could ensure they arrive hotter and there’s more truffle oil if you’d classify these as “fancy fries”. Meanwhile, the hakuri turnips ($9) were surprisingly good – the mini root vegetables remained crunchy having been lightly poached and then sweetened with burnt honey.


Drake did not save the best for last … the tiramisu ($10) and lemon meringue tart ($10) were merely passable. Although they were plated nicely, the desserts taste like something found in a buffet – and we’re not talking the one at the Bellagio here. The lemon meringue had a nice toasted top, but the lemon custard was thick and almost plastic-like, while the tiramisu so heavily orange flavoured in lieu of espresso.


For being in a location where guests may be visiting to celebrate occasions, the Drake Devonshire certainly doesn’t treat these events with much care. In town for a bachelorette, my friend informed the host about the celebration and asked for a bottle of wine to be brought to the table as a surprise (a present from a friend who couldn’t attend) and to do something festive for the dessert. Neither worked out as planned: our waiter came by to tell us the wine requested wasn’t available (in front of the bride, so any surprise element was ruined) and her dessert came without fanfare. Note 1 to Drake’s management: please set-up some sort of communication system between staff members (hosts, waiters, and the kitchen are a team).

They tried to make up for this by comping her dessert and giving us tickets to use at the photo booth. Only when we went to take the pictures, another staff member came by to hush us as there is a guest room located right beside the booth. Really, why would a manager appease disappointed diners by giving them something that they can’t use freely and could potentially make another guest’s stay worse? Note 2 to Drake’s management: make sure your “make it right” solutions actually serve their purpose.


Maybe the County natives have it right – sure the Drake Devonshire has a ping pong table and funky artwork – but can’t you get that back in the city? If you’re looking for a place to hang out and have a drink after dinner, the restaurant is an ideal place. But, if you really want the County charm of laid-back hospitality, you may need to head elsewhere.

Overall mark - 6.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Wellington, Canada
 Address: 24 Wharf Street

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:


Drake Devonshire Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato