Tonight, along with other foodies and professional writers, I was invited to a tasting at the newly revamped Relish Gastropub. Prior to the current renovations and subsequent downsizing, Relish was much larger and had a significantly different gastronomical focus. Relish "rebooted" is solely focused on being a pub offering good food at reasonable prices. Meshing traditional comfort foods from many different cuisines, Executive Chef Patchan Gallagher (formerly of the Glowbal Group and Deacon's Corner) puts his stamp on the menu. And oh what a stamp it is, we might as well call it a big boot or pick axe. There is nothing timid about the food here at Relish. However, at the same time, there is a level of refinement due to the influence of its classically French-trained sous chef.
Of course when I am afforded a free meal, it always brings up the notion of my obligations to the restaurant. Well, there are no obligations. I think the only obligation to myself is to eat lots and report what I experienced. Joining me tonight were Crystal (Yelp), Rebecca (Fashion Magazine), Heather (Blackbook), Cassandra (Good Life Vancouver), May (Confessions of a Fashion Fanatic), Colleen (Miss Manifesto), Stephanie and Henry. Our host tonight was Ryan (Ryan Bazeley Public Relations), who organized the tasting.
We started off with a Charcuterie Plate consisting of smoked mussels paired with fresh-made cocktail sauce, smoked duck with a balsamic reduction & Grand Marnier orange marmalade and smoked salmon with a dill/duck fat sauce topped with fried capers. The mussels and salmon were pretty standard while the duck played a staring role. The duck was plenty smoky and slightly salty where the accompanying sweet orange marmalade helped balance the flavours. My personal favourite for the night was the Fried Oyster in Duck Fat. No, this is not a misprint. The breaded oyster was indeed fried in duck fat. Neither something good for someone on a diet or high cholesterol. But hey, the darn thing was tasty! Within the perfectly fried breaded exterior lay a large succulent oyster. The richness of the duck fat gave the entire oyster a whole lot of body. Dipped into the dill tartar sauce, this was a decadent appy. Although the tartar sauce lacked zing, the lemon wedge made up for it (probably the intent?).
Next up were the Slambers which is a unique twist on mini-sliders. Rather than a bun, there is choux pastry and braised lamb cheek replacing the humble ground beef. The result is something lighter, definitely more upscale and ultimately tastier. The star of this dish is definitely the lamb cheeks. Cooked until melt-in-your-mouth tender, the slammer didn't require much chewing. If the lamb slammers were a bit interesting, the Gnocchi Poutine was intriguing. Not something I would ever think of combining into one dish, it certainly piqued my interest. Fresh off the memories of the sub par gnocchi from Society, the one here at Relish erased it. These ones were a reasonable medium size while being soft and fluffy. I didn't get to experience any squeak from the cheese curds since most of them had melted from the hot red wine demi-glace. For me, the rich and luxurious gravy really brought the dish together and made it work, despite the obvious repetition of textures (soft and soft).
If the oyster was my favourite dish, then the Duck Confit Salad was a very close second. With a mix of arugula, melt-in-your-mouth duck and polenta croutons, every bit had flavour and texture. I particularly liked the polenta croutons since they were not only a departure from the usual, they were good too, being soft on the inside and crisp on the outside. By now I was already getting full. However, this was very far from the end of the meal. The first of 3 entrees to arrive was the Shortrib Shepard's Pie. The portion size of this pie was quite generous and personally, I would have a hard time finishing it. It's partially due in part to the large amount of tender short rib underneath the potatoes. Other than some carrot and corn, there are no other fillers. It's all shortrib! This was a solid shepard's pie. I thought the meat was seasoned just enough and there was the right amount of moisture. Served on the side were... surprise, surprise, duck-fat fried potatoes.
Prepared in the same dish as the pie, the Tourtiere was humongous. The filling consisted of pork, chicken and sweetbreads. Once again, there were no fillers here, just meat and lots of it. The meat was not overseasoned and complimented the buttery crust quite well. Although it is sacrilegious to say so, we thought it would've been more successful as a smaller pie. However, that would erode the value of the dish. A compromise would probably be 2 smaller tourtieres? If that wasn't enough meat, how about a slice of Bacon-Wrapped Prime Rib Meat Loaf? As you can see in the picture, the mash potatoes are incorporated into the meatloaf itself and the entire thing is wrapped in bacon. The meat is a mixture of both beef and veggies. How about that. A balanced meal in a meatloaf (well... sort of...)! Served on the side was caramelized onion gravy and beets. I wanted to like this dish; but in the end, it was only alright. The bacon only succeeding in adding saltiness to an already well-seasoned meatloaf. I liked the gravy; however, it was unnecessary since the meatloaf was already salty and moist.
Of course there was still dessert... and we had 2 to try. The first one was the Chocolate Bread Pudding with Chantilly cream. I liked the semi-sweet flavour of the pudding, it was just enough without blowing our taste buds with sugar. However, I found it a tad on the drier side despite what my fellow diners thought. Maybe it could be personal preference since I like my bread pudding moist. Profiteroles with a Van Gogh-infused caramel rounded out the food for the evening. The perfectly cooked choux pastry was excellently complimented by the semi-sweet caramel. I have to admit that it was an impressive meal, especially since I wasn't expecting it. Sure, the meal was complimentary; but honestly, most of it was quite good. If you factor in the prices (nothing more than $15.00), the portion-size, overall quality and execution, it's a winner. And all this in the heart of Downtown! Where Society tried to introduce us to upscale comfort food and ultimately fell flat, Relish throws it in our face and succeeds.
- Big portions
- Carefully crafted food by chef Patchan Gallagher
- Location is a bit hidden
- After downsizing, the dining space is quite small
- Gotta admit, not diet food here