Sherman's Food Adventures: The Oakwood

The Oakwood

There are certain locations where restaurants seem to turn-over like a turnstile. One that comes to mind is the corner of Thurlow and Smythe which has seen the likes of Piccolo Mondo, Saveur, Corner Suite Bistro Deluxe and currently Ensemble. Another less known location is the one that housed the former Tatlow's and recently closed Cabin. Now The Oakwood attempts to succeed where the others have failed. Advertised as a Canadian Bistro, The Oakwood has a simple menu that focuses on house-made locally sourced products. Their meats are organic and seafood is Ocean Wise. This in turn is reflected in the food prices, but as the old adage goes, you pay for what you get. Originally, I had wanted to visit this place in the summer when it first opened. It was convenient due to its close proximity after our Monday night softball games. Doh. They are not open on Mondays! So I had to resort to convincing the Friday night hockey team to travel from North Van all the way to Kits for grub.

I did eventually get them to go, although I had to drive them all in my car. A small price to pay for some late night eats that didn't involve wonton and congee (mind you, with the price of gas, it was not really a small price!). Lionel Hutz had already driven there earlier and as we began to take a seat, he indicated that the general manager remembered him. Turns out that Amy Wheatley, formerly of Bin 941, recognized him and myself from our visit a couple of years back. Wow, that's what I call a good memory! So when we finally got down to ordering, Emilicious and I decided to share some items starting with the All Canadian Poutine consisting of house-smoked brisket, fried russet potato, cheese curds and gravy. We could really taste the smoked flavour of the beef which gave out an almost burnt essence (in a good way though). The meat was sliced thin and very tender. The fries were crispy, yet a touch dry. The gravy was slightly salty, but not in a bad way though. The cheese curds were pretty good, not really squeaky, but at least they were not melted mozzarella.

For our second item, we tried the Shortrib Pie made with stewed beef, carrots, peas,
rosemary crust and Parmesan gratin. Although the portion size didn't look all that large, the pie itself was very rich and was deceivingly filling. The shortrib was moist and meaty while not fatty. It had lots of meat flavour with only the most subtle of seasoning. In addition to sharing these 2 appies, I had no choice but to order The Burger. Why? Because they grind the meat to order, hence the beef could be cooked the way you like it. I asked for mine to be medium-rare and it was uneven (well, it was medium-rare on the top of the patty). Since the meat was not cooked to a crisp (like most other places), it was moist and juicy. Also, it had a good beefy flavour which made the burger very hearty. Along with the house ground AAA shoulder, there was
buttermilk fried onions, house smoked cheddar, pickles (they looked house made too), tomatoes and sprouts. I really enjoyed the large slice of smoky cheddar as well as the crunchy pickles. The crispy onions added some texture and sweetness as well. The one thing I wasn't that fond of was the bun. It was a bit on the doughy side.

Since I had already gotten a taste of their fries in the poutine, I opted for a side of the Oakwood Waldorf Salad. Oh wow, this was a really good bowl of greens. Usually, I'm as excited about salad as crossing the Oak Street bridge Southbound... However, their Waldorf packed a punch with ingredients such as smoked bacon, blue cheese, apple, walnuts, grapes, frisee and pepper creme fraiche. Not a traditional Waldorf, yet infinitely more flavourful with the blue cheese and big chunks of fried bacon. Boss Woman and Lionel Hutz both had the Fish 'n Chips consisting of beer-battered cod, jicama slaw and house-made tartar sauce. They remarked that the fish was flaky and moist while the batter was crispy and light. The tartar sauce was pretty typical in their minds. Lionel indicated it was quite balanced and creamy. I did get to swipe a taste of the coleslaw and it was pretty unique. The jicama added a different texture akin to water chestnuts. It was refreshing, especially with the right amount of acidity. The spice level of the slaw was a welcomed surprise as well. Gordo ended up with the Ricotta Spinach Ravioli served with stewed mushrooms and tomatoes, brioche, olive cream cheese and frisee. He remarked that the dish was filling despite being only one ravioli. The pasta was slightly past firm while the filling was mild. However, the stewed mushrooms and tomatoes were over-salted.

At this point, we weren't intending on ordering any dessert, but Amy decided to surprise us with one each of the 3 desserts on the menu. So yes, we got 3 complimentary desserts. The most interestingly plated item was the Baked Apple Dumpling with vanilla ice cream. Think of it as a apple pie/turnover hybrid. The crust was actually decently flaky while the apples were tart and had some bite left. However, we all thought it could've used a bit more sugar. With that being said, when eaten with the ice cream, it somewhat alleviated the problem. It was too bad the ice cream was not creamy at all (it was icy). The second dessert was the Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with maple cream. Most people at the table enjoyed this cake for the semi-sweet chocolate with only a hint of hazelnut. However, for myself, I thought the cake was a touch dry. If it were more moist, it would've been perfect. Lastly, we had the Raspberry Panna Cotta with lemon buttermilk foam. Most people found this dessert to be rather tart, but I thought it was bang-on. I loved the double-dose of tang from the raspberry and lemon foam. Very refreshing and bursting with flavour. In the end, we were generally pleased with our meal. Of course the service was good due to the fact that Amy was there, so I can't really comment on that further. In terms of value, the prices are on the higher side, yet it is not far off from a place such as Cactus Club or Earl's. Portions were acceptable and the food was above average. Being open late is a bonus too, especially for our group, who are a bit congee-shy these days.

The Good:
- Simple, focused menu
- Some interesting items
- Fairly comfortable seating area

The Bad:
- A bit pricey
- Some items need a bit of refinement

The Oakwood Canadian Bistro on Urbanspoon

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