I'll admit it. When I received an invite to try out Oru's new revamped menu, I was slightly hesitant. After all, the place had some pretty dubious reviews strewn all over the internet. In fact, Whipping Girl had told me about her experience there and let's just say it didn't make me want to visit the place anytime soon. C'mon, there was an $18.00 Banh Mi on the menu! Sounds like fusion gone wrong (and overpriced). Enough said. Little did I know that Executive Chef David Wong had left to open his own restaurant on the Island. Replacing him is well-traveled and experienced chef Darren Brown, who redid the menu and refreshed the layout of the restaurant.
We were first treated to some appies from the Skybar and then moved onto a tour of the facilities. To say that the food services in the Fairmont Pacific is impressive would be an understatement. It is refreshing to see Darren Brown's influence on the operation. Most of the ingredients are made in-house, right down to the sausages and cured meats. Oh and I can't ignore the BLT we sampled beforehand. This was made with their house-cured bacon and let's just say I could've eaten more than what was offered on the plate. We finally made it back to Oru and were seated with a nice view of the open kitchen. Arriving first was the Sunchoke Soup which was a pure veloute of roasted sunchokes (no onions) with truffle foamed milk. Immediately, there was a big hit of truffle oil. The soup was flavourful, creamy and rich without relying on salt. I liked how it was smooth while retaining some texture. Next up was the Notch Hills Beet Salad consisting of pickled and poached baby Sorrento beets, beet chutney, chimichurri vinaigrette and Cabrales blue cheese. I'm not normally a huge cilantro fan, but there was just enough in the chimichurri to brighten the flavours without making it taste pungent. A beet salad is usually, well, a beet salad. However, the shaved blue cheese on top really made it pop with an Earthy saltiness.
Continuing on, we were presented with the Qualicum Island Diver Scallops which were seared beautifully and served with sesame sweet peas, smoked salmon lardon, preserved lemon condiment all atop a cauliflower puree. The scallops were pretty small, but packed a sweet punch. There was a multitude of flavours going on the plate including the nutty sesame peas, sweet, tangy lemon and the smooth flavourful puree. The small piece of salmon added a salty smokiness which capped off the flavourfest. Then the dish we'd all been waiting for showed up - the Kalua Pork Belly (Fraser Valley pork belly, pineapple, maple-mustard glaze, fried sage, pork cracklings and lotus root puree). Okay, let me get this out of the way first - the pork belly was not as melt-in-my-mouth as I would've liked. However, I'm not sure if that was the intention or not. It was cooked so slowly that the fat had pretty much rendered down leaving mostly meat. For me at least, I like my pork belly fatty and melty. With that being said, there was a lot to like about this dish. The cracklings were crispy and light while the bak choy was crunchy albeit salty. The sweet glaze went well with the pork belly, yet the lotus root puree looked odd in colour. It did taste good though with a nice balance of flavours.
Before the meal, I had pegged the pork belly to be my potential favourite. It turned out that the Sake Cured Haida Gwaii Sablefish took the honours. When curing sablefish with sake, one needs to be careful as it can turn the fish to mush if not careful (like the one I had at NFA). No problems here as was flaky and moist with a beautiful sear. It was served atop an Alaskan salt cod brandade with roasted sunchoke, melted leeks, fennel, chorizo in a tomato-mirin broth. All these ingredients provided all the flavour needed and therefore, the fish was not aggressively seasoned. The salt cod emulated the texture of crab and offered up saltiness (of course). With the mildness of the broth and the conservative amount of chorizo, the sablefish was able to stand on its own.
Moving onto dessert, we were presented with the Strawberry Rhubarb Vacherin with buttermilk ice cream. This ended up to be very refreshing, like a palate-cleanser to a degree. A palate cleanser for what you might ask. Well, we had one more sweet dish which was the Textures of Chocolate. Starting from the top left corner clockwise, we had the Carmella Mousse with textures of puffed rice and praline and Alpaco Consomme with hints of fresh mint. Both of these were made with Valrhona chocolate. On the bottom right, we had the Mi Amare chocolate cremuex mille fieulle made with Michel Cluizel chocolate and on the bottom left, the Mangaro Lait Chocolate Bar with cocoa nib nougatine made with Cocoa Barry. Of these, my favourite was the Carmella. It was essentially a rich and deluxe version of a Crunch bar. Loved the textures and smooth chocolate. This was a sweet end to a solid tasting menu. On this experience alone, it is quite obvious that Darren Brown wanted a more classic approach incorporating housemade ingredients which represent Westcoast cuisine and then some. *Note - this meal was comped*
- From this tasting, it appears the food has a direction
- Dining space is simple yet elegant
- Prices are pretty high