Sherman's Food Adventures: Dine Out Vancouver Festival 2013 Media Event & My Picks

Dine Out Vancouver Festival 2013 Media Event & My Picks

Let's get to the point.  I've been pretty clear about my feelings about Dine Out. Back in my University days, I thought it was great.  Hey, I could visit some of the best restaurants in the city for a reasonable and set price.  Well, as my dining out got more intense and diversified, my opinion did a complete 180.  Maybe I got picky or I come from a specialized perspective. Hence, to be fair, most people enjoy Dine Out because it is an opportunity to experience restaurants that they would normally not consider (or visit many during the event).  Besides, for those who study all the set menus in depth, there are gems to be found.  So with that in mind, I attended the Dine Out Vancouver 2013 Festival Media Event at the Vancouver FanClub, where 8 of the participating restaurants served up little bites as a preview of their full Dine Out menu.  Of course, it is generally very difficult to judge the food under these circumstances since it is essentially a cocktail party where everything is not prepared as it would be in the actual restaurant.  But, then again, it is literally a "taste" of what is to come.

Without further ado, I will go straight to my favourite dish of the night from The Observatory being the Red Wine Braised Pemberton Meadows Beef Short Ribs with roasted garlic mashed potatoes, baby carrots and crisp turnip.  The beef was super moist and practically melted in my mouth while the green pea tinted (?) mashed potatoes was fantastic.  Loved the red wine braising sauce as it was flavourful and rich. Directly adjacent was the offering from Forage - Game Terrine with IPA mustard, housemade pickled vegetables and pickled walnuts on a crostini.  Despite the overly crunchy crostini (forgivable given the venue), the terrine was gamy in a good way while the pickles added a necessary acidity.  Another memorable item was the Sustainable BC Scallop with apple cider-infused beet puree and micro kale salad from the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts.  Seared with an attractive colour, the scallops were plump an sweet.  I liked the tang from the beet puree as it livened up the dish.

On the second floor of the FanClub, there was Edible Canada and its offering - Roasted Canadian Grangeland Leg of Elk with bone marrow, crispy grits and Hunter sauce.  The lean cut of meat was naturally going to be somewhat chewy but it was cooked rare enough that I could eat it with few problems.  I enjoyed the flavours as it was quite rich (and a bit heavy), yet the fried grits was a little dry (but again, forgivable under the circumstances). Another one of my favourites of the night was from Market by Jean-Georges which was the Grilled Berkshire Tenderloin (pork chop in the Dine Out menu) with steamed mushrooms and XO Sauce. At first, I was thinking with my Chinese hat on and was apprehensive about the XO sauce.  In the end, I liked it for what it was.  It was seafoody and had a kimchi quality to it while the pork was beautifully prepared (sous-vide first then pan-seared).

Over at the Hapa Izakaya table, there was the Scallop Tartare on a wonton chip.  When I saw it, I knew I would like it.  The scallop was sweet and nicely accented by the mustard-mayo which had a slight bite.  The wonton chip added a nice crunch to the soft ingredients.  Next door, Cibo offered up a Duck Liver Toscana with housemade pickles.  I personally love duck liver, especially in a pate.  However, in this case, I was disappointed to not get enough of it to savour.  It was spread quite thin.  Yet, the little bursts I did get were smooth and tasty, especially with the little zing from the pickles. Lastly, the host venue, the Vancouver FanClub offered up count'em 5 dishes to sample.  There were 3 mini-sandwiches consisting of Smoked Chicken, Smoked Beef Brisket and Pulled Pork.  Of the 3, I enjoyed the chicken the best (surprisingly) as it was moist and indeed smoky.  Although the toasted bun didn't make or break the sandwich, I would liked to see something less generic.  Another tasty treat of the night was the Tiger Prawn Corn Dogs.  Despite the creative name, it was really a fried breaded prawn, yet it was a good fried prawn.  The batter was super crunchy while the prawn had a nice snap.  Lastly, I tried one of their Mini-Donuts drizzled with caramel (the other with chocolate) and it was moist and warm.  After a few return visits to my favourites of the night, I was stuffed and could not eat no more. Well, actually I could, but I saved myself for further eating for the next few days.  Anyways, for further information, go visit the Dine Out Vancouver Festival 2013 website.

Now, after thoroughly going through all of the Dine Out menus, I've narrowed down some highlights.  I based these on several factors including my own personal experiences (if applicable), price point and of course menu items.  So here they are in no particular order (except for price point):

$38.00 Menus

With Lee Parsons at the helm, Bacchus Restaurant & Lounge is never a bad choice.  It continues here with a solid menu consisting of Chicken Liver & Cognac Parfait and Mushroom Velouté  as appies.  Entrees include NY Striploin, Duck Confit and Salmon.  The Ginger & Cardamom Crème Brûlée sounds exotic tasting.
Poor Italian Ristorante is generally perplexingly expensive considering its location.  I like the food there, but the cost is a real eye-opener.  However, during dine out, their menu looks to be pretty solid with some solid appies and good choices of entrees including Sablefish, Seafood Pasta, Slow Cooked Beef, Braised Lamb Shoulder and Veal Tenderloin.

Oru at the Fairmont Pacific Rim offers up Beef Tenderloin or PEI Coldwater Lobster as entree options and 3 dessert choices.  The appie that caught my eye is the Duck and Rabbit Terrine.

Assuming the ride up the gondola is included, the menu at the Observatory on Grouse Mountain is a good value.  Wild Sockeye Salmon highlight the appies while the Braised Short Rib not only sounds good, it was good (during the media event).

Much like the Poor Italian, La Terrazza’s prices can be downright scary.  But during Dine Out, their menu at this price point looks good with Lobster Bisque and Strozzapreti Bolognese starring in the appies while either a Striploin or Salmon highlighting the entrees.

With my recent positive experience at The Hart House, I am interested with their menu which includes a Beef Carpaccio as an appie while the Sous Vide Beef Short Rib catching my fancy.  The two desserts of Dark Chocolate Mousse Cake and Honey Buttermilk Panna Cotta sound safe and classic.

High above in West Van, Fraiche combines the rare feat of offering up a view with good food.  Their menu looks solid with Lobster Salad and House-Cured Duck headlining the appies with Sablefish, Sole and Loin of Lamb as choices for entree.  Desserts, on the other hand, look weak.

Another one of my favourites is Chambar and their menu seems to be pretty stacked (not sure about portion size though).  A Mushroom Soup and Yellow Fin Carpaccio look good for appies while their popular Moules et Frites is offered as an entree along with a Duo of Beef and Arctic Char. The Frozen Lemon Souffle looks interesting as a dessert.

$28.00 Menus

The Water Street Cafe has a promising menu at a lower price point which includes a Fanny Bay Oysters as an appie option.  The highlight of the entrees is the Whole Fresh Atlantic Lobster (for a $10 surcharge), however, at no extra cost, the Duck Confit sounds good. With 3 dessert options, there should be something for everyone.

The Teahouse at Stanley Park offers up an interesting option where their dine out menu is exactly the same for lunch and dinner, but lunch is only $18.00.  I think that is a fantastic deal considering its location and the choice of Beef Bourguignon Vol au Vent, Albacore Tuna and Duck Confit as entree options.

The same could be said about Seasons in the Park as they offer up the same menu for $18.00 during lunch (with a nice view).  Beef Carpaccio highlights the appies while the choice of Short Ribs or Salmon for an entree makes it a good value.

While we are on views, the Salmon House on the Hill has a pretty good menu for its price point.  Grilled Prawns are the star of the appies while you have a choice of Salmon, Chicken Penne or New York Striploin as an entree. Decent-sounding desserts too.

I recently had brunch at Forage and came away impressed with the food quality in relation to their prices.  The same could be said for their dine out menu.  I had the good fortune of trying their BC Spot Prawn Seafood Chowder and am glad to see it on the menu.  With Pork Belly and Salmon as entree options, I wouldn’t hesitate to give this place a look.

There is no hiding my love for EBO at the Delta Burnaby.  My love continues with their menu which features Wild Mushroom Soup and Rice-Crusted Tuna with Dungeness Crab in the appie section.  Entrees include Salmon, Duck Confit and Grilled Lamb Chops. The Chocolate Pot de Creme looks like an interesting dessert.

I’ve only been to Catch 122 Cafe & Bistro for lunch, but their Dine Out dinner menu doesn’t seem to have any weak dishes.  All 3 of their appies sound tasty – Prawn Bisque, Duck Confit Ravioli and Avocado Tequilla Sorbet. Entrees consist of Beef Side Ribs, Steelhead Trout and Rabbit 3 Ways.  Even their desserts sound fantastic with Triple Chocolate Terrine, Stick Toffee Pudding and PBJ Ice Cream Sandwich!


The award to the best deal goes to the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts – Bistro 101 for their inexpensive, but loaded menu consisting of Scallops, Seafood Cake, Trout, Duck or Short Rib.  This will be booked up quickly. Available for lunch and dinner.