For the longest time, the hotel restaurant was not someone would consider a "destination" for good eats. Yup, it only existed to feed their clientele who were not brave enough to venture out in search of food. Yet, times are changing and we are beginning to see some fine establishments in hotels. Up until recently, the Hyatt Regency did not exactly set the Vancouver culinary landscape on fire. However, with a change in direction under the guidance of Chef Thomas Heinrich, it appears they are taking some risks. I was able to experience this first hand with an invite to the Chef's Table Dinner along with Alvin, Sean, Diana, Dee, Grace, Janice, Kev and Billy.
In addition to the fact that Chef Heinrich personally prepared the meal himself, it was served at a table located right in the kitchen itself. Taking advantage of the banquet kitchen, the only meal prepared there that night was for us, while we watched. The first course was Oysters with pickled onions in an Escabeche foam. The sweet oysters were accented by a tart and spicy notes which didn't overwhelm. A nice start. The next course was actually sitting on the table and we didn't even know it. Unbeknownst to us, the potted plants were actually Chef Heinrich's version of a Crudité consisting of avocado & buttermilk mousse topped by pumpernickel crumbs with wild celery and baby carrots. Yes, whimsical hotel food, thanks to Chef Heinrich. I really liked the crunch of the crumbs as it contrasted the smooth and creamy mousse underneath. However, this was far too much for me to finish. I had 8 more courses!
From potted food to a more conventional plating, we had the Argentinian Red Shrimp with Wagyu Beef, wasabi chips, wasabi foam and freshly grated wasabi atop a kalamansi gelee. With a texture similar to BC spot prawns, the red shrimp was delicate and sweet. The thin slice of beef practically melted in my mouth and was nice accented by the different applications of wasabi. Completing the flavour profile was the sweet and tart kalamansi gelee. As if we were watching Top Chef, the next dish was presented on a mirrored plate. It consisted of Peas prepared with 3 different techniques pea ravioli (via spherification), isomalt encapsulated pea oil and pea powder (and freshly shucked peas as well) served atop Chinese black garlic. I really liked the ravioli as there was a pop of natural pea sweetness in each bite. The salty and bitter black garlic puree was a nice counterbalance to the sweetness.
As much as there was nicely seared Halibut featured on our next plate, the main ingredient was actually Artichokes. Again, there were 4 preparations including a relish, confit, puree and a cream that was sandwiched in a coconut and squid ink whoopie pie of sorts (was described as a macaron though). I really liked the chewy "cookie" as it exhibited a nice toasted coconut essence. The halibut itself was seared well while the flesh was flaky, moist and well-seasoned. Up next was Bacon 3 Ways consisting of bacon-wrapped salmon with citrus caviar, bacon discs, bacon relish and bacon fat powder atop a fava bean puree. Although the bacon was crispy and smoky, the salmon was still moist while not being overwhelmed. The citrus caviar provided some nice acidity. With all this bacon, I found the smooth fava bean puree unnecessarily salty though. The bacon discs looked light, but were actually hard to chew.
Looking more like a Taiwanese potsticker, the Duck Confit Ravioli atop stinging nettle puree and crispy leaves was served with apple-brined duck and a Maple vanilla gastrique. The ravioli was al dente and filled with tender, meaty duck confit. The drizzle of egg on top added a silky texture. As exemplified in the picture, the duck was rare-to-medium-rare, which allowed the meat to be buttery soft with a only a slight chew. The skin was somewhat crispy with an acceptable amount of fat. As if we didn't have enough food already, we were presented with an Australian Lamb Tenderloin with fiddlehead ferns, pickled ramps and morels with black truffle. For me, the lamb was as perfectly-prepared as possible. It was medium-rare and moist with a nicely browned exterior. With both black truffle and morels, there was a predictable Earthiness which went well with the meat. The pickled ramps added a "kimchi-ness" to the dish.
Onto dessert, we were served Strawberries 4 Ways including honey green strawberries, strawberry chips, pistachio-strawberry glass and strawberry vanilla streusel with cardamom-sour ice cream. The green strawberries were my favourite as they had a nice crunch as well as a welcomed tartness. The ice cream was smooth and light tasting which was a prelude to the next heavier offering - Chocolate 3 Ways. There was dehydrated chocolate, a 30 second chocolate cake and a chocolate fondant bar atop streusel with blood orange reduction and white chocolate ice cream. I loved the textural contrast between the fondant and streusel while the flavours were not overbearingly sweet. I found the cake to be slightly dry though. Yet, that was one of the rare criticisms as this meal was impressive in its execution and creativity. This was not only an interesting and delicious meal for a hotel, it was great in general. I am thoroughly impressed with Chef Heinrich where he has firmly taken the reigns of the Hyatt Regency's culinary direction.