I can't deny my love for little hidden gems, especially out in the 'burbs. Hey, I'll say it again and again - why dine at the obvious places, such as chain restaurants (although some are decent), when you can eat something original at a smaller place for about the same price? Yes, take the plunge and be adventurous. Otherwise, it is easy to be trapped into visiting the same restaurants over and over again. I remember I used to do that in my University days... Not necessarily a bad thing (as repeating at good restaurants is a great idea), but there are so many interesting places to visit! Hence, I gathered up the family and the grandparents to try out a little French bistro called Tour de Feast in North Vancouver.
Arriving first was the Octopus 2 Ways with tender braised octopus and deep fried octopus rillette cake accompanied by squid ink crème fraîche, salmon roe, frisee and prosciutto chips. I really enjoyed this dish as the tentacles were tender as advertised. Texturally delicate while still maintaining a certain bite and rebound, the meat was sweet and well-seasoned. As for the cake, it was crispy with a moist filling that resembled a fish cake. Flavourwise, it was subtle and sweet where the brininess of the roe added a taste of the sea. Next up was the Albacore Niçoise Salad with pepper-crusted BC albacore loin, Winter greens, fingerling potatoes, green beans, pickled shiitake, soft-poached quail eggs and Wafu emulsion. As shown in the picture, the tuna was nicely prepared with an even sear on the outside while buttery soft and rare on the inside. Despite intentionally being peppery, we thought the tuna was probably too peppery. We found all the veggies to be texturally on point including the crunchy beans and firm, while fully cooked potatoes. With a sweet, tart and nutty essence (sesame), the wafu dressing was a nice compliment to the rare tuna.
Our last appie was the Assiette de Charcuterie consisting of smoked salmon crostini, pork rillette, duck prosciutto, pate, romesco hummus and sweet onion jam. This substantial plate of food was highlighted by the pate as it was meaty and sweet with nuggets of flavour ending with wine essence. Of note, I found the pork rillette to be buttery soft with a sweet finish. The crostini underneath was airy and crispy. Not just merely a garnish, the hummus and onion added both brightness and extra sweetness. For my main, I had the Hen & Gnocchi with prawns, wild mushrooms and carrot puree. Unfortunately, due to the small hen (there was 2 pieces of wing/breast with one leg portion), the meat was dried out and quite chewy on the outside. On the other hand, the skin was nicely rendered and crispy. It was heavily sauced where it was a touch salty, but was balanced off nicely by the sweet glaze. I enjoyed the large house-made gnocchi as they were soft while still retaining a bite. Furthermore, the ample amount of mushrooms didn't hurt matters as there was a substantial amount of woodsiness as a result.
Viv ended up with the 7-Hour Braised Beef with truffle pomme puree, bacon & blue cheese mash, broccolini, baby carrots and peppercorn cream sauce. As soon as it hit the table, the smell of truffle oil dominated the table. Don't get me wrong here, we don't mind truffle oil, but when used too liberally, it can be overwhelming. However, that wasn't the biggest issue with this dish, the heavy-handed use of salt did the tender beef an injustice. The peppercorn essentially played second-fiddle to salt. Viv was not a big fan of this dish. For my mom, she had the Fraser Valley Confit Duck Cassoulet with organic beans, boudin blanc, Swiss chard, artichoke and citrus jus. We found the duck to be mostly moist except for some chewier edge parts. The skin was nicely rendered and crisp (where it wasn't sauced). With flavour penetrating throughout, the beans were tender with a residual firmness. The boudin blanc had a mild snap casing which revealed an airy and moist interior which was mild with a touch of natural meat sweetness.
For my dad, he went for the Coho Salmon with Manila clams, Swiss chard and Israeli cous-cous. With a beautiful sear, beneath the crispy skin, the salmon was flaky and moist. It was well-seasoned with a peppery slant. We found the Swiss chard to be prepared masterfully where it had a nice chew while completely wilted. Furthermore, the significant level seasoning and acidity brought it alive with a wonderful brightness. For the son, he had the Provolone Grilled Cheese from the petit menu. It was essentially a whack load of melted cheese atop toasted ciabatta accompanied by Lay's chips (my son called it, so apparently he has a palate for junk food...) and mixed berries. This was good for what it was with plenty of cheese on soft, slightly crisp bread. My daughter opted for the Gluten-Free Pasta with Tomato Sauce. Despite being gluten-free, the pasta was tender and soft (not chewy). The creamy tomato sauce was plenty peppery where there was a definite aftertaste. Despite this, she still ate it up willingly.
For dessert, we shared both the Financier and Lemon Tart. The Financier was actually an assortment of French tea cakes with a side of ice cream. I found them a bit dry, especially the Madeleine. They were buttery and semi-sweet though. We thought the lemon tart was on the sweeter side, especially with a brulee on the top. Texturally, it was smooth and custardy. The crust was a bit too soft and wet for our tastes. After the meal was said and done, we all agreed that there were some highlights to go along with some low points. Overall, the use of pepper and salt was a bit heavy-handed. Yet, depending what you order, a good meal can be had. Definitely an option, especially on the North Shore.
- Some good dishes to be found here
- Fairly generous portion sizes
- Heavy-handed with the salt and pepper
- Some dishes were sub-par