Sherman's Food Adventures: CAVU Kitchen Bar

CAVU Kitchen Bar

If we had a time machine (wouldn't that be awesome!) and set it to go back 20+ years, we would be amazed at how far we've come.  We would no longer have boy bands...  wait...  scratch that.  Okay, the Canucks have finally won the Stanley Cup...  yikes...  Scratch that too.  Fine, traffic in Richmond has vastly improved... Okay, I give up...  But one thing is for sure - hotel restaurants are no longer a place that solely exists to serve up prepackaged frozen fare for the weary traveler.  With an invite to CAVU at the Airport Hilton, Miss Y and I were about to find out if it fit the current criteria for hotel restaurants or were we going for a magical blast from the past.

To start things off, we had the Grilled Flatbread accompanied by Marinated Mushrooms, Carrot Hummus and Salmon Rillette.  The plump mushrooms exhibited a slight tartness which was offset by sweet and salty elements including the crunch of the onions.  With a sweet smokiness accented by spice, the smooth carrot hummus was the star of the plate by far.  It went well with the salty flat bread.  I wasn't a huge fan of the salmon rillette as it was rather creamy with little salmon texture.  The flavours were salty from the capers and a burst of sweetness from the onions.  Both Miss Y and I agreed that the bread would've benefited from less salt as it took away from the condiments (that had enough impact by itself).

Presented with an array of colours, the Cappellini Caprese consisted of Okanagan goat cheese, charred broccolini, heirloom baby tomatoes, baby greens and roasted peppers tossed in a sherry vinaigrette atop an arugula almond pesto. There was a lot going on with this salad in terms of textures and flavours.  There seemed to be a little of everything from the sweet peppers, salty cheese, tartness from the balsamic and slight pepperiness from the pesto. With yet another salad, we tried the Quinoa, Pear & Beet Salad with red quinoa, golden beets,  beet puree, heirloom tomatoes, Parmesan foam, Parmesan chips dressed in beet oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  For us, this was like a "dessert salad" as there was sweetness from the candied walnuts along with the beets and pears (we got a bit of cinnamon from it). Furthermore, there was a bevy of textures that kept each bite interesting.

Moving onto the entrees, we had the Portuguese Fisherman's Stew with Atlantic lobster, jumbo prawns and red peppers in a spiced tomato coconut broth.  Jasmine rice and cassava chips were served on the side.  Seemingly "bisque-like", the broth was spicy, aromatic and slightly creamy.  The saffron really come though in taste and smell.  There was a significant amount of lobster (albeit mostly claw meat) and huge prawns that had a cold-water snap.  As for the slice of lime, it wasn't merely a garnish, it went a long way in brightening up the flavours.  Next up, we dug into the Charred Skin Wild Salmon with rice cakes, peas, radish, bak choy, shiitake and prawn chips in a soy mirin broth. Although the salmon was nicely prepared with a smoky and crispy skin, we thought some form of cod fish would've worked better with the Asian flavours.  With that being said, the veggies were crisp while the broth was a bit on the salty side.

For dessert, we were presented with a plate that included an Apple Crumble and Pumpkin Brulee with house-made truffles.  We found the crumble tart while not overly sweet.  The soft topping was more chewy than crunchy.  As for the brulee, the custard was smooth where it exhibited some spice.  It wasn't too sweet nor was it too pumpkiny. The truffles were pretty good without a huge reliance on sugar.  I would've liked to see a touch more dark chocolate bitterness though.  After we were done, it donned on me that I actually enjoyed the salads more than the mains.  Yah, I repeat, I preferred the salads more than the meat...  With that being said, the food was still solid where it didn't scream out hotel food.  Honestly, if they can make salads interesting and delicious, there must be some skill involved.

*All food and drinks were complimentary excluding gratuities*

The Good:
- Calm, low-key and pleasant dining space
- Not boring hotel food
- How about that... Salads that are interesting

The Bad:
- Salads were great, but may have been over-dressed a tad

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