Sherman's Food Adventures: Tapenade Bistro

Tapenade Bistro

Joyce has been a fellow blogger and friend since we both began blogging around 7 years ago.  I started roughly half-a-year before she did and we attended our first ever restaurant tasting together as well.  Since then, we've been to many of the same events and have recently worked together for the Chinese Restaurant Awards blogger's choice category.  But all this time, we've never actually gone out on a "double-date" where we brought our better halves.  Well, it finally happened...  in Richmond no less, at Tapenade Bistro.

We got things going with 2 appies including the surprisingly good Grilled Vancouver Island Octopus with capicola, fingerling potato salad, carrot & citrus emulsion and pickled mustard seeds.  Tender with an appealing chew, the octopus was lightly seasoned where it could've used a bit more salt.  However, the rest of the ingredients picked up the slack with nice hits of acidity, sweetness and saltiness.  There was a hint of smokiness which we never did figure out from where.  Although not a major issue, the cold capicola slices seemed a bit lifeless (maybe a slight sear?).

Next, we had the appetizer portion of the Salish Sea Mussels in a Moroccan broth consisting of harissa, piperade, preserved lemon and mint.  As much as this was a pleasantly aromatic and somewhat spicy concoction, it could've been even more so.  The flavours were probably more conservative so that it would appeal to a wider audience.  As for the mussels themselves, they were fairly plump and cooked just enough.  We also added a side of hand-cut Kennebec Frites with aioli.  These were hot, crispy and almost fluffy inside.  They were aggressively salted and were fine on their own, even without the aioli.

For my entree, I had the Oven Roasted Halibut Filet with faro risotto, wild mushroom, grilled leek, Swiss chard and rhubarb.  Without exaggeration, this piece of fish was prepared almost flawlessly being flaky and moist with a crispy sear.  In addition to the perfect execution, the fish itself was fresh (which helped the cause as frozen halibut has a habit of drying out) and well-seasoned.  Underneath, the faro was toothsome while the chard was barely kissed by a hot pan.  As for Viv, she chose the Bouillabaisse consisting of Salish sea mussels, fresh fish, saffron & tomato broth and rouille on a crostini.  We found the broth lightly tomatoey while mild all-around including only a background briny essence.  The seafood was mostly on point except for the overcooked salmon.

Mr. (as Joyce likes to call him) had the Seared Albacore Tuna with chickpea panisse, roasted peppers, green olive, crudité vegetables and smoked tuna aioli.   This was a bountiful dish with expertly prepared tuna that was uniformly seared with a buttery soft rare centre.  With a sprinkle of salt, this was simple, yet naturally flavoured.  Interestingly, the chickpea panisse almost had a polenta quality. Joyce ended up with the 8 oz Heritage Angus Flank Steak with gratin potatoes, smoked bone marrow, broccoli, aged cheddar and braised shallot.  Although the steak itself was beautifully medium-rare and sufficiently tender, there was a piece of sinew that made things chewy.  We couldn't detect any smoked bone marrow in any components of the dish (we suspected the demi-glace).  The potato pave was neatly constructed with tender layers, but a bit more cheese and cream would've added a bit more moisture.

For dessert, I had the White Chocolate Panna Cotta with aerated chocolate, honey comb, blackberry and chocolate sable.  Light and creamy while not overly stiff, the panna cotta played second fiddle to the rest of the ingredients.  The firm crunch of the chocolate sable cookies was pleasing while the honeycomb added a crispy sweetness.  Viv decided on the Clafoutis with rhubarb, hazelnut streusel and buttermilk ice cream.  Although appearing quite large, the clafoutis itself was pretty shallow.  Good thing too as it was dense and thick.  It wasn't particularly sweet, but the ice cream and streusel helped in that regard.  This was probably my least favourite of our 4 desserts.

Joyce opted for the Lemon Tart with basil crème fraiche, strawberry curd and brown butter shortbread.  Although the shortbread crust was buttery and slightly nutty, it could've been more firm.  Inside, the lemon curd was appealingly tart while on the denser side of creamy.  The drops of basil crème fraiche were nice while the strawberry curd drops were tasty, but strangely not strawberry tasting.  A minor complaint would be the chewy dehydrated strawberry slices. Mr. went for the Brown Butter Financier with chamomile, honey yogurt, kumquat marmalade and crushed pecan.  The cake itself was on the denser side, yet exhibited a decent moistness with a crispy exterior crust.  It wasn't overly buttery, but there was a certain nuttiness, especially with the pecans.  We loved the marmalade as it was not overly sweet nor tart.  Overall, I was pretty surprised with the food (especially the mains) at Tapenade.  Not sure why it took so long to try it.

The Good:
- Generally on point proteins
- Decently-priced for the portion size
- Fairly good service

The Bad:
- Desserts were okay, but lagged behind the mains
- Service was pretty good, but was a little stretched when there were more customers

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