Gosh, I don't really recall the last time I dined at Shaughnessy Restaurant (and the previous place, Spinkler's). Easily missed from the street due to being tucked within Van Dusen Gardens, it was the destination of my first ever #ZomatoMeetup. As much as there have been growing pains switching over from Urbanspoon, it was nice to be invited for a meal. In attendance were a bunch of foodies that I've heard of, but never met. It was nice to put a face to the voice. However, enough of that and onto the food!
Hitting the table all at once, we split the appies including the Scallop, Bacon and Endive Salad. This looked too beautiful to eat... Who am I kidding, with a bunch of foodies at the table, this was attacked shortly after the last picture was taken. In particular, the radish was firmly crunchy which contrasted the butter lettuce. There was a balancing acidity and sweetness to go along with the savoury elements. The attractively seared scallops were a bit rubbery though. Next, the Salt & Pepper Squid was chewy, yet at the same time tender. There was a slight pepperiness to the lightly crispy batter. Although the squid did not require any extra seasoning, the spicy aioli did add impact.
Upon lifting up the lid of the pot, we were greeted by large plump Honey Mussels in coconut curry. So if you look at the adjacent picture, you can see for yourself how plump these mussels were. Although a bit overdone, they were still buttery and plenty sweet. The creamy coconut curry was aromatic and noticeably spicy while not overwhelming. From a large appetizer, we moved onto a small one in the Smoked Mediterranean Olives. There was no mistaking the smokiness, even through the saltiness of the brine. Accompanying the olives were herbed crostinis atop spiced artichoke dip. I found the dip to be mild while the crisps to be light and crunchy.
Onto the mains, I reluctantly dug into the Butternut Squash & Mushroom Risotto first. Yup, I can see why I was hesitant because it was rather starchy and flat. There was a lack of creaminess and impact despite the Parm and truffle oil. At the very least, the rice was still chewy albeit a touch too done for my tastes (but to fair, we let it sit while we took photos first). Things got better with the Duck Confit featuring a large and meaty leg. Underneath the slightly crispy and well-rendered skin was very soft duck meat. It was a bit too soft as broke apart rather than shredding. I did like how it wasn't overly salty though. Underneath, the creamy parsnip puree was quite nice.
Moving along to some seafood, we were presented with a beautifully prepared Maple & Bourbon-Glazed Steelhead with caramelized cauliflower and crushed olive oil potatoes. Despite the visuals, the steelhead was flaky and moist while sporting a crispy skin. Accenting the natural flavour was a significant hit of pepper. Underneath, the caramelized cauliflower was money being firm while smoky and flavourful. Consisting of nicely executed mussels, scallops, prawns, clams and flaky fish, the Cioppino featured a thick spiced tomato and fennel broth. This was a pretty solid dish where the textures were right and the flavour of the sea was pronounced. However, I would've preferred a thinner broth.
Finally, we split 2 desserts starting with the Flourless Chocolate Cake. Appealingly bitter-sweet, the chocolate cake was more like a dense brownie than a flourless cake. If we ignored the texture, it was pretty tasty (not being too sweet) especially with the crunchy praline and smooth vanilla ice cream. I much preferred the Lemon Shortbread Parfait partly due to my bias with lemon-based desserts. However, the one thing I loved best about this one was the temperature - it was super cold. The tartness of the lemon really came through while the finish was just sweet enough. The crunch of the crumbled added the necessary texture. Overall, the food was decent with a few highlights.
*All food, beverages and gratuities were complimentary*
- Comfortable low-key environment
- Fairly decent eats
- Some dishes with a few issues
- Decor a bit dated