Sherman's Food Adventures: VCC Pop-up Chef's Table

VCC Pop-up Chef's Table

Somewhere down-the-line, I've heard about the Chef's Table pop-up meals at the Downtown VCC.  But for some reason, I've never actually signed up for one despite the rave reviews.  Even the $30.00 price tag for a 5-course tasting menu ($45.00 with wine pairings) didn't encourage me to try it out.  Hey, for that price, it is really a steal considering the student chefs are trained and supervised by Chef Hamid Salimian.  So finally, it took Pebbles inviting me to reserve my spot to see what the fuss was all about.

Located in the Bistro at the VCC, the plating was done right in front of us in the main dining space.  Definitely interesting and a great way to see how much teamwork it takes to plate 20 dishes of food.  We started off strong with a Chef Hamid classic in the Puffed Foie Gras with apricot puree, candied almonds and rose water honey bubble.  I've had this dish in one form or another a few times and this one delivered.  It was light and buttery with the firm crunch from the sweet almonds.  Extra sweetness was provided by the puree and bubble.

Next, we were served the Cavatelli & Lobster featuring NextJen gluten-free pasta, lobster, sweet onion, lobster foam and crispy Parmesan.  I've tried NextJen products before and this was probably the best yet.  With a buttery bite, the gluten-free pasta could've passed for the regular stuff.  Nestled inside was perfectly prepared lobster while the foam was rather mild-tasting.  I enjoyed the brightness provided by the ample chives and mildly pungent onions.  The addition of morels were a nice little textural surprise with each bite.

Onto the meats, the Roasted Squab was beautifully plated.  It was accompanied by sour cherry puree, salsify, crispy kale and brown butter vinaigrette. The small slice of squab was tender and succulent (prepared just right).  Tart but not overwhelming, the sour cherry puree was on point.  Acidic and nutty, the brown butter kept things lively for my taste buds.  The crispy kale added a crunch to an otherwise softly textured dish (where the salsify was tender as well).

A nicely composed dish, the 24-Hour Short Rib was not melt-in-my-mouth tender as I would've expected.  With that being said, it was still buttery and beautifully-prepared.  There was more of a meatiness and bite to it, unlike the one I had at AnnaLena.  Different, but still good its own right as it had a tasty bark which was smoky and flavourful.  I found the sauce underneath to have a definite red wine essence.  I thought the carrot on the dish could've been better prepared as it was rather plain and lifeless.

We ended things off with the Chocolate Bar with milk chocolate and salted caramel ice cream.  The chocolate was rich and smooth blessed with an impactful sprinkle of salt.  I loved the crispy bottom as it broke up the heaviness of the chocolate.  As smooth as the ice cream was in my mouth, it lacked enough saltiness aromaticness normally associated with salted caramel.  Okay, it goes without saying that the ice cream was the only thing that could've been better.  Considering this was prepared by students under the supervision of Chef Hamid, the tasting menu was rather impressive.  Even more so since it only cost $30.00.

The Good:
- Fantastic value
- On point dishes
- They truly try to impress

The Bad:
- Honestly, for this price, not much to complain about!   

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