Sherman's Food Adventures: Chambar

Chambar

Normally, I try not to post any revisits if they are too close together.  In fact, there are certain places that are so consistent, a year in between posts probably yields similar results.  However, with our recent visit to Chambar, it seemed like a good idea to do a post on because their menu had completely changed since our dinner just over a year ago.  Another reason would be the increased variety of dishes since Costanza and Elaine were present as well.

We started with their signature dish (albeit in a different broth) with the Congolaise (Mussels & Frites) featuring tomato coconut cream, smoked chili, lime and cilantro.  All four of us had a hard time picking out any coconut cream or essence.  Either they put very little or completely forgot.  Hence, it was more a spicy tomato broth with a background smokiness and tang.  The cilantro was pretty impactful with an initial hit.  Although served on the side, the frites were pretty much the star of the show with a fluffy crispiness.  We got an order of the Daily Bread to compliment the mussels and it was actually a great item in itself.  It appeared to be some sort of light rye, cheese and sage bread with a chewy exterior giving way to a firmly soft (yes an oxymoron I know...) cheesy interior.  Loved the creamy whipped butter on the side.

Normally, Sardines on toast highlight the robust flavour of the fish.  However, the one here was nicely balanced where the tomato relish was both intensely sweet and tangy.  The chermoula on top was the proverbial icing on the cake as the brightness of the ginger really cut through the fishiness of the sardines. Probably my favourite appie was the Calamars Farcis featuring veal-stuffed calamari, taro chips and chili aioli.  The squid itself was tender and buttery with a balancing chew.  It was nicely charred on the outside providing not only a few crispy bits, but also a warming smokiness.  Inside, the ground veal was tender and moist with a lingering spiciness.  This was further amplified by the chili aioli.

Onto the mains, I went for the Tajine D’aziz À L’agneau or braised lamb shank with honey, figs, cinnamon, cilantro and almond cous-cous.  Once the lid was removed off the tagine, an aromatic scent wafted towards me.  I could definitely get the cinnamon and smell of lamb.  I found the meat to be tender and fatty while spiced with a sweet jus.  This was of course from the honey and figs.  I could definitely get the cinnamon (there was a stick of it), but it wasn't overwhelming at the same time.  I poured all of the cous-cous into the tagine so it could soak all of over the flavour.  Viv went for the Pot au Feu de Truite featuring steelhead trout, local beets and Brussels sprouts in a tapioca galangal shisho broth.  Sporting crispy skin, the trout itself was flaky and moist.  It was mildly seasoned, where it allowed the fragrant broth do the heavy lifting.  It exhibited a certain brightness with a robust galangal essence.

Elaine picked out La Pièce De Boeuf (AAA char grilled 8oz beef brochette) and proceeded to ask for it to be prepared medium-well (the horror!).  I commend the chef from not wavering from this absurd request as it came out a perfect medium-rare. Ballsy move, but hey, I would've serve this any other way either! Imagine ordering lobster and requesting it to be extra rubbery!  Anyways, it was buttery and tender with a crispy char.  The chimichurri was bright and flavourful while the sundried tomato jus added another layer of tang and saltiness.  Costanza opted for the Thon Provencale (Albacore tuna loin & belly, sea asparagus, rapini, rouille potatoes, chorizo chips, olives and red pepper coulis).  I enjoyed the rare, buttery loin as it was nicely seasoned on the outside.  However, the belly was a bit mealy from the aggressive frying.  It wasn't all that flavourful either.

For dessert, we shared the Citron Cremeux and Coco Panna Cotta. Hidden beneath the tangy and smooth raspberry sorbet and overly dry sponge cake was natural-tasting lemon lemon cream.  It was appealingly tart and smooth.  Beautifully plated with toasted coconut sorbet, lime puffs, blueberries, black pepper and lime compote, the panna cotta was light and semi-sweet.  I could definitely taste the black pepper as well as the sweetness of the blueberries.  On the other hand, there needed to be more acidity to bring the dessert to another level.  As you can ascertain, this meal at Chambar was solid and carefully prepared.  Often, I get asked why Chambar is grouped into the best restaurants in Vancouver - well, this didn't happen by accident.

The Good:
- Carefully prepared food
- Attentive service
- Purposeful flavours

The Bad:
- On the pricier side

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